Holy. crap. you. guys. It’s Katie.
Remember me? Remember, the one who blogs on healthy living, but can turn around and polish off a dozen Krispy Kreme’s on a bet?
Okaaay, maybe not the whole doz…no, no I’m lying. I could do it.
It has been for-ev-uh since I’ve written a post. Like, months.
And surprise! I’m still alive!
Weeeeell, maybe “alive” isn’t quite the right word to use……Let’s go with “existing” instead.
Yeah, for close to 2 years now, depression has subtly slithered its way up in and around my life. This bout of depression slowly, but surely became more and more present, till it got to the point where I felt the depression ruled my entire day.
And to put it mildly, depression sucks.
It sucks hard.
One thing I find particularly sucky about depression is how much more effort every day, normal activities take compared to when before the depression set in.
A lot of the time it feels I’m moving in slo-mo, like I’m trying to fight my way through
So what ends up happening?
Well, for me, I’ve noticed I procrastinate.
Yep. Procrastinate and avoid.
Now I will say I’m not as bad as I was, or this post wouldn’t have been written, let alone published on my blog! But rewind to several months ago, and, oy vey.
Many-a-my-day began by sleeping till the middle of the afternoon, sometimes even early evening. Then after the 5th or 6th unsuccessful round of telling myself, “Ok, really this time, sit up on the count of 3,” I’d finally drag my butt out of bed and continue the act of putting off basic tasks for hours.
I’m talking easy peasy stuff like brushing my hair, getting the mail, putting on a bra. Or I’d just end up avoiding the majority of my to-do’s altogether.
By not accomplishing much throughout my day only made me feel like an even bigger pile of cow dung. As a result, bed time seemed to cue my berating self-talk for wasting yet another day.
However, as upset as I was with myself by the end of the day, do you think that stopped me from repeating the same sabotaging actions the next day? Or the day after that?
Wanna know what the real kicker is though? I’ve been taking multiple prescription meds for my depression this entire time.
Clearly those meds are not giving me the help I need.
You’re might be thinking, “Um okaaay…then why in the world are you staying on them, Katie?
Such a good question!
Seriously. That really is a great question.
I wish I had an answer, as it appears to be a total no-brainer.
In my defense, reaching this number of meds happened rather gradually. I had only been on one antidepressant until my psychiatrist and I realized it had lost its luster, so my doctor decided to add another prescription to it. Then another. And another.
Without seeing much improvement, my doctor then began up-ing the dosages of those prescriptions.
Again, I really didn’t notice any difference.
Ok, ok, ok, so what’s my point?
My point is here I’m taking all these meds, yet Yours Truly is still struggling with a number of depression symptoms.
I couldn’t help but suspect that maybe something else is going on here.
So I googled “hidden causes of depression,” and guess what? I came across an awful lot of references and articles focusing on how depression in and of itself can be a symptom of an underlying health issue.
When that’s the case, it’s not uncommon for someone to receive a depression diagnosis, start taking antidepressants to treat it, and then end up finding little to nada relief.
You know why?
Because antidepressants aren’t addressing the root cause!
Hold your horses though. In no way am I stating that antidepressants aren’t complete lifesavers for millions of people. I’m not claiming that to be the case at all.
What I am saying is that from my own personal experience, along with what I’ve found time after time while researching, some doctors are kinda quick to treat the more obvious answer, only to stop there without doing a little extra digging.
Not even after several failed attempts at relieving a patient’s symptoms will MD’s begin second guessing their original diagnosis.
This could very well explain why my butt’s still depressed while taking 3 antidepressants, an anti-psychotic, a prescription that “helps” with fatigue *big eye roll there*, and a thyroid hormone replacement.
Call me cuckoo, but I think my depression is merely part of a bigger picture. I truly feel an underlying cause is largely responsible for my depression symptoms.
And after doing a little exploring, I came across a number of health issues where depression is among one of the more common symptoms.
Check out the following health conditions to see if you or a loved one’s depression might possibly be a symptom of something else.
1. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
Adrenal fatigue syndrome occurs when the body is put under loads of stress for an extended period of time. From your demanding job, to over exercising, to that pesky case of bronchitis you can’t seem to shake, after a while all those different sources of stress begin taking a toll on our bods.
Enter, adrenal fatigue syndrome.
See, our pair of Spanish olive-sized adrenal glands produce and pump out a plethora of hormones, one of which being cortisol. Also known as “the stress hormone,” our adrenals release cortisol when we’re under…..wait for it….that’s right, stress.
This reaction occurs as part of the “fight or flight” system, which Dr. eil Neimark M.D., founder of mdPersonal Concierge Family Medicine, defines as “our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.”
Now as vital as the fight or flight response is to have in an emergency, Dr. Neil tells us the stressors we experience nowadays, like my car dying mid-rush hour (ughhhh, don’t get me started), or oversleeping for a meeting, will also “trigger the activation of our fight or flight system as if our physical survival was threatened”.
