Things you should know about depression - NL-048
It is normal to feel sad and disconnected when you are dealing with difficult and stressful life situations. It is a perfectly healthy response to everyday challenges, losses and disappointments. But what happens when these feelings of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness refuse to go away, and instead linger for weeks and months? What if these intense feelings start interfering with one's personal and professional life resulting in withdrawal from day-to-day activities and work? These could very well be the signs of depression, a mental health condition that changes the way you feel, perceive, think, act and behave. In this condition, one often finds themselves stuck in a repetitive pattern of negative thinking that is very difficult to snap out of. However, the good news is that it is possible to effectively treat depression and manage its symptoms.
What causes depression?
Depression is a complex and poorly understood mental health condition. It comes in many forms, with varying symptoms (that may not be same for all) and could be a result of one or a combination of factors that could be genetic, social, environmental or psychological. For some people, depression can be a result of a negative life event and take root gradually whereas for some it could strike out of nowhere. Some common risk factors include experiencing traumatic events such as losing your loved one, health problems, unemployment, money problems or divorce. Traumatic experiences in childhood and alcohol and drug abuse are some other important causes of depression.
Some underlying health conditions, such as hypothyroidism, type 2 diabetes, low blood sugar levels, vitamin B12 deficiency and vitamin D deficiency may look like depression. Proper diagnosis involves ruling out any underlying condition that may be mimicking depression. Ironically, vitamin B12 deficiency may increase one’s risk of developing depressive symptoms. 
Symptoms of depression
- Loss of interest in normal daily activities
- Loss of interest in activities that once gave you joy
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Difficulty remembering details, memory issues
- Constant fatigue and lack of energy
- Engaging in risky behaviour
- Poor or rash decision making
- Feeling guilty and worthless
- Feeling sad, empty and hopeless
- Feeling anxious all the time
- Frequent emotional outbursts
- Sleeping too much or not able to sleep at all
- Substance abuse
- Changes in appetite
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Did you know depression increases one’s risk of developing chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain and diabetes? In fact, it is theorized that the relationship between depression and chronic health problems is a two-way street . For example, people with chronic illnesses are more likely to experience depression. It is important to understand that timely diagnosis and treatment is critical to managing symptoms and preventing worse outcomes such as a suicide attempt. While not all people suffering from depression may have suicidal thoughts, depression does increase the risk of suicide, especially in teens and elderly.
Eating a healthy diet and making positive changes in your lifestyle habits can be a great starting point. Exercise, mindful meditation, therapy and supplements (vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin B12, and ashwagandha) may help improve symptoms, boost energy and reduce fatigue in people diagnosed with depression.
- Laird et al. Low vitamin B12 but not folate is associated with incident depressive symptoms in community-dwelling older adults: a 4 year longitudinal study. British Journal of Nutrition. 2021.
- Herrara et al. Understanding the Relationship between Depression and Chronic Diseases Such as Diabetes and Hypertension: A Grounded Theory Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021