Medically speaking, depression is more than the sadness many people feel periodically. It combines despondency, hopelessness, apathy, and a lack of well-being, and can persist for some time. There may be physical symptoms. In parts of the developed world, one person in 25 feels depressed enough at some point in their life to seek professional help.

• Slow thinking, inability to concentrate, indecision, general lack of interest, and recurrent thoughts about death.
• Increase or decrease in appetite or weight, slowing down of movement, and loss of energy.

Depression may have an obvious external cause, such as the death of a loved one. It may follow a viral infection, childbirth, or be caused by chemical imbalances in the body. These may occur naturally—for example, due to an underactive thyroid gland—or result from taking prescribed drugs, such as the contraceptive pill or sleeping pills, or from drug or alcohol addiction. Periods of depression may alternate with impulsive, energetic behavior—a condition known as manic depression. There is an affliction called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), in which people become depressed in winter, possibly due to insufficient sunlight. More often, however, depression is a spiritual problem, involving a negative attitude to life that leads to feelings of fear, anger, guilt, and frustration, possibly accompanied by a sense of persecution, loneliness, and hopelessness. Severely depressed people may become suicidal, or experience delusions. Long-term depression may result from childhood trauma such as the death of a parent.

Conventional care
Mild depression may be treated with antidepressant drugs, sometimes together with psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. Severe depression is still treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), but only after all other methods have failed.

Homeopathic medicine
Most homeopathic practitioners treat depression constitutionally. Remedies are determined largely by an individual’s symptoms. It may be the case that if emotional problems are alleviated, physical problems come to the fore . Aurum met. is associated with the kind of despair that might lead to suicide; while Causticum is indicated for a feeling of loss of control. China is prescribed for low spirits following menstruation or associated with neuralgic pain; and Lachesis is given for premenstrual or menopausal depression. Nat. mur. is used for depression associated
with the suppression of grief. Other remedies prescribed constitutionally include Arsen. alb.,Calc. carb., Graphites, Lycopodium, Nat. carb.,Platina, Pulsatilla, Sepia, Sulphur, and Thuja. Specific remedies include Ignatia, when depression results from bereavement or the breakup of a relationship; or Cadmium sulph., following a viral illness such as mononucleosis that produces a lack of energy. Nux vomica is used when there is great irritability, extreme chilliness, and overcriticism of others; while Aconite is often given for the sudden onset of depression following a fright or shock, and which is linked with a fear of death.

If minor depression is brought on by overwork or stress, time-management techniques will provide for the prioritization of tasks and time out for relaxation and the pursuit of interests. A sense of isolation can be reduced by taking up an interest that involves meeting new people. Those often confined to the home should arrange to go out frequently. Mild depression can be helped by dietary changes, especially the elimination of caffeine and the inclusion of vitamin and mineral supplements. Some prescribed drugs may have depressive side-effects. It might be worth consulting a doctor with a view to changing the prescription.

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