Depression

Some Variants of Depression:

– SAD
– Post Natal Depression

SAD

A variant of depression is a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is well known that people become more depressed during the long nights of winter than during the long nights of summer. It is known that around 25 percent of those with unipolar depression may deteriorate during the winter.

For some people, particularly in more Northern climates, the darkness of winter creates a unique depression. People with SAD develop all the symptoms of depression, as well as a craving for food, with accompanying weight gain. Some experts feel that darkness encourages the brain to produce a neurotransmitter called melatonin. This has the general function of helping us to sleep at night. Light, on the other hand, encourages the production of serotonin. There is an important neural connection between the eyes and a part of the hormone control box which controls all our body rhythms/biological clocks. As daylight arrives every morning, it penetrates through our closed eyelids and activates this pathway (leading to increased serotonin cable activity in this box), stimulating us to wake up. When darkness falls, this neural pattern is reversed, and the brain produces melatonin to encourage us to sleep.

In real life, artificial daylight (through our narrow spectrum light bulbs) combats much of this natural pattern, in comparison to the world of our ancestors. Despite this, melatonin and serotonin are intimately interwoven into the normal circadian rhythms of our lives.

SAD seemed to be caused by an excessive production of the former, and in particular a lack of the latter. Of great importance is the seasonal difference in production of serotonin, with higher levels in the summer and lower ones in the winter. It may be the case that this exposes a general shortage of serotonin in people with this condition.

This may explain why they recover during the bright summer months and slip back into trouble in the winter. This seasonal difference may also apply to the 25 percent of people with normal depression whose condition deteriorates in the dark winter months.

It is also felt that a shortage of serotonin in the hormone control box in particular leads to a craving for carbohydrates, with resulting weight gain, during a SAD episode. This probably happens to us all during the dark months of winter but is a particular problem in those who suffer from depression.

Melatonin is manufactured from serotonin. Numerous studies have been done trying to link melatonin and biological circadian rhythms, in order to explain this illness, but they have been inconclusive so far. At present, the role of serotonin seems to be more important than that of melatonin.

SAD is almost certainly genetic. It is believed that the disorder is linked to problems with specific serotonin receptors.

Apart from the difficulties with the serotonin system it has also been shown that there are many similarities between SAD and atypical depression (so much so that some experts believe that SAD should be considered as a sub type of atypical depression) in that the noradrenaline and dopamine cables seem to be under active during episodes explaining the extreme lassitude, reduced motivation and libido, and hypersomnia so often seem in those with this illness.

Treatments for SAD
Efforts have been made to treat this condition by exposing the person to bright lights for several hours, particularly in the morning. An effective way of treating this condition is to use a dawn simulator. The sufferer has a light or lamp installed in their room; this light starts to illuminate about half an hour before the person wakes up in the morning.

The light simulates natural sunlight, and it’s intensity gradually increases, mimicking what would happen if the sun were rising at the time. This form of treatment is also effective in treating normal depression.

Philips make a lamp that does the above. It’s available in Argos, Boots and most electrical retailers. The lamp incorporates a radio, a normal alarm and other sounds so you can wake to birds twittering or a waterfall!

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for SAD.
Ideally, it’s best to start treatment before the dark nights of winter come in, or before you start to feel low, but if you haven’t, don’t despair, a treatment plan can be still worked out for you!


Post Natal Depression

It is common for women to feel down and weepy from day three to day four following the delivery of a child. This low mood may last for weeks, but usually dissipates without any intervention. It happens due to a combination of ‘coming down’ from the high of having a baby, the baby’s sex hormones reorganising themselves after the delivery, and the stress of looking after the needs of the newborn baby.

Most women, having gone through this phase, return to normal within a short period of time. Some women are slower to come out of this phase, however, and remain depressed.

It is likely that pregnancy, and the period of time after it, can in some people activate a latent genetic disposition towards depression.

Symptom Checklist:

Low Mood
Fatigue
Sleep Difficulties
Anxiety
Weight Loss/Gain
Loss of Self Esteem
Loss of Drive
Negative Thinking
Poor Memory
Reduced Concentration
Lack of Joy or Pleasure
Suicidal Thoughts

As with normal depression, the aim of treatment is to restore mood-system functioning within six to eight weeks. This can often be achieved quite effectively with the use of antidepressants and psychological therapy. Post-natal depression is normally dealt with by the family doctor. The time span of treatment is very similar to ordinary depression. Indeed, some experts maintain that post-natal depression is no different from ordinary depression and that the birth, together with the stress of the post-natal period, is simply a trigger for it.
One in every thousand cases of pregnancy-related depression will take the form of psychotic depression. In such cases, the woman suffers from serious delusions, often involving harming either the baby or themselves. This is a critical and dangerous situation and should be dealt with only by a specialist, in a hospital environment. It is extremely traumatic for the family involved. Most of these cases will respond to treatment, and the woman’s life will return to normal. There is always the risk, however of suicide, and, infrequently, infanticide.

Women with post-natal depression are also trying to cope with caring for a new baby. Some wait for three to six months before coming to their GP for help. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression, do not be afraid to go to your family doctor to discuss them. Your doctor will be able to assess the severity of the problems; antidepressants may not be necessary.

Mothers in other parts of the world have a much lower incidence of post-natal depression. One possible explanation is that mothers in the Western World are often lacking in omega 3 oils (in particular DHA) which the baby desperately needs, particularly in the final stages of its development. When the baby has been born, the mother may suffer from a deficiency of omega 3 oils and this may be a factor in the development of post-natal depression. Perhaps all mothers should be advised to supplement their diet with these oils for the last three months of their pregnancy and for the three to six months following the birth of the baby.

Another interesting and almost completely overlooked area, is the effect of the arrival of a newborn baby on the emotional life of the father. It is felt by some experts that the high stress phase experienced by the father in the first year of the infant’s life may lead to many young males developing depression (which usually remains hidden). We could learn a great deal from a large research project looking at the mood status of such males. One wonders whether it is the stress rather than the hormonal changes that make both men and women vulnerable to developing the symptoms of depression during this phase.

Acupuncture Treatment for Post Natal Depression
If you are diagnosed with post-natal depression and are on medication I would advise that you stay on it when you begin acupuncture treatment. No responsible complementary therapist should advise you to come off the medication your doctor has prescribed.
However, if your doctor wants you to cut down or you want to reduce the dose and have agreed to come off the medication then that is a totally different scenario. The normal situation when coming off the medication, is to wean yourself off, gradually, so that your body does not experience un pleasant side effects.

If you have not visited your doctor and have the symptoms listed above then you should go to your GP and have a chat before started acupuncture. Your doctor may not think medication is even necessary. I would prefer that you’ve spoken to your doctor rather then self diagnosis before coming for acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a great treatment for depression. It can also be used in conjunction with medication. There are acupuncture points which reduce anxiety, lift the mood and balance the emotions. It is also a great tool for those coming off medication. In these cases, it helps with any unpleasant side effects and eases the patient back to ‘normality’.

If you are considering acupuncture for this condition please ring or email me. We can have a chat and see if acupuncture can help you.


Further reading:

Flagging the Problem. By: Dr Harry Barry. ISBN: 978-1-905483-18-1

I am adding many more topics in relation to mental health to this website. Please come back…….