Here is a depressing fact: "At present, one in twenty Americans suffers from clinical depression and requires medical treatment, and one person out of every five will suffer a depressive episode at some point. These statistics boost depression to the top of all public health problems in this country."1
True clinical depression is one thing, but many of us who may not fit the medical definition of "depression" still often feel that things are not quite right, we feel a little "down," too lethargic, we tire too easily, or get upset at the drop of a hat. Is it chronic fatigue, or are we just not handling stress as well as we should?
When is it necessary to turn to drugs? Is there an alternative?
The official definition of clinical depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association is based on the following eight primary criteria:
1. Poor appetite accompanied by weight loss, or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain.
2. Insomnia or excessive sleep habits (hypersomnia).
3. Physical hyperactivity or inactivity.
4. Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, or decrease in sexual drive.
5. Loss of energy; feelings of fatigue
6. Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or inappropriate guilt.
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate.
8. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
The presence of five of these eight symptoms definitely indicates clinical depression; an individual with four is probably depressed.2
"Obviously, there is a spectrum of clinical depression, ranging from mild feelings of depression to serious considerations of suicide. Mild depression is also known as dysthymia...
"In order to be officially diagnosed as dysthymic, a patient must be depressed most of the time for at least two years (one year for children or adolescents) and have at least three of the following symptoms:
- Low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence
- Pessimism, hopelessness, or despair
- Lack of interest in ordinary pleasures and activities
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Guilt or ruminating about the past
- Irritability or excessive anger
- Lessened productivity
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions"2
According to Michael Murray, N.D., approximately seventeen million Americans suffer from true clinical depression each year, and over twenty-eight million Americans take antidepressant drugs or anxiety medications. Why is this so prevalent?
Well, many authorities believe it can be traced to changes in our environment and diet. Such factors are powerful influences on cognition, emotion and behavior.
"The connection between nutrition and mood is underscored by a recent study that links the increase in depression in Western countries to the decline in the consumption of cold water fatty fish. These foods in general, and fatty fish in particular, are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the proper functioning of many systems in the body and appear to be especially important for normal brain function.
"Omega-3 fatty acids contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is metabolized into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the body. DHA is found in high concentration in the gray matter of the brain and the retina of the eye, and is instrumental in the function of brain cell membranes, which are important for the transmission of brain signals. Over the past 50 years, the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids h