Are you feeling sad and “blue,” and just can’t seem to shake it? Do you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, and do you just want to hide under the covers and “make the world go away?” Are you tired all the time, and not sleeping well at night? Or maybe “wired but tired?” Have you stopped socializing and lost interest in the activities that you used to love? Do you feel like nothing is going to change or get better?
Have you been feeling this way for more than two weeks?
Anyone can get the blues. But if it seems that sadness and feelings of worthlessness and despair have become part of your everyday life, it may be time for you to talk with your doctor about depression.
Depression affects so many people that it is sometimes referred to as the “common cold of mental health.” It is an illness that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, class or gender. Depression affects more than 19 million Americans each year, and more than 350 million people of all ages globally. Depression can affect your ability to work or go to school, influence your relationships, and make your daily activities more difficult to perform. It can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches and physical pain.
If you are suffering from depression, you may feel hopeless and helpless. But you are not alone.
We can help.
Doctors at Holtorf Medical Group are specially trained to recognize and treat depression. We can also determine if your depression is being caused by a medical condition such as a hormone imbalance or serotonin deficiency. Instead of just giving you antidepressants to mask your symptoms, our innovative treatment options can address the underlying problem to help you turn your depression around. You can feel like smiling again.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Depression can affect more than just your mood. It can contribute to physical pain, difficulty thinking, anxiety, sleep difficulties, fatigue, and many other problems. It is the leading cause of disability in the world. It’s not just “all in your head.”
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
- Feeling sad or hopeless, empty or numb
- Feeling guilty, worthless or helpless
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy, like hobbies, sports or activities with friends
- Losing interest in sex or experiencing sexual difficulties
- Feeling irritable, anxious or short tempered
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (though depression can make some people want to sleep even more)
- Lack of appetite, or unexplained increase in appetite
- Muscle aches and joint pain, headaches, or digestive problems that do not improve with treatment
- Thoughts of death and suicide
What causes depression?
Many things can play a role in depression. Some of the more common contributing causes, either by themselves or in combination, include low thyroid levels in the brain (standard thyroid tests may look normal), hormone imbalance, serotonin or dopamine deficiency, mitochondria dysfunction (low cellular energy), genetics, gender, age, trauma, significant life changes and stressful events, poor health, and even some medications.
Studies have shown that certain parts of the brain may not function properly in people who have depression. Changes in the balance of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, or hormone imbalance in the brain can be a cause of depression.
Experiencing trauma such as physical or emotional abuse or violence can suppress serotonin and thyroid levels in the brain, leading to depression, sometimes even years after the trauma. Significant events in life can also trigger depression, whether those events are negative, such as during a divorce, or positive, like getting married or starting a new job.
Some health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, thyroid disorders, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and others, can increase the risk of depression. Patients dealing with chronic health issues are at an increased risk of becoming depressed. Many prescription drugs can also cause depression symptoms.
You may have a clear sense of why you have become depressed, or you may not know at all. The important thing to remember is that depression is not your fault. It is a medical condition that can be treated, and you can feel better.
How is depression diagnosed? Do I need any tests?
Depression is often diagnosed simply by the clinical symptoms a patient is experiencing. However, it is important for your doctor to run tests to rule out any other underlying causes of depression. There are numerous medical conditions that can cause depression, including thyroid disorders, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances, chronic infections, diabetes, obesity and sleep disorders. Nutritional deficiencies and inability to utilize nutrients such as folate, B6 or B12 can play a role in depression. This is often due to the body’s inability to methylate the nutrients, which is called a methylation defect. Heavy metals in the body can also contribute to depression. Lead toxicity is often associated with depression, for example. Depression symptoms can also come from lack of adequate omega-3 fatty acids, which should be measured in depressed patients.
Are there other types of depression?
In addition to what is commonly called “classic depression” or “clinical depression,” patients could be suffering from postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression often associated with seasonal variations of natural sunlight. Symptoms usually build up slowly, in the late autumn and winter months, and then disappear in the spring and summer. People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD, although some patients experience a form of the disorder only during the summer months.
Postpartum depression is sometimes diagnosed in new mothers who become moderately or severely depressed after giving birth. Postpartum depression may occur soon after delivery, or as much as a year later, though it mostly occurs within the first three months of delivery. Postpartum depression may be related to changes in hormone levels during and after pregnancy. Progesterone and estrogen levels increase dramatically all throughout pregnancy and drop just as dramatically after childbirth, which can have a significant influence on a woman’s mood and sense of well-being.
What are my treatment options?
