National Depression Education Awareness Month 2005
Its that time of year again when we harvest the wheat, watch the changing colors around us and welcome in the change of season, waving goodbye to those wonderful sunny days that warm us and give us life.
For many of us, the change of season signals the coming of winter, change in mood, lifestyle, change in diet and we just slow down for a long cozy winter.
For most of us, we are already planning for those sunny bright days to reappear.
But let’s not forget the many that suffer from depression - so this is why the month of October has been named "Depression Awareness Month” focusing on this serious but common disorder.
So what is DEPRESSION?
Current theories as reported by Pharmacists Planning Service, Inc. indicate that clinical depression may be associated with an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that carry communications between nerve cells that control mood and other bodily systems.
Other factors may also come into play like, negative life experiences such as stress or loss, medication, other medical illnesses, and certain personality traits and genetic factors.
Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, and eat; and enjoy once pleasurable activities.
It is an illness that affects both mind and body and it’s a common problem that can occur at any age.
At times everyone feels “down” or “sad”.
These mood changes are usually temporary. However, when a depressed mood persists for one or more months, and interferes with everyday living, it is likely a sign of serious depression that requires treatment.
Major depression is the most common type of depression and is characterized by at least five of the major symptoms of depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Another form of depression that I will focus on is Seasonal Affective Disorder which follows seasonal rhythms, with symptoms occurring in the winter months and diminishing in spring and summer.
SAD is brought on as our exposure to light is reduced by the changing rotation of the earth.
5 to 10 percent of the population are affected in which 80 percent of this population is made of women.
Symptoms appear as early as 18 to 30 years of age and tends to run in the family.
Current research indicates that the absence of sunlight triggers a biochemical reaction that may cause symptoms such as loss of energy, fatigue and lethargy, decreased activity, sadness, excessive eating, carbohydrate cravings and sleeping.
Depression is believed to have a biological basis, caused by low levels of chemical messengers in the brain, especially serotonin and norepinephrine.
These natural substances, called neurotransmitters, carry electrical signals from one nerve cell in the brain to another across spaces (called synapses).
Although an imbalance in levels of these neurotransmitters may be ultimately responsible for a person’s depressed mood, live events such as the death of a loved one, change in marital status, financial problems or job loss also can trigger, maintain or be consequence of depressive feelings.
In general several theories about the causes of depression have been proposed and researched.
Factors which have been studied include:
stress (e.g. financial pressures, the build-up of daily “hassles,” etc.) loss (e.g., death of someone close to us, loss of identity as a top student in a high school, break-up of a relationship, etc.), low rewards (e.g., stuffing away angry feelings and hoping they will go away) rigid or distorted thinking patterns (e.g., the belief that one must be perfect right now or that it is essential that one be loved by everyone), genetic predisposition, physical illness, lack of sunlight during the winter months, and other physiological causes.
More specifically regarding SAD
As reported in the recent article found in Frontier Airlines Wild Blue Yonder, Sep/Oct 2005 issue, “Who Turned Out The Lights?” Brent Van Dorsten, Ph.D., a behavioral health psychologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center explains:
“While SAD’s exact cause is unknown, it is generally accepted that nerve centers in the brain that moderate mood and energy are affected by the eye’s exposure to bright light.
During darkness, the pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin, which increases drowsiness.
Light halts production.
People with SAD may have longer periods of melatonin production and higher daytime levels in winter.
Extended darkness may also be associated with decreased production of the neurotransmitter serotonin.”
Combinations of these factors can make it more likely that a person will become depressed.
Some individuals can identify an event that seemed to trigger their depression;
other individuals cannot point to a cause of their depression.
It is often difficult to distinguish whether severe depression is either “chemical” or “emotional, “ since depression involves both aspects of functioning:
a severely depressed person is likely to feel sad, to experience problems in living, and to exhibit changes in physiological functioning.
Treatment is highly effective.
People with depression need treatment in order to function fully and modulate the chance of recurrence.
Treatment is highly effective.
With appropriate treatment, many people can experience improvement in a relatively short period of time.
High Cost of NOT Getting Treatment
People can lose their jobs, destroy relationships, and isolate themselves from their communities. Physical and mental health suffer as well.
Depression is costly to society.
Studies indicate that the cost of clinical depression exceeds $47.3 billion annually.
Of which $24 billion is comprised of lost productivity and worker absenteeism on the job.
Bright Light Therapy:
As for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Van Dorsten goes on to say, Bright Light Therapy:
Given the overproduction of melatonin and underproduction of serotonin during darkness, bright light is the “gold standard” of SAD treatment.
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In closing, I would like to thank you for your interest in American Environmental Products, Inc. At AEP, we strive to bring our customers leading technology and the highest quality found in the market today.
Spencer A. Meister
VP Sales and Marketing
American Environmental Products, Inc.
For additional information regarding depression and SAD please refer to:
* Pharmacists Planning Service. Inc.; www.ppsinc.org/depression
* National Organization for SAD, Washington D.C.; www.nosad.org
* Outside In; www.outsidein.co.uk
* National Mental Health Association; www.nmha.org.