If you’re one of the many Americans seeking relief from depression or anxiety, you know finding a successful treatment can be difficult. In fact, studies find that as many as 40 percent of people with depression fail to respond to treatment, while just over half report even a partial response to therapy.
Could it be that we’re thinking about — and therefore treating — these conditions in the wrong way?
A growing body of research now suggests that depression and anxiety might not be mental disorders in and of themselves, but rather symptoms of a physical inflammation stemming from the brain. Thinking about these conditions as symptoms afford us new insights into potential root causes, as well as alternative methods of treatment.
Here are eight often-overlooked causes of depression and anxiety that may apply to you:
1. Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance
About one percent of Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by the body’s negative reaction to gluten. And gluten intolerance — also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity — is estimated to impact six times as many Americans. While intestinal complaints are most common, research is showing that people with these conditions may, in fact, present with anxiety and depression as the only symptoms.
2. Sleep Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form and occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses, thereby blocking the airway during sleep. Central sleep apnea, although not as common, is a result of the brain forgetting to tell the body to breathe. A 2003 study found that nearly one in five people with depression also suffer from a breathing-related sleep disorder.
3. Toxic Mold Exposure
Exposure to certain indoor molds can result in a wide range of symptoms, including depression, ADHD, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, chronic sinus infections, and various pulmonary and neurologic issues.
4. A Thyroid Disease
Both an under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) and an over-functioning thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can present as depression or anxiety — not to mention other symptoms like weight changes and exhaustion. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, consider having your thyroid hormone levels checked.
It’s also possible that regular medications may be causing or worsening your depression or anxiety. Beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure are known to cause depression, and acne-fighting Accutane, birth control pills, and even statins all list depression as a possible side effect.
Several studies have demonstrated a link between coffee consumption and heightened depression and anxiety. While most people can tolerate one to two cups of coffee per day without issue, if you are prone to depression or anxiety, you may want to rethink it. Try cutting out coffee altogether for at least two months, and observe whether or not your mental state changes as a result.
7. Unhealthy Diet
In 2011, a study published in Public Health Nutrition found that individuals who consumed a diet high in baked goods and fast food had a 51 percent increased risk of developing depression. Opting for foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils, walnuts and flax seed) and antioxidants (colorful fruits, berries and greens including spinach, broccoli and collards) can help provide the brain with the nutrients it needs to repair free radical damage and optimize function.
8. Lyme Disease
Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent. While the most common symptom is joint pain, these diseases can also be associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, this potential connection is frequently overlooked.
Lift your spirits and develop a positive outlook on life by following Dr. Burn’s techniques for treating depression and anxiety in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.