Somewhere around seven percent of the US population, or about seventeen million American adults, suffer from depression each year. Depression may occur only once, but for some, depression typically occurs in episodes where symptoms provide stress for days or weeks at a time. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Differences in sleep patterns, such as getting too much or not enough sleep
- Lack of interest in hobbies or other normal activities
- Frequent outbursts or increased irritability
- General feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Lack of energy
- Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Heightened sense of anxiety
- Trouble focusing
- Suicidal ideations
- Unexplained aches and pains
Not only does depression cause a litany of emotional problems, but many physical symptoms or ailments as well. Adults suffering from depression may be sixty percent more likely to develop heart disease. This can be further complicated by excessive weight gain, sometimes caused by an increase in cravings while depressed. Depression may lead some down a road to alcohol or drug abuse, which then only worsens the symptoms of depression in a vicious cycle. Those suffering from depression may withdraw from social situations with friends and family and isolate themselves. Additionally, many with depression also develop anxiety or panic disorders.
Anxiety disorders take many different forms, such as Agoraphobia (a tendency to avoid situations that may cause you to feel panic), or Social Anxiety Disorder. Most anxiety disorders share some common symptoms, such as: feeling restless or nervous, a sense of impending doom, increased heart rate and breathing, or gastrointestinal problems.
There are many different treatments for anxiety and depression, but many suffering will find that they suffer from treatment-resistant forms of these mental disorders. While SSRIs and other antidepressants may take weeks at a time before the effects start to become noticeable, there are quite a few options that can help relieve your depression and anxiety, sometimes within hours.
How to Find Relief from Treatment-Resistant Depression or Anxiety
Adopt a Serotonin-Boosting Diet
Serotonin, known by its scientific name 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a chemical messenger used throughout the brain and blood vessels to transmit messages between nerve cells. While it has many uses in the human body, it is thought to play an important role in the body’s happiness and overall mood, and also regulates sleep and memory.
It is currently unclear how serotonin may contribute to depression, but there are a number of drugs and medications that alter serotonin levels to treat depression or anxiety. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft) are approved by the FDA for the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Fortunately, eating foods that contain tryptophan can boost serotonin levels in your brain. Research into tryptophan has shown that serotonin levels drop when practicing a diet low in tryptophan. Foods that can increase tryptophan or serotonin levels include:
- Eggs. Egg yolks are rich in tryptophan, and other nutrients good for the human body, such as protein or omega-3 fatty acids.
- Cheese/Milk. Milk can also provide calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth.
- Nuts/Seeds. All nuts and seeds have been found to contain tryptophan. Eating just a handful of nuts once a day may also lower your risk for cancer or heart disease.
- Salmon. Salmon is also a strong source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin-D. Eating just two portions of oily fish a week provides enough tryptophan for most people.
Get Outside and Absorb Sunlight
Like the foods listed above, sunlight itself is a great source of serotonin. Research has shown a link between decreased sun exposure and dropping serotonin levels.
A modest amount of direct sunlight can boost the body’s Vitamin D levels and can decrease the risks of cancer.
Fortunately, for those suffering from Agoraphobia, one can buy a light box and participate in what’s known as phototherapy. The light box simulates natural sunlight to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
While immediate relief is usually not possible with meditation, habitual meditation not only reduces thoughts of depression and anxiety, but also allows a person to practice how they react to stress and anxiety.
Research shows that the medial prefrontal cortex (the mPFC) is a key part of how the brain processes anxiety depression. Often referred to as the “Me Center” of the brain, the mPFC is where information about the self is processed. When stressed, the mPFC becomes hyperactive. The amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, often works in tandem with the mPFC to spike the stress hormone cortisol.
Meditation has been found to help break down the connection between the mPFC and the amygdala, which allows a person to better control the stress and anxiety one may be feeling.
Avoid Caffeine as Much as Possible
A 2019 study performed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that the caffeine from tea and coffee may disrupt important neurotransmitters like dopamine. For those with depression, a drop in dopamine can lower motivation and increase craving for stimulants.
A heavy intake of caffeine often results in unpleasant side effects such as anxiety, headaches, an increase in blood pressure, or nausea. These symptoms may only further exacerbate depression and anxiety.