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Moderate exercise can save you from the dangerous despair of depression

Harold Mandel's picture
A woman enjoying a refreshing walk by the ocean

There appears to be an increase in suffering from depression in our society which has been set off by unusually unstable socioeconomic conditions. The stressors from unusually high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, government corruption, and crime associated with the chronic state of uncertainty about the nation's future, appear to be setting off many episodes of depression.

Depression is a really difficult problem to treat from an orthodox medical perspective due to a rise in reports of very serious side effects associated with the use of antidepressants, and other psychiatric drugs, which has included depression itself, along with suicidal and homicidal ideation. Therefore concerned parties are always searching for evidence that natural interventions can work for the prevention and treatment of depression. Exercise, along with of course good nutrition and adequate daily rest, has been found to be a potent weapon in the fight against depression.

Depression is very common

The National Institute of Mental Health points out that depression is a very common but serious condition. Depression interferes with your daily life activities and can be costly for you at school, at work and in your personal life. This disorder is one of the most common mental disturbances in the country. About 6.7 percent of adults in the United States experience major depressive disorder every year.

There are many types of depression

Several forms of depressive disorders have been recognized. In major depression we see a combination of symptoms which interfere with a person's ability to work effectively, sleep well, study well, eat well, and enjoy activities which were once pleasurable. A person suffering from major depression becomes disabled and can not function well in life. People with major depression may have a single episode within their lifetime, or may experience multiple episodes.

Dysthymia is a very troubling form of depression. People suffering from dysthymia must cope with a long period of discomfort of 2 years or longer. Although a person with dysthymia may not actually be disabled, they may find themselves unable for function normally and to simply feel well. There may also be episodes of major depression during the course of dysthymia. This variant of depression can cost a person a lot of time out of their life without proper intervention.

Many people experience minor depression, which is characterized by experiencing symptoms for 2 weeks or longer which do not match all of the criteria for major depression. It can however be risky to take minor depression lightly because without proper treatment this can spin off into a major depression.

An extreme form of depression is known as psychotic depression. This is experienced when a person suffers from severe depression along with some form of psychosis. Psychosis can include experiencing disturbing beliefs which are not true, or a break with reality which is also known as delusions. People suffering from psychotic depression may also hear or see disturbing things that others do not hear or see, which is known as hallucinations.

Postpartum depression if often experienced by women after they give birth. There are major
hormonal and physical changes which are associated with the job of caring for a new baby which can become overwhelming. It has been estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of women have the experience of postpartum depression after they give birth. For the safety of the mother and child it is very important to recognize the signs of postpartum depression and to treat these signs aggressively.

Many people complain of feeling unusually bad in the winter months only. These people may be suffering from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is experienced during the winter months.
It appears the lack of good exposure to natural sunlight during the winter months sets off SAD.
People suffering from SAD report they feel a lifting of their depression during spring and summer.
Light therapy has been found to be a good treatment for many people suffering from SAD. Good nutrition, adequate rest, exercise, and avoidance of drugs and alcohol are also important interventions for SAD.

An entity which has received a lot of hype in the lay press is bipolar disorder, which has also been called manic-depressive illness. This disorder is less common than major depression or dysthymia. Bipolar disorder is said to be characterized by mood changes which cycle from extreme highs, or mania, to extreme lows, or depression. This has become a trendy diagnosis with it appearing an unusually large number of people being misdiagnosed with this disorder. Many things can begin to mimic this disorder, as is true of all forms of depression and other psychiatric disorders, such as consuming too much caffeine in coffee or energy drinks, nutritional deficiencies, drug and alcohol abuse, allergies, lack of sleep, and being out of shape.

The basis of depression is multifactorial

It appears likely that depression is due to a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. In this context is is important to point out that as highlighted by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), which was founded with the help of the late Dr Thomas Szasz, a world famous antipsychiatry psychiatrist, there are actually no biological markers for any of the diagnoses in psychiatry.

There are many signs and symptoms of depression, which include:

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1: Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

2: Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

3: Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

4: Irritability, restlessness

5: Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

6: Fatigue and decreased energy

7: Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

8: Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

9: Overeating, or appetite loss

10: Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

11: Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

Physical activity may prevent depression

Reporting on an effective natural treatment for depression, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has written on physical activity and its association with the prevention of depression. Because of its high prevalence and negative impact on quality of life, there have been aggressive research initiatives aimed at identifying factors which may prevent depression. Whether or not physical activity is protective against depression has been explored in this review. George Mammen, a PhD candidate, was supervised by Professor Guy Faulkner, a co-author of the review.

The researchers found consistent evidence that physical activity may prevent future episodes of depression. Promising evidence has emerged that any level of physical activity, including walking, can prevent future episodes of depression. Clearly, the promotion of physical activity may serve as an important mental health promotion strategy aimed at reducing the risk of developing depression. Reporting on this topic, Denise Reynolds RD has written, "The Magic Drug for Depression and Anxiety? Exercise." There are also other natural interventions which may prove to be very beneficial in dealing with depression. Reporting on these options, Armen Hareyan has written on, "Alternative Approaches to Treatment of Depression and Bipolar Disorder."

Depression and other psychiatric disorders are perplexing problems

Over the course of my career it has become clear that depression and other psychiatric illnesses are perplexing problems. As implied herein the orthodox treatments, which invariably include antidepressant medications and other psychiatric drugs, such as neuroleptics, are dangerous and generally cause more problems than they solve. In fact the Citizens Commission on Human Rights has noted a strong association between many of the school shootings and being on prescribed psychiatric drugs. Wouldn't it therefore be a good idea to focus instead on positive interventions to prevent and treat depression. Reporting on a consideration of more positive approaches to dealing with depression, Deborah Mitchell has written, "Exercise Must Be Fun to Reduce Depression."

These factors coupled with the realization that from a scientific perspective none of the diagnoses in psychiatry are for certain, due to a lack of biological markers for these diagnoses, makes proper intervention for mental health issues very problematic and often very costly in personal and financial terms. Reporting on this serious problem, which often results in false stigmatization of mental illness and ruined lives, Denise Reynolds RD has written, "Rethinking Depression: Is Mental Illness Overdiagnosed?" In my opinion the best approach to dealing with these issues is therefore natural prevention, and simple physical activity, along of course with other healthy lifestyle considerations such as good nutrition.