Everyone gets sad or down at one time or another. But for many people, depressed feelings persist for weeks, months, and sometimes years. Like diabetes or heart disease, depression is a serious medical condition that can grow progressively worse if left untreated. Long-term depression interferes with how well we succeed in the world and how we relate to our colleagues and loved ones. Long-term depression darkens our thoughts, drains our energy, and drags at our work life and special relationships.
Depression affects approximately one out of every ten adults in the U.S. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable. The approach depends on the type of depression. Healthcare professionals recognize four categories of depressive disorders.
This is the most severe form of depressive disorder. A greater number of symptoms are present and they are more acute than in other categories.
This is mild-to-moderate depression that results from traumatic events, such as a divorce or job loss.
This is a chronic, low-level depression that continues for years. Individuals with dysthymia may experience major depression when a life crisis occurs.
Depression (not otherwise specified)
This category is used by healthcare professionals when the symptoms do not match other categories.
Depressive Disorders & Neurotransmitters Levels
Depressive disorders are among the most common neurotransmitter-related conditions. Others include anxiety disorders, compulsive behaviors, insomnia, and migraines.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons”. They are present throughout the body and are required for proper brain and body functions. Serious health problems, including depression and anxiety, can occur when neurotransmitter levels are too high or too low.
Every neurotransmitter behaves differently. Some neurotransmitters are inhibitory and tend to calm, while others are excitatory and stimulate the brain. Healthcare professionals conclude that specifc neurotransmitter imbalances are more likely to underlie certain conditions. Defciencies involving the central nervous system’s neurotransmitters — serotonin and norepinephrine — appear to be involved in the development of depressive disorders. Disruptions in other neurotransmitters, like GABA and glycine, have been more closely linked to anxiety disorders.
Environmental and biological factors — including stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, or genetics — can cause imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These imbalances can trigger or exacerbate depressive symptoms.
Most of the drug-based methods used to treat depression include chemicals that either imitate a neurotransmitter or redistribute existing neurotransmitters. Many affect serotonin, and some affect other neurotransmitters like GABA, norepinephrine, or dopamine. It is generally believed that drugs supporting serotonin signaling will be beneficial when depression results from a lackof serotonin and that GABA supporting drugs will be effective when a person’s symptoms are caused by a lack of GABA. While the idea of matching a drug to a chemical imbalance is generally supported, the vast majority of healthcare providers prescribe psychological drugs based only on a patient’s symptoms and few try to match a drug to a biochemical imbalance. This may explain why some drugs are ineffective for some patients.
Neurotransmitter function can also be supported with nutrient-based programs. Neurotransmitters are made from various components of food in a normal, healthy diet. Increasing the amounts of these dietary constituents can help maintain normal neurotransmitter levels.
While no program can guarantee success for everyone, it is worthwhile to effectively match a drug-based and/or nutrient-based program to the specific needs of the individual