There are many different and often effective treatments available for depression.
Many doctors turn to antidepressant medications as their first line of treatment for depression. These medications are typically in categories called SSRIs (such as Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro), SNRIs (such as Pristiq and Cymbalta), MAOIs (including Nardil and Parnate), Tricyclics, and more.
Unfortunately, this “alphabet soup” of medical treatment options is unsatisfactory for many patients. Some studies suggest that the popular drugs are no more effective than a placebo, or sugar pill, and may be worse. Many patients report no real relief from these medications, yet many suffer significant side effects, including weight gain, loss of libido, insomnia and fatigue, just to name a few. And, even worse, patients can experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking these drugs, making the medications very difficult to stop once started.
But what if you don’t want to take antidepressants?
There are better options. Some to consider include the thyroid hormone T3, oxytocin, and natural bioidentical serotonin, each of which has been shown to have a positive effect on depression and not be associated with the side effects seen with when antidepressants are used.
Thyroid Hormone – T3
There is emerging evidence that treatment with the T3, the active thyroid hormone, can improve a patient’s response to antidepressant medications. Even better, T3 can be dramatically effective on its own, even in patients who appear to have normal thyroid levels based on their TSH lab reports. This is not surprising, considering that studies have found that many, if not the majority of patients with depression and bipolar disorder have undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction as the underlying cause or major contributor of their depression.
Depression can be a major symptom of hypothyroidism, which is often not properly diagnosed based on reliance on the TSH lab test. But even for patients who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are being treated with the standard T4-replacement therapy (typically Synthroid or Levoxyl), depression can be a continuing burden. This is thought to be because patients with depression have a reduced ability to convert T4, the inactive thyroid hormone, into T3, the active thyroid hormone, rendering the T4-only therapy ineffective, and thus leaving the patient in a hypothyroid state at the cellular level. These patients also appear to have a reduced ability to transport the thyroid hormone across the blood brain barrier, resulting in significantly reduced thyroid levels in the brain despite seemingly “normal” serum levels on standard thyroid tests.
A second promising treatment for depression is the hormone oxytocin. Often called the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” oxytocin is released by the brain during physical intimacy, as well as during childbirth. It is said to create a sense of bonding and attachment. In studies, pregnant women with low levels of oxytocin were shown to have a higher risk of postpartum depression. Oxytocin has also been shown to induce feelings of optimism and increase self-esteem, helping people overcome their social fears and shyness. Oxytocin also has been shown to relieve pain, which can be a major contributor to depression. Given by injection or via nasal spray, oxytocin can be a very effective treatment for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A new therapy showing positive results as a treatment for depression is serotonin, a neurotransmitter naturally found throughout the human body and produced in the brain. While many doctors and psychiatrist are not yet familiar with prescription serotonin, an increasing number of physicians are beginning to use this therapy. Serotonin plays a complex role in the human brain, controlling functions such as sleep, mood, behavior, and sexual desire, balancing obsessive-compulsive behavior, aiding in learning and memory formation, and more. Previous studies have shown that some patients with depression may have either have low serotonin levels or too few serotonin-releasing receptors, or too much serotonin reuptake (or reabsorption) activity in the brain. SSRI antidepressants like Prozac and Lexapro work by inhibiting the reuptake (or reabsorption) of serotonin in the brain, effectively increasing the levels of serotonin available to bind to the brain’s receptors. Again, however, these medications have side effects. Studies are also showing that chronic use of antidepressants will deplete natural serotonin levels. Treating a patient with prescription serotonin, given by injection or orally, increases serotonin levels in the brain without the side effects of prescription antidepressants, and can have a positive effect on depression.
Another novel treatment has recently attracted notable attention: ketamine. Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that has been used for many years as a general anesthetic. Recent research shows that even at low dose, ketamine can be used in conjunction with other therapies to improve depression. It has been confirmed that even at doses as low as 0.5 mg/kg, intravenous administration provides a notable antidepressant effect.
Ketamine may also prove beneficial by relieving pain related to chronic illness. One study found that six of the eight participants suffering from chronic disease experienced notable pain relief when taking ketamine. This is beneficial for depression as chronic pain and illness can take a major toll on mental health and wellness.
Ready to get started?
More than half of all people suffering from depression will not seek help for their condition. But it is important to find out why you are suffering from depression and get help.
Depression can be treated, and you can feel better. Are you ready to stop singing the blues? Holtorf Medical Group can help you have more happy days. Call us today at 877-209-1416 and schedule an appointment with one of our specially trained physicians.