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Physical Healing in Depression Recovery

Feeling depressed is not just a mental state.  Depression is a debilitating whole-body condition that must be addressed physically as well as mentally.  The whole-person approach accepts the body as a complex organism and looks for systemic reasons for depression.

As Dr. Robert A Anderson, founding president of the American Holistic Medical Association, says: “A definitive diagnosis of depression should not be made until physical conditions have been surveyed.” (1)

The body is not merely along for the ride into depression.  The body is an active participant, with the capacity to aggravate or improve symptoms of depression.  The first stop on the road to recovery from depression for many people is a physician’s office.  After all, they feel bad.  Whatever the factors leading to their depression, many will attempt to obtain a medical diagnosis for physical symptoms.

There are studies showing that addressing physical conditions can have a dramatic effect in overcoming depression.  Psychiatrist Richard Hall has found “evidence [of] dramatic and complete clearing of psychiatric symptoms when medical treatment for underlying physical disorders was instituted.” (2)

The body holds its own special key to overcoming depression.  Physical illnesses as well as physical conditions that may not be diagnosed or readily apparent can contribute to depression.  Yet even when blood work and medical examinations are done, the physical culprits involved in depression can be overlooked.  Like a detective, you need to be informed and persistent to discover the truth.  To begin, let’s examine several known contributors to depression.

Mental and Health Conditions:

  • Hypoglycemia.  This can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue.  All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
  • Heart Disease.  Research has shown that one out of every five people who suffer a heart attack will become depressed.  Conversely, a link between depression and heart disease was found in a study at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, which reported that depressed people were four times more likely to have a heart attack than people who were not depressed.
  • Anemia.  This is a condition in which the blood lacks iron.  Symptoms of anemia, similar to depression, include fatigue, weakness, and lethargy.
  • Sleep Apnea.  This is a condition where the air passages in the throat close off during sleep.  The resulting symptoms are fatigue, mental confusion, and lethargy — all associated with a state of depression.
  • Diabetes.  This is the body’s inability to regulate its own blood sugar.  The constant up-and-down stress of elevated versus low blood-sugar levels can compromise the body’s ability to regulate important nutrient absorption and hormonal levels which provide protection from depressive mood swings.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This depressive cycle — also known as the winter blues — is tied to the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s biological clock and coordinates the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Heredity.  Depression appears to run in families.  Educate yourself on the health background of your family, especially parents or siblings who have experienced depression, whether clinically diagnosed or not.
  • Dehydration.  Most people don’t drink enough water.  Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to perform vital functions, causing fatique, weakness, dizziness, and mental dullness.

For more information on mental and health conditions associated with depression, see Dr. Jantz’s new book, Five Keys to Dealing with Depression.

(1) Robert A. Anderson, Clinician’s Guide to Holistic Medicine (NY: MacGraw-Hill Publishing, 2001), 243.

(2) R.C.W. Hall, E.R. Gardner, M.K. Popkin, and S.K. Stickney, “Unrecognized Physical Illness Prompting Psychiatric Admission: A Prospective Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry 138, no. 5 (May 1981): 629-35

Whole-Person Approach to Depression Treatment

People arrive at the point of depression from many different places, indicating there are a variety of paths to recovery. In short, there is no one answer for depression and no single path to recovery. Just as the reasons for depression are a varied as the individuals who suffer from it, the paths to recovery will also be unique to each individual. In order to deal with an individual’s depression, his or her uniqueness and story must be heard, understood, and integrated into a personalized recovery.

Applying the whole-person approach to recovery can individualize treatment for depression. The whole-person approach is based upon recognition of the unique components of an individual’s life and how these components interweave to and from the whole person.

The major components to the whole-person approach are emotional, environmental, relational, physical, and spiritual. Together, these components provide keys to why a persona is depressed, and they can open a doorway to his or her recovery.

Emotional Influences

We are emotional beings, and we choose to acknowledge or express those emotions in outward forms. We are never far from our feelings and emotions. They trip us up when we are stressed or tired. They sneak up on us at unexpected moments. They support our expectations, fuel our disappointment, and energize our victories.

When depression settles into a person’s life, emotions become confused. A promotion at work may produce thoughts of despair and fear. Minor daily irritants can become major life hurdles. The joy of others can become a gloomy reminder of inner insecurities. Even if life appears to be going well, our emotional balance can become tilted toward depression, at the mercy of the dangerous balance act of anger, fear, shame, and guilt.

Environmental Influences

We live in a world where complexity greets us every morning. What are we going to wear? What are we going to eat? How are we going to get to work? Which tasks are we going to complete? What calls are we going to deal with first? Should we answer our cell phone, our home phone, respond to our email, reply to our voice mail, check and update our social networks—and in what order? From the moment we awake, the assault begins. We are overwhelmed. The assault demands a response, and retreating into depression can be hat response.

Relational Influences

We constantly use relationship to determine our position in life. We observe the world and people around us and make decisions about who we are based on how we believe others perceive us. We define our position by the people with whom we interact—online and off, which can be, and often are, two different dynamics altogether, as we tend to mask our real selves behind our virtual personas. We use this information to triangulate our state of well-being, factoring in what we’ve learned or observed in the past, a view of our present circumstances, and the potential outcome for our future.

Depending on our ability to reason truthfully, these relationships provide us with a sense of wee-being or foreboding. The uniqueness of our circumstances and your relationships can either help or hinder our ability to deal with these ever-present thoughts and emotions.

Physical Influences

In the past, the answer to a broken-down spirit was a pharmaceutical “fix” that relaxed the physical body. But as we learn more and more about brain science and depression, as well as the interworking of mind, body, and spirit, we are learning the potential exists for our bodies to act as partners in recovery instead of as opponents.

Spiritual Influences

Wrestling with questions or worth and purpose are spiritual issues. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where is joy? When will this be over? Why is this happening? How did I get this way? The spiritual component of a person’s life can provide direction toward both the right questions and the needed answers.

Whole-person healing has evolved over the last few decades to become an industry standard and highly esteemed approach to depression recovery. The Center • A Place of Hope continues to be a leader in whole-person treatment center for depression as well as for many other emotional and behavioral disorders. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place Of Hope can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.

The content of this post was derived from Gregory L. Jantz’s book Turning Your Down into Up.