Mental depression is believed to cause more health problems in developed countries than any other medical illness.

Whilst mental depression is a common problem for people, it is not always easy to diagnose and treat. The reason being that it is not "one thing" to all people, and it does not have a single cause. And even within a given person, it may have different shades and it may come from several causes, which combine together to create the problem.

Symptoms of Depression (r1):
There are several common symptoms of mental depression, and these include:
a. Chronic lack of motivation and interest in doing things
b. No pleasure in daily life
c. Frequent crying, often with no obvious cause
d. Feelings of deep sadness
e. Lack of interest in sex
f. Low self-esteem
g. Sleep problems: too much or too little
h. Disproportionate level of worry over a variety of aspects of life, e.g. job, God, love, friends etc.

Degrees of Depression:
When you look over the above list of symptoms, it is probable that most of us have experienced at least one of these at some time in our lives. Does this mean that we were or are depressed?

Not necessarily. Mental depression can be thought of in three broad categories, and it is the duration and severity which characterises true mental depression.

1. Healthy Unhappiness
This is a normal human reaction to an unwanted event or circumstances in life.

For example, losing a loved one is likely to cause a deep sadness in many people. Failing at an important exam may dent someone's self-esteem. And so on.

This level of unhappiness is not technically mental depression as such, as it is often a natural and a temporary reaction to a situation which people will quickly bounce back from.

2. Mild Depression
The technical name for this is Dysthymia (r1):

This is characterised by feeling unhappy or discouraged most of the time. However, someone with this form of depression often doesn’t have any problems with sleep or sex, or their job etc.

People may be mildly depressed for years and simply come to believe that it is a natural part of their personality. They may even conclude that they’ve always been unhappy.

3. Severe Depression
Full blown, severe mental depression is an incredibly debilitating illness. It deeply affects not only the person who has it, but also their family, colleagues at work and friends.

Severe mental depression can last for days, weeks and even years in the worst cases.

Causes of Depression:
There isn’t a single cause of mental depression.

What there are, are a series of predispositions which can lead to someone being likely to suffer from depression. For instance:

a. High stress situations can trigger it.
b. Biological triggers may be present. If family members suffer from depression, then a family member is more likely to have a problem at some point in their life.
c. Mental make-up: Mental and emotional attitudes can have a strong influence on whether someone will suffer from mental depression.
d. Environment: Diet, the amount of sunlight a person is getting, a lack of physical exercise, can all be factors in depression.
e. Spiritual: If the soul's needs are not been listened to or addressed, this can cause great personal unhappiness.

Treatments for Depression:
There are two main combined treatments for serious depression which can work very well together. And these are anti-depressant medicines and psychotherapy, especially Cognitive Based Therapy.

It is important to get the correct diagnosis, and to stick with the treatment plan.

Support Factors:
There are several things someone can do to help with mental depression, and it must be stressed that these are not a substitute for a correct medical diagnosis and a personal treatment plan. These are:

Diet (r2):
1. Avoid consuming too much sugar, alcohol and caffeine
2. Take extra vitamin B complex and additional B1
3. The herb St John’s Wort can help with mild forms of depression.

Physical Exercise:
This may be the last thing a depressed person feels like doing, but regular physical exercise (appropriate for a person's age and physical condition) can help to lift the depression.

Lack of Sunlight (seasonal Winter depression) (r3):
Get more natural sunlight, say though a holiday. Or buy a light-box. These are sun light substitutes, and the idea is that a person sits in front of them whilst reading, surfing the Web etc. for 20 minutes or more per day.

With thanks to the following reference sources:
r1: 50 Signs of Mental Illness, by J. W. Hick, MD, Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11694-6
r2: The Food Bible by Gillian McKeith, 2008, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-718-14890-4
r3: Winter Blues, Revised Edition: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder, by Dr. Rosenthal. ISBN-13: 978-1609181857

© David R. Durham.

Author's Bio: 

I am a spiritual healer, spiritual counsellor and Cranio-Sacral therapist with a passion for spirituality within the rich diversity of our human experience.