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Knowing whether you are depressed or not can be more difficult than it sounds. Life is hard and sadness is common. This is where people can sometimes get confused. Being sad about things, feeling stressed, overwhelmed, out of control, wanting to get away, feeling afraid are all symptoms of depression, but they are also symptoms of being human and being alive. This difficulty is understanding the difference between a low period and a depressive episode.
Depression is different: It might be triggered by life events, but it does not need to be caused by anything in particular. Even though everything in your life might be going according to plan, and you have no real reason to feel sad or down, depression can still strike. Whether you’re a young teen just starting out in high school, or a successful CEO and parent, nobody is safe from this (or any) mental illness. So it’s important to understand it and know what signs to watch out for.
Contrary to popular opinion, being depressed is not something you can just snap out of. It is a genuine mental health medical condition. Like a torn muscle or an infection, your body is reacting to something and the consequence is depression. Because it is an identifiable medical condition, it is also treatable. Modern treatments are very successful, so there is hope for people who experience depression.
Brains are complex things. There are nearly 100 billion neurons in your brain and an average of 10,000 connections between each one. On top of direct connections, you have hormones and other signalling chemicals and proteins floating around influencing how those connections connect. The result is something that is significantly more complicated than anything that humans have yet discovered in the universe. There are more possible connections in just one of our brains than there are electrons in the universe.
There are many symptoms of depression, and while everyone will experience it in their own way, below are listed just some of the most common signs to watch out for:
All or only one of these symptoms have to be persistently present for more than two weeks for you to be considered depressed. However you may experience just one, or many of them if you suffer from depression. There are no rules, only guidelines, so you have to figure out how to interpret and understand your feelings by yourself and with someone who can help you, like a psychologist or your family doctor. Remember to keep a watchful eye on friends and family who’ve undergone major behavioural changes all of a sudden. They may be suffering from depressive disorder.
Depression can range in severity from mild periods of feeling a bit down to immediate and persistent suicidal thoughts and attempts. Like all mental health conditions, there is a spectrum of symptoms and they can vary from day to day, or minute to minute.
There are several different types of depression. Read about them here.
Causes of Depression
Depression has as many causes as there are people who suffer from it. Sometimes it can be an upsetting or traumatizing event that triggers or causes it such as sudden job loss, the break up of a relationship, or the death of a loved one. There are many negative events that can cause someone to shift into a major depressive mode and stay there for a while. Some of this is genuine sadness or reaction to trauma, but diagnosing it and treating it as depression can help deal with the underlying reasons that you developed that kind of reaction in the first place.
Your family history and genetics are known to be causes of depression, but exactly how they play this role is still not understood. Severe head injury, terminal or chronic illness can make a person depressed, as can conditions like hypothyroidism.
The biological causes of depression are still eluding scientists. There appear to be “imbalances” in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Simply administering more serotonin can help some people, but it does not deal with the underlying causes. The brains of depressed people appear to be wired differently. The wiring configuration of the brain is what results in the mind, so when they are wired in a particular way they will produce depression.
In order to properly tell if you have depression or not you should get a clinical diagnosis. You can visit your family doctor and discuss with them the symptoms you are experiencing. A trained psychiatrist or psychologist will ask you questions about your history, your family (depression is often hereditary), what medications you are taking, and how you are feeling. It is a gentle and exploratory process that is proven to work extremely well.
When a good picture of your feelings and the possible causes of them has been built up, it is then possible to make recommendations regarding treatments. Some people will respond well to talking therapies, others to drugs, others to a combination of the two.
When you are thinking about employing any kind of treatment, you should always do it in consultation with your doctor. The brain is a vulnerable organ and it’s vital that you take care when using any medications that may alter it. Your doctor will use their experience and knowledge to take you through the treatments available. Unfortunately, a lot of the antidepressant medications that are prescribed have very serious side effects and can be addictive. For this reason, many people are now turning to alternative medicines that are natural and side effect free. CBD is one such medicine.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is one of the chemicals found in cannabis. It does not get you “high,” but has some mood stabilizing, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective qualities that make it a potential drug for the treatment of depression. It is highly tolerable, easily available and there are very few side effects, if any, for most people. For a very long time indigenous peoples have used cannabis for medicinal purposes such as fighting infections, treating burns, relieving pain, and stabilizing mood. Today it shows great promise for the treatment of many diseases and conditions, including mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, due to the haphazard legal status of Cannabis throughout the United States, and the wider world in general, very little high standard scientific research has been carried out into the potential of CBD to be used as a treatment for medical conditions. This has resulted in quite a lot of misinformation on the internet. A lot of people are making dramatic claims about the miracle powers of CBD, and while the anecdotal evidence supporting CBD’s natural healing properties are very hard to dismiss, you should remain cautious of what you read online.
So, can you use CBD to manage your depression? Maybe. We just don’t know enough about it yet to come to any hard and fast conclusions. What we do know is that it definitely has the potential to reduce the symptoms of depression and that it is a relatively safe drug to use experimentally. However, this decision is down to each individual.
Using any drug is a serious thing to do. Any drug, CBD included, should only be taken on the direct recommendation of your doctor. Treating depression can be difficult, so if you are taking any kinds of medication (that includes CBD), your doctor should know about it. If it is illegal where you live, there are alternatives that could be worth exploring rather than breaking the law.
If you are feeling depressed, talk to a doctor. The Samaritans run a confidential, free phone service you can call any time. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the emergency services, they can help you. Depression can seem like a bottomless pit, but remember that there is treatment available and if you seek the help that you need, it could be no time at all before you’re feeling good once again.