Depression is incredibly common. In fact, you may be near someone every day and not even know that he or she is suffering from depression.However, there are symptoms that may signal signs of depression, such as fatigue, sadness, moodiness, low sex drive, low self-esteem, loss of appetite, feelings that the tough days will never end, and never accepting invitations to go out with friends or get involved in activities. I know that seems like quite a list, but there are many more behaviours that could be an indication that you or someone you know is suffering fromdepression.
So let’s look at the statistics for mental health problems in the UK and Worldwide.
Mental health statistics: UK and worldwide 2018
Mental health problems are a growing public health concern. They are prevalent not just in the UK, but around the world. Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide. Mental health and behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide, causing over 40 million years of disability in 20 to 29-year-olds.
Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease.
It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. The most common mental health problems. Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributed according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproprotionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
One adult in six had a common mental disorder. Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.
These statistics are pretty worrying in my opinion, what do you think?
How Does Depression Affect the Brain?
There are three parts of the brain that appear to play a role in depression:
the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex.
The hippocampus is located near the centre of the brain. It stores memories and regulates the production of a
hormone called cortisol. The body releases cortisol during times of physical and mental stress, including during times of depression. Problems can occur when excessive amounts of cortisol are sent to the brain due to a stressful event or a chemical imbalance in the body.
In a healthy brain, brain cells (neurons) are produced throughout a person’s adult Life in a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus. In people with depression, however, the long-term exposure to increased cortisol levels can slow the production of new neurons and cause the neurons in the hippocampus to shrink. This can lead to memory problems. The prefrontal cortex is located in the very front of the brain.
It is responsible for regulating emotions, making decisions, and forming memories.
When the body produces an excess amount of cortisol, the prefrontal cortex also appears to shrink.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that facilitates emotional responses, such as pleasure and fear. In people with depression , the amygdala becomes enlarged and more active as a result of constant exposure to high levels of cortisol. An enlarged and hyperactive amygdala, along with abnormal activity in other parts of the brain, can result in disturbances in sleep and activity patterns. It can also cause the body to release irregular amounts of hormones and other chemicals in the body, leading to further complications.
Many researchers believe high cortisol levels play the biggest role in changing the physical structure and chemical activities of the brain, triggering the onset of depression. Normally, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and decrease atnight. In people with depression , however, cortisol levels are always elevated, even at night.
How can treatment change the brain?
Experts have found that balancing the amount of cortisol and other chemicals in the brain can help reverse any shrinkage of the hippocampus and treat the memory problems it may cause. Correcting the body’s chemical levels can also help reduce symptoms of depression.
There are several common medications that can fight the negative effects of depression on the brain by helping to balance the chemicals in the brain. These include:
- selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These drugs can help alleviate symptoms of depression by changing the levels of a chemical called serotonin in the brain. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa).
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants: When used together, these medications can relieve depressed symptoms by altering the amounts of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals help boost mood and energy levels. Examples of SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR). Imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), and trimipramine (Surmontil) are examples of tricyclic antidepressants.
- norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs): These medications aid people with depression by increasing levels of the mood-boosting chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is a type of NDRI that may be used.
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): These drugs help ease symptoms of depression by increasing the amount of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine in the brain. They can also improve brain cell communication
- atypical antidepressants: This group of medications includes tranquillisers, mood stabilisers, and antipsychotics. These drugs can block brain cell communication in order to relax the body.
Besides medications, certain medical procedures can also affect the brain to help ease symptoms of severe depression. These include:
- electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which involves passing electrical currents through the brain to boost communication between brain cells
- transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which involves sending electrical pulses into the brain cells that regulate mood
Researchers also believe that psychotherapy can alter brain structure and help relieve depressive symptoms. Specifically, psychotherapy appears to strengthen the prefrontal cortex.
There are other ways to boost brain health and help recover from depression without medical intervention. These include:
- eating healthful foods and staying active, which stimulates brain cells and strengthens communication between brain cells
- sleeping well, which helps grow and repair brain cells
- avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs, which can destroy brain cells
Sadly, taking any of these prescription medicines are not without unwanted side effects. Some increasing the depression to the point of suicide and the majority of prescription medications leave you with a groggy head, personality changes, lack of mental clarity and in some cases weight gain.
Thankfully, there are natural remedies available to manage depression, rather than taking prescription anti-depressants. Obviously, in cases of severe depression, anti-depressants have their place.
