Depression is more than just a bad day or two. The disorder affects everything from thoughts to sleep, as well as daily activities. The symptoms must persist for at least two weeks before a diagnosis of the condition can be reached. The disorder comes in many variations: persistent, perinatal, psychotic, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder. Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, is defined as a depressed mood that has lasted for at least two years. The symptoms may or may not be severe throughout the two years, but there will have been at least a few major episodes and some times of less severe symptoms. Perinatal depression affects women “during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum)”. Postpartum, these women begin to experience extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion, making daily care of themselves and their newborn difficult. Those with psychotic depression experience both the severely depressed mood as well as psychosis, which could manifest as delusions or hallucinations. Seasonal affective disorder affects the mood during the winter months due to the decrease in natural sunlight. The mood will last throughout the winter months every year, causing antisocial behavior, increased sleep, and weight gain. A depressed state can be a symptom of bipolar disorder, which is itself a mental disorder that causes wild mood swings between euphoric mania and severely depressed mood.1 The mental disorder can be identified by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiousness, helplessness, irritability, and similar moods. A person who is depressed often has less interest in activities, even ones that they would usually enjoy. They might lack energy and have difficulty concentrating, even when performing simple tasks. There are a multitude of behaviors and moods symptomatic of depression which vary person-to-person.2 The depressed state may be caused by the biology of the brain, outside events, injury, or other physical disorders, such as those which affect the adrenal gland or thyroid.3
How to Treat the Mental Disorder
It is important to break the cycle of depression. Despite what some might believe, this is not a simple task for a depressed person. Exercising increases mood, but it is hard to exercise when the motivation to even get out of bed is not there. Eating the right food and socializing with friends and family are likely to boost the mood, but even these tasks are not easy. Sometimes antidepressants are necessary because the brain cannot produce the right chemicals itself. Just as one would take medicine to help the body combat a disease, antidepressants give the body the boost that it needs to help fight the depression. The medication is meant to give the person the mental lift needed so that they are able to seek other, additional forms of help, such as therapy. Often, medication is started at a lower dose in order to monitor side effects.4 A paradoxical reaction sometimes found with antidepressants is the increased risk of suicide. The medication itself does not increase these thoughts. An already suicidal person who previously lacked the motivation to commit suicide may gain that motivation from antidepressants. This is why it is important to monitor the patient’s reaction and ensure that they seek help. This does not make antidepressants any less of a solution for some people.5
Treating Depression as a Side Effect of Pain
There are many causes of depression. If chronic pain is the cause, a chiropractor or massage specialist can help. The consistent effects of injury can decrease mood and put a negative perspective on healing. It is important to identify a correlation between the effects of injury and the mental disorder in order to find what triggers the pain and how to heal both aspects. It is common for patients to withhold their depressive experiences from their doctor believing that the negative mentality will go away when the pain has been healed. The depressed state may persist even after treatment of the pain, so it is just as vital to treat.6 Massage can help decrease chronic pain and has been shown by some studies to provide mental health benefits and relieve negative mood. The depressed mood may be a side effect or cause of pain, and this pain can be alleviated by massage therapy. Massage can be performed in a multitude of styles depending on the patient and their type of injury. It is not a “replacement for more conventional treatment options” for depression, but it can be part of the overall healing process.7 A chiropractor can change misalignment to help the patient find relief from their negative state of mind. The effects of the misalignment may have caused the depression. A study found that the depressive symptoms and anxiety in five people were reduced by attending twelve chiropractic visits over the course of six weeks. All five patients “suffered from a variety of problems including musculoskeletal pains, asthma, hypertension, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep disorders”. Four out of five patients also found improvement in their other health issues. The conclusion of the study was in support of the effectiveness of using upper cervical chiropractic care to treat anxiety and the depressive disorder.8 Depression is a dangerous and chronic problem, but there are solutions and people who are willing to help: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Learn more about chiropractic treatment for depression and anxiety.