Depression: It’s Not Always about Stress and Trauma

by Sudarsan

We often link depression with stress and trauma. But some people can get depressed without experiencing either. Although it’s a disorder on its own, depression can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition. In this case, we should treat the root cause first.

You can also receive therapy while treating your main health issue. Postpartum depression, for example, should be treated with psychotherapy since its root cause isn’t a disease but an imbalance of hormones. But depression as a symptom of another illness will only be relieved if the illness has been cured.

That said, here are the health conditions that can cause depression:

1. Thyroid Problems

An underactive thyroid, a.k.a. hypothyroidism, is a result of Hashimoto’s Disease or Hashimoto Thyroiditis. It’s a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Symptoms include fatigue, sluggishness, and concentration issues. Combined, those symptoms can lead to depression.

To confirm if your depression is due to hypothyroidism, get a blood test. It will show the levels of your thyroid hormones. If you have low levels of thyroxine and high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), that confirms your hypothyroidism.

Depression due to hypothyroidism may be treated better with thyroid replacement medication than antidepressants. Consult your doctor regarding effective treatments for Hashimoto Thyroiditis for good measure; best be sure that you won’t develop hypothyroidism again after recovering.

2. Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance causes your body to respond poorly to insulin. As a result, your blood sugar levels increase, heightening your risk for type 2 diabetes. But a new study suggests that insulin resistance can also increase your risks for depression.

The researchers found that people who developed prediabetes during the first two years of the study were twice as likely to experience depression than those with normal plasma glucose levels. There were some limitations to the study, though, so more evidence is needed. Still, it shows that depression is more related to your physical health than you realize. Overweight people, for instance, are more likely to get depressed because of their negative body image. As such, a healthy diet is recommended for the benefit of your body and mind.

If your insulin resistance is causing or aggravating your depression, consult your doctor and receive psychotherapy as well.

3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

According to studies, 27% to 50% of women with PCOS report being depressed. Researchers aren’t sure why PCOS and depression occur together, but they’ve considered several research-backed hypotheses.

Insulin resistance also plays a role. Around 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. One theory is that insulin resistance alters how the body releases hormones that cause stress and depression.

Speaking of stress, PCOS is known to cause stress, leading to physical changes in the body. Growing excessive facial and body hair, for example, can cause increased stress that may evolve into depression.

PCOS is also associated with inflammation, which is linked to high cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Therefore, high levels of it increase your likelihood of depression.

Lastly, PCOS makes you more prone to obesity. Obesity is linked to depression, whether there’s a case of PCOS or none.

Little is known about the cause of PCOS, but thankfully, treatment is available. Doctors recommend lifestyle and diet changes, as well as certain medications. If you are also insulin resistant, your doctor can recommend a low-carb diet. If you have a hormonal imbalance, you can be prescribed birth control pills. Your depression might be given separate treatment, such as talk therapy or counseling. Antidepressants may not work well with PCOS, as they can cause weight gain and potentially impact blood glucose.

4. Childbirth

If you just gave birth and feel depressed about it, your condition has nothing to do with your baby and your love for them. Instead, it’s a result of hormonal changes after childbirth. You’re dealing with postpartum depression, which affects 1 in 9 new mothers.

New mothers can experience postpartum psychosis in severe cases, which causes hallucinations, delusions, mania, paranoia, and confusion. This requires immediate treatment. If you don’t experience this, your postpartum depression may last for just around two weeks. Throughout that time, it’s important to remember that you’re not going crazy. It’s normal and treatable.

Counseling, joining support groups, and antidepressants help treat postpartum depression. You may also consider alternative therapies, such as bright light therapy, acupuncture, massage, or natural supplements. But before receiving any form of alternative therapy, consult with your doctor first.

Taking a proactive approach to postpartum depression is also another way to avoid prolonged suffering from it. Planning for postpartum support will equip pregnant ladies with the right tools and resources to effectively manage postpartum depression. Having the right support group (e.g., partner, family, members, and friend group) and doing belly wrapping are just two things moms-to-be can do that would benefit their mind, body, and spirit. 

Along with healing and rejuvenation, it is also important to set other priorities post-childbirth. These could include promoting breastmilk supply and allowing the body as much time to rest in-between taking care of an infant. 

Depression is a serious illness that shouldn’t be left untreated. If it causes suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted friend or call your area’s Suicide Prevention hotline. Try to make changes in your lifestyle and diet as well. A healthy body will result in improved mental health.

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