If our adrenal glands are working hard to spew out hormones every time we encounter a stressful situation, it’s no wonder they’re exhausted!
Without giving our bodies the self-care it needs and deserves (e.g., getting plenty of sleep, finding—ahem, and using😜—healthy methods to cope with stress, having a lil’ fun, etc.), over time, our adrenal’s performance can go right down the toity.
In other words, the adrenal glands will be too worn out to produce enough of the necessary hormones for neither the mind nor the body to function at their best.
Unfortunately, this frequently leads to depression. But the repercussions don’t stop there. Nope. Not even close. I say this because there are 75 symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue syndrome. Seventy. Five. Crazy, eh?
To keep the post rolling merrily along though, I’ll only list some of the more common symptoms as opposed to all 75.
- Fatigue (duh)
- You’re what they call, “wired but tired” (e.g., you can’t fall asleep at bedtime despite being pooped out)
- Weight Gain in the Belly
- Brain Fog
- Hair Loss
- Lightheadedness Upon Standing
- Heat Intolerance
Soooo let’s say the above symptoms have your name written all over ‘em. What do you do now?
I suggest searching for a reputable healthcare provider who takes a holistic approach such as a naturopathic physician, or an integrative medical doctor where they treat patients using a combination of holistic methods as well as a conventional medicine.
Since adrenal fatigue syndrome has yet to be recognized by the Endocrine Society, many mainstream doctors believe the health condition is merely a myth.
If seeing a practitioner is out of your budget–many holistic providers don’t accept health insurance–fortunately these days, there are numerous resources available to guide you along your adrenal healing journey.
Simple Ways to Set the Healing Wheels in Motion
When overcoming adrenal fatigue is the task at hand, you’ll want to focus on laying off anything notorious for taxing your adrenal glands such as:
- Caffeine and other stimulants (I know, I’m so sorry)
- Moderate to High Intensity Exercise
- Skimping on sleep
- Processed foods
- Sugar and High fructose Corn Syrup
- Prolonged stress
In addition to a low stress lifestyle, adding adrenal-supportive supplements to your regular diet is crrrrrucial to recovering from adrenal fatigue syndrome. Take a look at this fabulous article to see which supplements adrenal fatigue expert, Dr. Michael Lam, MD, MPH, recommends.
*Be sure to consult your doc before starting any new supplement! Seriously. The supplement could interact with a medication you’re currently taking.
Now for the kinda whompity whomp part. Although adrenal fatigue is reversible, treatment can take a bit of patience before you’re feeling 100%. We’re talking anywhere from several months all the way up to a couple years, depending on the severity.
Remember, I said “100%”! You’ll start feeling better waaaay before that!
For everything you ever wanted to know, and more, on adrenal fatigue, be sure to check out Dr. Lam’s site! I’m telling you when it comes to adrenal fatigue, this man undoubtedly knows his stuff.
2. Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism
Twenty million Americans suffer from thyroid disease. Ready for this lil gem of info though? Well over half of those peeps don’t even know they have it.
Not sure just what the thyroid gland does? Believe me, you’re not the only one, by a long shot. The thyroid gland produces hormones that “regulate our metabolism—the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen—and affects critical body functions, such as energy level and heart rate,” as Thyroid.org explains.
Situated at the base of the neck, our small butterfly-shaped thyroid affects every single cell in the body, so if it’s out of whack, it can cause numerous, sometimes very serious, issues.
For instance, when the thyroid doesn’t create enough thyroid hormone, it’s considered hypothyroidism. Oh, and if you found the amount of adrenal fatigue’s symptoms to be a smidge staggering, then hold on to your skivvies boys and girls! Because hypothyroidism has not one, not two, but over three hundred symptoms associated with the disease.
A few of the more typical symptoms include:
- Extreme Fatigue
- Hair Loss
- Weight Gain (or feeling as though no matter how little you eat, the scale won’t budge…Gawwwr…so maddening, right?)
- Dry, Brittle Nails and Skin
As well as, you guessed it, depression!
At times, depression symptoms may also show up in hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid makes too much of the hormone. People with hyperthyroidism can experience:
- Weight Loss
If you suspect your thyroid is acting out of sorts, you’ll want to visit an endocrinologist (a doctor specializing in the body’s hormones and the glands producing them) to have your thyroid levels tested.
Don’t Go to Just Any Endocrinologist
Before you go scrolling through a list of your “In Network” endocrinoligists and choosing one just because you think their name is super rad, take the time to do a little research.
One way to find highly reputable doctors near you is by googling “top endocrinologists in [your city].” From there, narrow it down to your top 3 – 4 choices by figuring out which of those endo’s accept your insurance. Next, go read a slew of reviews to help make your final decision.
Say Mr. Google’s results were less than impressive; you might also try asking a few friends or family members if they know of a quality endocrinologist.
