Depression and Anxiety
Depression can range anywhere from "the world is grey today" to "the world is intolerable today and I want out." The only emotion is greyness and sadness, and it feels as though there is no hope for the future.
When depression is combined with anxiety – a constant feeling of agitation, where nothing ever settles down, the nerves are always on edge – it is even more difficult to deal with, because there is never a time of quiet. For those who have anxiety, having to perform at work, going shopping, cooking breakfast, reading the newspaper – almost anything can stop them in their tracks.
Depression affects approximately 10-15% of our population in any given year, and up to 20% of the population as a whole, some time in their lifetime. Three times more women than men are diagnosed with depression. Average duration of illness is 10 years. It is estimated that 15-20% of older adults suffer from depression.
Many symptoms of depression are associated with things which we are "supposed to" be able to control – mood swings, focus on self, concentration, ability to experience pleasure. "Just pull yourself together!" "Get over it!" Once a person has been treated successfully, and has experienced remission of symptoms (one hardly dares say cure), it becomes quite clear that they were in fact incapable of "pulling themselves together" prior to the treatment.
Standard allopathic treatment for depression used to involve cognitive/behavioral therapy – let's sit on the couch and talk. Increasingly in these days of HMOs, standard allopathic treatment comes from the prescription pad – antidepressants, anticonvulsants, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety agents), stimulants, and other psychotropic (mind-changing) pharmaceuticals.
Drugs sometimes calm the anxiety, sometimes they merely make people feel brain fogged. Depression drugs have a track record of giving about a 50 percent decrease in symptoms. Many patients have experienced that over time their anti-depressant doesn't seem to work anymore and they have to switch to an ever stronger cocktail of pharmaceuticals. If you are way low on serotonin – the hormone that is a master neurotransmitter – the drugs may not work much at all. Up to 20% of patients fail to respond to any form of therapy for depression.
Dr. David Rubinow, in an excellent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006, talks about the National Institutes of Health funded trials which were also reported in the same issue, and laments that at least half the patients treated for depression with standard antidepressant medication continue to have symptoms of depression despite treatment. 75% of the patients in those studies had suffered from depression for 15 years or more, and over half of them waited for over a year before receiving their first treatment.
Findings from the Women's Health Initiative Study revealed that post-menopausal women taking antidepressants were 45 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those of the same age not on the medicines. The research also found that overall death rates were 32 per cent higher in women on the drugs.[2a]
Because therapy is so ineffective and the condition so prevalent, it is reasonable to look for more effective alternative therapies.
Depression can be caused by many things. If it has a spiritual basis, then acupuncture and hypnosis can be helpful. A sudden spiritual awakening is enough to lift the veil – but those awakenings are hard to orchestrate. More often, depression and anxiety have an organic cause. You may have very poor neural function, meaning your brain doesn't work very well because some wires are crossed or don't even exist. Your neurotransmitters could be misfiring because of low levels of serotonin and dopamine – your brain functions like a truck running on two cylinders instead of eight. For some people, food allergies trigger the blues. For others, a body burden of heavy metals inhibits neural functions to the point nothing works and you feel depressed.
Other physiologic factors implicated in depression include low levels of Vitamin D, hormonal imbalance, head injury, vitamin deficiency, and fatty acid deficiency[10,11].
A five-year study involving 3,500 people showed that people who eat a diet high in processed food increase their chances of depression. Conversely, those who avoided processed food and instead ate a healthy amount of vegetables, fruit and fish, or what is known as the Mediterranean diet, actually lowered their risk of depression.[11a]
We can start by looking at hormone levels because they affect all the neurotransmitters. Then we look to see if there is merit in desensitizing environmental allergies with smart testing and homeopathy, removing heavy metals with chelation, and identifying food allergies.
Is there any exercise in the picture? The January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported a study on the effects of exercise and found comparable results from studies in which patients with mild to moderate depression were treated with antidepressants. "The effect you find using aerobic exercise alone in treating clinical depression is similar to what you find with antidepressant medications," said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, a study author and professor of psychiatry and director of UT Southwestern's mood disorders research program. "The key is the intensity of the exercise and continuing it for 30 to 35 minutes per day. It's not for the faint of heart."
