What are Mood Disorders, Anxiety, and Depression?
Talking and medication therapy have been the traditional methods of dealing with anxiety and depression. There is, however, an alternative practice that can help patients, in addition to the former two treatment options, deal with mood disorders and anxiety: chiropractic. While most people can feel sad from time to time, some may have actual mood disorders, such as depression. These affect daily life and relationships in a more severe and prolonged manner. The patient’s appetite, work at school or professionally, sleep cycle, and social activities might all be affected in varying degrees.
Some depression can be seasonal, while other mood disorders might be triggered by traumatic or major life events. Women are more likely to have major depression, though anyone could develop the mental disorder at any point.1 Anxiety might be a completely normal reaction to an event, but it becomes a disorder when symptoms last for more than 6 months. Symptoms and their severity vary with time and person-to-person; not everyone experiences depression, anxiety, or any other mental conditions the same way. Untreated, anxiety can worsen. Anxiety disorders include panic disorders and phobias, as well as generalized anxiety. Just like any physical disorder or condition, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders are serious and patients should seek treatment.2
Anxiety and mood disorders have traditionally been treated in the medical and psychological communities with therapy as well as medications. Medications have been seen as a helpful adjunct to talk therapy. In other words, they can help manage some of the symptoms so that therapy can be more effective. The depressed mood often makes it difficult for patients to open up to other people, or even leave the house. Talk therapy could be individual or group in format, depending on the patient’s level of comfort.
Prescription drugs can include antidepressants (SSRIs, tricyclics, MAOIs), anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines), and beta-blockers (to control anxious symptoms). The pills might take many weeks to work if they are effective for that particular patient. The side effects of these medications can be severe, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, jitteriness, and sexual dysfunction. Some interactions could lead to “serotonin syndrome, which can cause confusion, hallucinations, increased sweating, muscle stiffness, seizures, changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm”. Some medications carry the risk of addiction and withdrawal.
Taking medication, while very important for some people, is not worth the additional effects it could have on other patients. Even patients who need medications for basic functioning should seek alternative treatment options before the side effects become a major issue. Fortunately, therapy does not carry these side effects, but many people have difficulty with going to therapy to talk about themselves without some source of mood enhancement.3
How Chiropractic Can Help
Some chiropractors feel that anxiety comes from an “out-of-shape mind and body”. There can be poor diet, sleep issues, little exercise, and other factors that contribute to this. Chronic anxiety can lead to a state of depression. To combat this, some chiropractors will suggest that patients improve their diet and supplement with necessary vitamins and nutrients (such as B12, calcium, magnesium, and potassium). A proper diet will balance hormones and help the brain function more optimally. Of course, it is often recommended that patients avoid caffeine and processed sugar.
Chiropractic adjustments, alone or with massage, can help to maintain nervous system functioning. Adjustments can help the body’s electricity flow. In addition, patients should get proper sleep and engage in regular exercise. This will increase blood flow and oxygen to the body. Exercise (such as yoga and stretching) can help improve sleep. Even just taking regular walks provides the patient a chance to get outside, get some exercise, breathe in fresh air, and even interact with other people. Levels of serotonin and dopamine, two chemicals that improve mood, are increased by exercise, which naturally causes the body to release these chemicals.
Also, patients should change their negative thought patterns. While this is not a treatment by itself, self-improvement could help the patient with their self-esteem. Any improvement in mood by lifestyle and dietary changes is an opportunity to open up and talk to a therapist, friends, and family. Many patients should be able to receive help from human connection, which is an effective combatant against mood disorders.4
Chiropractic manipulation can affect the holistic well-being of patients. They can decrease chronic pain, increase blood flow, increase melatonin (which regulates the sleep/wake cycle), and improve endorphins (to manage pain). Visiting a chiropractor also helps the patient maintain a regular habit of getting out of the house and interacting with other people. All of these benefits can help reduce a patient’s depression and anxiety, especially in the cases where the depression and anxiety are symptoms of subluxations and other physical misalignments and injuries.5