My main reason for encouraging some extra effort when finding your endocrinologist is, well, not all doctors are created equal. Take it from someone who knows—mediocre MDs come a dime a dozen.
Plan Ahead for Your Appointment
Make the most out of your appointment and prepare yo’self! Do not fret, dear friend, this post by the Thyroid Patient Advocacy is the cheat sheet of all cheat sheets!
You’ll learn what all to expect from your first appointment, which information to put together beforehand to bring along with you, and an impressively thorough list of questions to ask the doctor. so you walk outta that office feeling well-informed and confident!
3. Male and Female Hormone Imbalances
The duties of male and female hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone span waaaay beyond just our reproductive system.
From the strength of our bones to the condition of our skin to the size of our muscles, reproductive hormones have a hand in loads of functions throughout the body. One of which is their involvement with the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals relaying messages from one neuron to the other), responsible for our mood.
Take estrogen, for example. This female hormone is critical in the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter well-known for boosting our happiness (it’s actually a group effort between serotonin and 3 other transmitters). However! If estrogen levels are low, it’ll have a hard time providing adequate support to serotonin. Therefore, serotonin levels drop and depression is more likely to develop.
In addition to depression, signs of low estrogen might show up as irregular or absent periods, increased UTIs, fatigue, moodiness, hot flashes, among others.
And although that’s more than enough damage for a misbehaving hormone to inflict, estrogen can also wreak havoc on our system when its levels become too high. Or, rather too high in relation to its counterbalancing hormone buddy, progesterone.
Estrogen dominance brings with it some oh-so-lovely symptoms natural hormone expert, Robert Gottesmen, M.D. describes as “feeling like you’re…jumping out of [your] skin.” Symptoms of estrogen dominance Dr. Gottesman frequently saw (he has since retired) in his patients include puffiness, headaches, the crappiest of crappy PMS, heavy bleeding, irritability, weight gain in the belly, aaaaaaand “agitated depression!”
Sweet mother of Zeus!
Progesterone is another female hormone that can pack a whollup on our mental health. Low progesterone not only decreases serotonin, it’s also known to lower our GABA levels (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that helps to chill us out.
So some poor soul with low progesterone levels could possibly face both anxiety and depression on top of the hot flashes, low libido, irregular periods, and migraines that usually accompany it. Well that just sounds like one nonstop party, doesn’t it? (And I only mentioned a few of the symptoms!)
Last, but not least, we have the male hormone, testosterone. A testosterone deficiency can be to blame for depression in both men and women, although it is more common among the older gents.
Since men have around 20 times the testosterone as the ladies, and with levels naturally hitting the skids with age, it makes sense mature men would experience low testosterone levels more frequently.
Researchers haven’t quite nailed down how low testosterone causes depression, but Lucida Treatment Center suggests that, like testosterone’s friends estrogen and progesterone, it too “may actually directly affect serotonin levels.”
Another possible explanation is that symptoms brought on by low testosterone levels such as fatigue or troubles in the bedroom “may develop into true depression because they cause a person’s mood to suffer.”
If one has low testosterone, they’ll notice symptoms like hair loss, low libido, their muscle mass going down hill, while their body fat becomes more and more bountiful, and don’t forget the symptoms I mentioned above!
Do you feel there’s a chance your depression symptoms are hormone-related? An endocrinologist (the hormone and gland specialist discussed a couple sections ago) can determine whether you have an imbalance by running simple tests.
On the other hand, remember the naturopathic and integrative physicians I mentioned earlier on? Both treat hormone imbalances as well. In fact, you will find that many of these doctors specialize in hormone imbalances. By looking at the whole health picture, they strive to get to the root of what’s going on, as opposed to simply treating the symptoms.
4. Nutritional Deficiencies
You wouldn’t think something as simple as being low in a particular vitamin or mineral could actually cause the horrible symptoms of depression, right? But it’s true! For instance, depression is 11 times more common among people deficient in vitamin D.
Doug Cook R.D. shares a number of other nutritional deficiencies linked to depression including iodine, zinc, selenium, amino acids, vitamins B6 and B12, and folate, which is a type of B vitamin.
The good news is these deficiencies are, for the most part, highly treatable. The sorta “meh” news though is feeling better doesn’t happen overnight. Of course, results vary from one person to the next, but it may take at least a month or two before symptoms begin to bite the dust.
It’s About That Time
Okey doke, I think it’s about time we wrapped ‘er up! Yeah I realize I only shared 4 health conditions out of the 12, but I figured this post had plenty of info to chew on for now. Part 2 of this post will be in front of your beautiful lil eye balls before you know it. And it’s gonna be a juicy one so be on the lookout, mmmkay?
Oh, wait! Just one more quick thing before you go. Who else out there struggles with depression? Are any of you having trouble finding a treatment (e.g., antidepressants, seeing a psychologist, etc.) that actually makes you feel better? If you feel comfortable, go ahead and share your thoughts down in the comments section. I’d truly love to hear from you.
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