Friday, November 26, 2010

Why are we depressed?

Living in the 21st century, our lives are very different to generations of the past. We have so many modern conveniences and luxuries that in many ways our lives could be considered easier now. We live in comfortable homes and have limitless options available to us. So why is it that so many of us are taking antidepressant medication?

I am a young woman who has found myself in a similar circumstance. I am very blessed to have a wonderful loving husband and three beautiful, if not insane, children. So why have I been depressed?

I have started reading a very interesting book called The Depression Cure, by Stephen S Ilardi. He is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas and has treated many patients for depression using what he refers to as TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change). I find the more I read of this book, the more I am nodding in agreeance at his logical advice.

Dr/Professor Ilardi makes the following point-that while the risk of depression is increasing in western countries, depression occurs significantly less in developing countries, and that among the Amish, and in some tribes who still live a hunter-gatherer type lifestyle, depression is almost non-existent. He attributes this to the fact that the human body was not designed to live the sedentary, fast paced lifestyle we have become accustomed to now, and that the way that humans used to live before industrialisation was an 'antidepressant' lifestyle. It included the six factors he discusses in his book as helping to cure depression.

This made perfect sense to me. Think about the way we live now, driving everywhere and watching TV, sitting in front of computers, and having access to junk food all the time. Or, in circumstances where husbands and wives are both required to work to achieve financial stability. If you were living in a tribe, you would be on your feet walking around looking for food to hunt to keep you alive. We wouldn't spend so much time alone, and isolated from each other by technology.

The six elements Ilardi referred to are:

- Dietary omega 3 fatty acids (very important in brain structure and function, eaten in abundance by former generations, and significantly less by us)
-Engaging activity
- Physical exercise (consider a modern sedentary lifestyle and compare it to hunter/gatherer lifestyle)
-Sunlight exposure
-Social support

Think about it- if you are a very new mother, for example, chances are you won't be involved in much of any of these. Time for cooking nutritious meals and exercise and sleep is out of your control often enough. And I know there have definitely been some days earlier this year after I had my third child I would realise I literally had not walked outside, even to the letterbox, in days. Combine that with little sleep and nothing to do apart from child care duties, of course I was going to lose it!

Exercise is what saves me. On weekday mornings, I go to the gym around 530 in the morning and lift weights or run. It completely lifts my mood and energises me for the rest of the day.

I would definitely recommend this book to anybody, whether they have struggled with depression, or want to prevent it....or really, anyone!


  1. My psychologist prescribed hisagic 5 fo depression, on top of pills and the are:

    (and I can never emember the 5th, so I substitute chocolate)

    i will definately look for this book too!

  2. Thanks girls, I have added your 2 lists together and am going to put it somewhere that I can look at it every day to drum it into my head. I feel that simplifying life is what I need to do atm... much too busy lately and something always suffers when we get too busy, this time round it has been my waistline, I am supposed to on stage in front of people teaching Yoga type moves and there's a whole lot of poundage getting in the way when I bend over, not very inspiring me thinks, then again, maybe the class is glad to see that everyone has body issues to deal with?!

  3. haha I want to know what the fifth one is! It must be chocolate, what else could it be??

    Maureen, about the waistline...I hear ya! On any given day, I might accomplish heaps, and the house is clean and dinner is on the table, but it is at the expense of my waist, as I just devoured a block of chocolate without really noticing.

    After I had Isabel, I went to a very helpful group for mothers with PND. It is called the ABC group, run by Womens Health. The sessions involved a lot of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which was great- just kind of reassessing how we react and think about certain situations and ourselves. Another part of the ABC group "teachings" that I liked was pleasant activities. A pleasant activity can be anything from taking 5 mins to have a cup of tea or something, to going out with the girls. We were to incorporate a certain amount of pleasant activities each day/week, so we had things to look forward to.

  4. I'm glad that you found such a helpful group. It's amazing to me how many mothers are struggling to find balance in their lives and to feel happy. That's why as much as some people bag facebook (and I do understand the bagging, it can be a dodgy place) I think that it really does help to keep people connected. You might spend most of that connection time online but I think you are more likely to invite your friends out over fb and receive invites there than using the phone/snail mail/or even email. I like the way the world is opening up and we are all becoming more connected. I wonder if it will help to reduce incidence of PND. Hope so.


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