Let’s take a look at which essential oils are known to alleviate symptoms of depression:
In clinical trials, essential oils have been proven to elevate mood. You may be wondering how essential oils work. Because smells are carried directly to the brain, they serve as emotional triggers. The limbic system evaluates the sensory stimuli, registering pleasure, pain, danger or safety. This then creates and ultimately directs our emotional response, which can include feelings of fear, anger, depression and attraction.
Our basic emotions and hormonal balance are in response to the most basic smells. This makes scents very powerful in our day-to-day lives because they’re a direct pathway to memory and emotion — which is why they can fight depression and anxiety. Here are my top for essential oils for depression:
Bergamot oil is a great antidepressant because it’s very stimulating. Bergamot can create a feeling of joy, freshness and energy by improving the circulation of your blood. It’s also shown the ability to work as a natural remedy for anxiety, as a 2011 study in Thailand found that bergamot lowered the anxiety response in rats.
Another 2011 study hypothesises that applying a blended essential oil that includes bergamot to participants helps treat depression. The blended essential oil mixed bergamot with lavender essential oil, and participants were analysed based on their blood pressure, pulse rates, breathing rates and skin temperature. In addition, subjects had to rate their emotional condition in terms of relaxation, vigour, calmness, attentiveness, mood and alertness in order to assess behavioural changes.
Compared with the placebo, blended essential oils caused significant decreases of pulse rate and blood pressure. At the emotional level, subjects in the blended essential oil group rated themselves as “more calm” and “more relaxed” than subjects in the control group. The investigation demonstrates the relaxing effect of a mixture of lavender and bergamot oils, and it provides evidence for its use in medicine for treating depression or anxiety in humans.
You can use bergamot oil by rubbing two to three drops into your hands and cupping your mouth and nose. Breathe in the oil slowly. Try rubbing the oil on your feet and stomach, too.
Lavender oil benefits mood and has long been used to help battle depression. A study published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice reported that 80-milligram capsules of lavender essential oil can help alleviate anxiety and depression. The study also showed that there were no adverse side effects from using lavender oil to treat anxiety and depression. This is great news since we know that synthetic medications and psychotropic drugs often have many negative side effects.
A 2012 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice evaluatd 28 women at high risk for postpartum depression and found that by diffusing lavender in their home, they had a significant reduction of postnatal depression and reduced anxiety disorder after a four-week treatment plan of lavender aromatherapy.
Yet another study showcasing that lavender aromatherapy improves mood was done on people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can result in depression. Lavender had amazing results, showing signs of enhanced moods. The results revealed that the lavender oil, when used daily, helped decrease depression by 32.7 percent and dramatically decreased sleep disturbances, moodiness and overall health status in 47 people suffering from PTSD.
To relieve stress and improve sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night or in the family room while you’re reading or winding down in the evening. Also, it can be rubbed topically behind your ears for the same benefits.
3. Roman Chamomile
Chamomile is one the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation. This is why you see chamomile as a popular ingredient in candles and other aromatherapy products, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form.
Chamomile benefits your emotions by providing soothing qualities to help with depression. According to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review, inhaling chamomile vapours using chamomile oil is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression.
4. Ylang Ylang
Ylang ylang may have a funny name, but it has amazing benefits for helping stave off depression and negative emotions associated with depression. Inhaling ylang ylang can have immediate, positive effects on your mood and act like a mild, remedy for depression. Research shows it can help release negative emotions such as anger, low self-esteem and even jealousy!
Ylang ylang works because of its mild sedative effects, which can lower stress responses helping you relax. To enhance confidence, mood and self-love, try diffusing the oil in your home or massaging it into your skin.
Recent research has shown that: “Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with the disease even if they receive the best possible care.” While I’m not suggesting that all medications cause this problem and I want to make it clear that you should talk to a doctor immediately if you feel you’re suffering from depression, I do believe that it’s possible to treat depression through other means, like the essential oils for depression mentioned above.
A 2008 study with 58 hospice patients presented some interesting conclusions regarding the effectiveness of essential oils for depression. The hospice patients were given hand massages once a day for one week with an essential oil blend in 1.5 percent dilution with sweet almond oil. The essential oil blend consisted of these essential oils in equal ratios:
- bergamot C. aurantium var. bergamia
- frankincense Boswellia carterii (Birdw.)
- lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.)
All patients who received the aromatherapy hand massage reported less pain and depression with the conclusion that aromatherapy massage with this essential oil blend is more effective for pain and depression management than massage alone.