At least half of the American population will experience at least one episode of depression during their lives while more than 11% currently suffer from chronic depression. Anyone can be affected by depression, but it most often affects patients with hormonal imbalances and certain conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson's disease. For decades, research has shown that brain chemistry, trauma, negative thinking, and stress play a roll in the development of depression. However, more recent evidence is demonstrating that metabolic factors such as inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and hormonal imbalances also cause or exacerbate the condition.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Depression almost always presents with emotional or psychological symptoms ranging from minor unhappiness to overwhelming despair. However, it is often accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, changes in energy levels, significant weight loss or weight gain, and cognitive difficulties.  

Depression manifests itself in six main ways - the most common being major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. Major depressive disorder (aka major depression) can either present as a single episode or recurrent episodes. Symptoms of major depression are usually unbearable, often times making it impossible to sleep, study, work, eat, or find enjoyment in anything. Dysthymic disorder (aka chronic mild depression) is characterized by symptoms of depression lasting longer than two years and is normally not as severe as major depression. Other less common types of depression include psychotic depression where the patient experiences hallucinations; postpartum depression where a woman becomes depressed following childbirth; seasonal affective disorder, which only develops during the winter months; and bipolar disorder which is characterized by episodes of extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression) in mood.

Although depression is a clearly defined disorder with mental and physical symptoms, it is unusual because it cannot be diagnosed by a blood panel or lab test.  In order to receive the diagnosis of clinical depression, a person must be affected by five or more of the following nine symptoms for most of the day, almost every day, for at least two weeks. Also, number 1 or 2 below must be one of the experienced symptoms.

Emotional Symptoms:

  1. Constant or transient feelings of sadness, anxiety, and emptiness
  2. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed (may lose interest in sex)
  3. Feeling restless or irritable
  4. Feeling hopeless
  5. Feeling worthless or guilty for no reason (suicidal thoughts may occur)

Physical Symptoms:

  1. Disturbed sleep patterns (may sleep too little or too much)
  2. Low energy levels
  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain due to a change in eating habits
  4. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions

Medical Treatment

For decades, the frontline medical treatment for depression has been psychoactive prescription drugs, sometimes in addition to cognitive behavior therapy. The use of these brain chemistry-altering drugs comes with a list of potential side effects, some as harmful as suicide. Also, many patients who try to get off of these drugs experience a condition known as "antidepressant discontinuation syndrome," which is likely the result of the brain becoming adjusted to the medication and unable to function properly when it is deprived of it. Treating depression with medications is based on a hypothesis that implies deregulation in neurotransmitter signaling is the main cause of the condition. Yes, you read that correctly - treating depression with antidepressant drugs is based on a HYPOTHESIS! Furthermore, this rationale for treatment fails to take into account many other well-studied causes for depression. This may partially explain why the success rate of pharmacologic intervention for depression is less than 50%. Patients who don't respond to treatment with antidepressants receive the diagnosis of "treatment resistant depression" and become candidates for procedures like electroconvulsive therapy, which is very effective, but causes memory loss. To summarize, this hypothesis is widely accepted as fact, and drugs continue to be the primary treatment of depression despite the many adverse side effects, low success rate, and failure to address other potential causes.
How We Can Help

Your brain perceives everything in this world. The difference between someone with depression and someone without it is that they perceive the world differently. When you receive a chiropractic adjustment or perform a functional neurology exercise, you are actually sending a specific and direct stimulus to your brain.

This stimulus actually has the capability of naturally altering the way your brain sees the world by affecting neurotransmitters and the firing of neurons. As brain and nervous system specialists who utilize only non-surgical and drug-free approaches, chiropractors recognize the potential our treatments have to address psychological problems, such as depression.  

We also recognize the complex nature of depression and the need for a comprehensive management strategy.  Therefore, we do not treat depression as a stand-alone diagnosis. In fact, we have found that very frequently, depression is a symptom of another problem, such as stress, brain imbalance, a metabolic issue, and surprisingly often, a traumatic brain injury. We have also found that depression responds very well to a proper diet and nutritional supplementation - most likely because all of the neurotransmitters in our brain are also made in our digestive system. Like many other conditions, symptoms of depression often disappear as a result of sending specific sensory stimulation to your brain via adjustments and functional neurology; addressing any underlying causative factors; and by supporting the body with the nutrients it needs to function properly.