How are the vitamin D levels? How is the omega 3/omega 6 balance in the diet? Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin" and fish oils with omega-3 oils have been found to provide some benefit. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and worse cognitive performance in older adults. Consumption of omega-3 fats is especially low in the United States, and we have one of the highest depression rates in the world. Dr. Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health has shown that higher national consumption of fish for a nation equates with lower rates of depression.
What are the sleep patterns? The body does most of its healing as we sleep so adequate sleep is important too.
In sum, you want to create a good terrain from the neck down.
Traditional Chinese Medicine theory of Five Elements:
The theory says wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are the basic elements of the material world.
Each element possesses distinct characteristics. These elements are in constant movement and change.
We all have each of these elements in us.
On the basis of the phenomena's different characteristics, functions, and forms, the complex links between physiology and pathology as well as the correlation between the human body and the natural environment were explained.
Then it is time to go to work on the brain. The frontal lobe is key to depression because it isn't usually working right. Your right frontal lobe looks at the big picture and puts the past and the future in perspective. When the frontal lobes are not working well, it is harder for people to cope. You get slow or garbled transmission of impulses to the limbic system in the brain. This is often the source of the fight or flight response in the brain. The anxiety makes you want to run away, and depression makes you want to freeze.You are quivering between the proverbial rock and the hard place.
We all have different reactions to dysfunctional transmission of nerve impulses. If we look at the temperaments as described in Chinese Medicine:
We can increase the brain's processing speed by increasing neural connections with HEG (hemoencephalography), and then exercise the brain to teach it to make new connections.
- Woods – angry and anxious and depressed
- Waters – weepy and depressed (frozen)
- Metals – rigid and obsessed
- Earths – soggy and weepy and depressed
- Fires – anxious and depressed
The brain operates on a use it or lose it principal. Blood brings oxygen and the basic nutrient, glucose, to all parts of the brain. The more blood flow you have, the more oxygen and glucose you will have on board and the more neural connections you can make. The less blood flow you have, the less processing power you have.
HEG feedback is a simple way to increase blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain. This is the area where you do "executive functions" like paying attention to details and remembering them, organizing, strategizing, and planning. HEG feedback is combined with exercises using special sounds and pictures to exercise the brain on different levels. After about 20 HEG sessions, a person achieves permanent gains in brain function. HEG is proving to be much more rapidly successful than the older style of qEEG feedback training.
Using HEG feedback, you can literally increase the processing speed of the brain. This has proven to be beneficial not only for depression and anxiety, but also for ADHD, memory loss, and more. It works so well because brain malfunction is usually a processing issue. We can give a patient more serotonin for example, but odds are the brain wouldn't know what to do with it.
One 42-year old professional woman was incapacitated with depression and anxiety. She had been unable to work for two years and spent most of her days crying. Within 3 ½ weeks of starting HEG therapy, she was off her meds, had stopped crying, and was able to see the "light of day." Within 6 weeks she was done with therapy, done with meds, and looking at going back to work. She had previously tried biofeedback, which does not stimulate blood flow, but her depression and anxiety were not relieved. She talked about the HEG neurotherapy as a miracle, said she began to see changes within 3 days of starting therapy.
Incapacitating anxiety is one of the most difficult things to deal with on any level. The anxiety becomes a global state of being. It can relate to misinterpretation of physical signals like falling blood sugar. Depending upon the personality, that can advance to a state where everything triggers anxiety.
Looking at things energetically can help. Sometimes things are hidden in the energetics of our body. There can be a latent reason for the anxiety that has become an integral component of the person and the ego. A skilled energetic healer can sometimes see what is going on behind the scenes and help bring it to the surface so the conscious mind can deal with it and get rid of it. Hypnosis is another option for getting at the root cause.
"Just pull yourself together!" isn't a realistic demand of someone with depression and anxiety. Solving depression is not as easy as tackling any one thing.
We have found a combination of therapies to be most effective in the treatment of depression, particularly when depression is associated with incapacitating anxiety, including HEG biofeedback, nutritional and dietary counseling, supplements, auditory and vestibular processing training, audio-visual entrainment (AVE), cognitive and memory training, as well as counseling and hypnosis. Together, these modalities have had remarkable effect in helping people overcome their depression and return to life – all within the space of about 20 sessions of treatment.