Sunday 11 April 1999
Lewis Wolpert is a scientist and sufferer. In Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy Of Depression, he likens depression to cancer - a normal function that spirals out of control. It is useful to realise that life is a pile of dung but unhelpful to believe you are at the bottom of it.
But Wolpert's exploration is strictly chemical and genetic. For a far more beardy view, turn to The Wisdom of Depression by Dr Jonathan Zeuss, published last week. His take is that instead of suppressing the symptoms, we should discover what our body is saying to us.
I wrote last year about a Newcastle psychologist who held the controversial view that anti-depressant dispensers should be placed next to the condom machines in pub toilets (well that's practically what he said) - that dung, in other words, is natural, but in our stress-filled E-numbered 20th century we need chemicals to restore the balance. Dr Zeuss agrees that modern life is unnatural but says there are many holistic options before you have to turn to drugs, especially since depression covers everything from despair to feeling a bit blue.
Dr Zeuss's advice is highly practical. Psychiatry may refute it but studies have shown that depression can be linked to vitamin B deficiency. One study, says Dr Zeuss, found that 53 per cent of psychiatric patients were deficient in vitamins B1, B2 and B6. So try a supplement and eat wholemeal grain and cereals. Or are you a vegetarian female on a diet? And depressed? Check out your iron levels before you reach for the Prozac. If the base of your fingernails or eyelids are pale, you may be anaemic. Eat offal. Vegetarians, take vitamin C with your watercress to aid absorption. Avoid sugar but not chocolate which is "thought to have anti-depressant effects".
Zeuss also covers light, sleep and self-healing. Even wearing sunglasses might lead to depression. (Now we know why celebrities are so moody.) And for those who favour complementary medicine, there's St John's Wort, components of which "cause a change in the number of serotonin receptors in the brain cells, much as does Prozac".
Dr Zeuss does, however, overlook that oft-forgotten victim of depression - the people forced to listen to their depressed mates. If you feel yourself being sucked under, here's my own suggestion: the "misunderstanding approach". A friend was despairing to a work colleague. "Oh, what's the point?" he said. To which the deliciously uncomprehending colleague replied: "A multiplex cinema in Reading". And walked off. My depressed friend laughed so much he felt better.
What to do if you're depressed:
1. Go to your GP first to establish if misery is endogenous (either biological, hormonal, etc) or reactive to circumstance.
2. Is it habitual, a learned reaction that you can unlearn with the help of a counsellor?
3. Do you have good reason to be depressed - unemployment, loneliness, etc? Small practical steps may help. Seek out positive activities - friends, a career counsellor, exercise.
4. Look at how and when you get into a bad mood. Being aware of your cycles will help to prevent them. One group of therapists banished Sunday blues by spending every Monday morning playing golf. It worked.
Life & Style blogs
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
A nap a day could save your life
Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
The antidote to Tinder? Majority of dating app users want relationship, rather than hook-ups, study finds
The truth behind who really buys sex dolls, from the man who makes the most realistic ones you can buy
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...