By Loraine Debnam
I have a friend who finds these cold grey days to be very difficult. After several sessions, her doctor gave her a prescription for antidepressants. However, since she also suffers from chronic back pain, she says she has trouble staying upbeat and positive when everything looks gloomy. I can certainly sympathize with her. Although I pride myself on my optimistic outlook, too many days with no sunshine here in the sunny south make it challenging to be cheerful. I think I must be solar powered. Researchers report a higher number of cases of depression in the state of Alaska and in the Nordic countries and they attribute this statistic to reduced levels of light. Sometimes light therapy is the treatment of choice.
Apparently my friend’s issues are not unusual. In 2017 the World Health Organization released a study which stated that depression is the most common illness worldwide and is the leading cause of disability. Women sufferers are reported to outnumber men on a ratio of 2 to 1. Also I was surprised to read that women who have low levels of the B vitamins double their risk for severe depression and twenty five per cent of seniors with chronic health problems are also prime candidates. They describe an overwhelming feeling of sadness, of finding no joy in their daily lives. Other symptoms may include fatigue, little or no energy, loss of interest in regular activities and a withdrawal from social interactions. Blue feelings can disintegrate into anxiety, despair and even hopelessness and worthlessness. Depression is too often labeled as a mood disorder but it can affect the entire body not just the mind. Misuse of medications, alcohol, caffeine or tobacco, stomach complaints, overeating, muscle or joint pain and sleeping too much are all indicators that there is a serious problem. It is a health problem that should be addressed. Appointments with a medical professional or a counselor are indicated and important.
Although antidepressant medication may be of help, there are some other strategies that are also recommended. Our Vitamin D levels are often reduced during the winter months when there is less sunlight during the day. Adding more fish to the diet could be beneficial since it is high in that vitamin. Eating other fresh foods is always a healthier alternative. Exercise is also said to be helpful since it raises the endorphin levels in the body. These naturally occurring chemicals help diminish pain and trigger positive feelings. Along with that comes an outlook of improved self-esteem. Go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be long or strenuous, just with a different perspective. (My Mom says you should take your dog for a walk every day – even if you don’t have a dog!) Another approach that is suggested is to spend a designated time away from the television, computer or social media. (I’d rather spend that time by the fire with a good book.)
Depression is not a natural part of aging. It is a curable medical condition that can be overcome with the help of loved ones and doctors. It’s important to build a support group of family and friends who will can be called upon to help to beat the “blues”. Call them.