Is it stress or depression?

In 2003, over 15.5 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written. Two-thirds were for women. Stress, experiences of inequality, low self-esteem and being a woman between the ages of 24 and 44 are all risk factors for depression. It astounds me that being a woman is a risk for depression!

In 2003, over 15.5 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written. Two-thirds were for women.

Stress, experiences of inequality, low self-esteem and being a woman between the ages of 24 and 44 are all risk factors for depression.

It astounds me that being a woman is a risk for depression!

One study suggests that 20 percent of working women are depressed.

If an office has 100 women working it, are 20 of them depressed?

Why are so many women depressed and anxious?

Depression has both physical and emotional symptoms.

Generally, the mental appearance of depression is hopelessness accompanied with guilt.

Some describe it as sadness.

Physically, it appears with bowel disturbances, insomnia and lack of energy, low libido, headaches and muscle pain, binge eating and/or no appetite at all.

Stress is a factor in depression. Stress is also the cause of irregular sleeping, eating and bowel patterns.

Sometimes I wonder if prescribed anti-depressants are being used to treat stress.

One working mom, diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and taking an anti-depressant said to me, “It is impossible for me to get done all I need to in a day. I’d lay awake at night making lists in my head. I feel like I have failed.”

Herbal medicine, like pharmaceutical drugs, brings temporary relief to depression. St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is famous for this.

Frequently I have written about other herbs such as bitters, motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), sculcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) gingko (Gingko biloba) and rosemary (Rosmarius off.), as useful herbs in formulas to ease depression.

These herbs are most useful when big changes occur in life.

Changes, such as getting married or divorced, loss of a parent or child, a move to a new area away from friends and family, all these life events can trigger feelings of self doubt, loss of self esteem and thoughts of not being able to cope.

I like to think of these herbs as providing breathing space while adjusting to the new reality life has presented.

These herbs will help one get over the hump.

But what if the stress is chronic, unrelenting, with no end in sight?

There are many solutions. Let’s begin with a good night’s sleep.

Chronic stress and insomnia go hand in hand. Insomnia is a symptom of depression.

Consider a sleepless night and the resulting feelings the next day: unable to cope, emotions well up, and it is difficult to focus.

All these are signs of depression and the result of insomnia.

The easiest way to improve sleep is to take a 1:1 calcium:magnesium supplement just before bed.

Add a sleep tincture of hops (Humulus lupus), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and valarian (Valariana off) and sleep will come.

Chronic pain is also a trigger for depression and a symptom of depression. Because depression is thought be a chemical imbalance within the body, it is not just the mind that is affected. Serotonin, the neurotransmitter considered to be the source of the imbalance, not only helps make happy moods but also resolves inflammation, the source of the pain.

Every day wear and tear on the body creates tiny little inflammations throughout the muscles. Serotonin, a messenger within the inflammation process, is necessary to heal this wear and tear.

If there is a deficiency of serotonin, these inflammations do not heal and the body aches. The pain interrupts sleep, which in turn affects the mood. Depression ensues.

To ease the pain of depression St John’s Wort and Sculcap are very useful.

One can also use plants like willow (Salix spp.) and poplar bark (Poplaris spp.) to relieve the inflammation.

Ultimately to move beyond depression, new ways of handling life’s many stresses are going to need to be learnt. Herbs that support sleep, ease pain and lift the mind buy one time to learn these tools.

The herbs provide the extra momentum required to discover exercises that aid sleep and release knots in muscles, or open to different forms of creative expression, that ease difficult emotions and thoughts. Perhaps the practice of meditation becomes a tool to find calm within the mind’s storms while taking a major inventory of one’s life and doing a thorough house cleaning.

In any case, depression, or chronic stress, with support can be cured with lifestyle changes for both women and men.