A photo of my daughter’s beloved train track. If you’re wondering why that has anything to do with depression, then read on to find out. This post looks at why labelling depression as a mental health disorder is perhaps not always the best approach. Instead let’s ask: Is depression a sign of deficiency?
Two weeks ago I left the tiny little island that I live on to head to London. Not only did I listen to fascinating talks about nutritional psychiatry, but I also attended a big meeting for UK health coaches. The highlight of that was definitely listening to Dr Chatterjee speak about health and how to improve it.
If you haven’t come across him yet, he’s a British doctor, author and TV presenter and is best known for his “Doctor in the House” show. He’s all about lifestyle medicine and is really trying to shift things here in the UK.
So during his talk, Dr Chatterjee was telling a story of one of his patients who came to see him a little while ago. This man was complaining that he just wasn’t feeling right. He wasn’t really enjoying his life anymore and found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. He asked whether what he was feeling was depression.
Instead of confirming his self-diagnosis and getting out the prescription pad, Dr Chatterjee asked this man a few questions about his life and family. It quickly transpired that this man was really lacking something, and that was passion. He was busy working and helping to run the household, but he wasn’t really doing anything he was passionate about. Things that gave him joy and pleasure.
So what did Dr Chatterjee prescribe?
A daily dose of pleasure.
This particular man got his old train set out because that’s what he used to love doing. Arguably a more sophisticated one than my daughter’s version but who knows.
A few months later he was doing much better. He reconnected with things that gave him pleasure, and the joy he was getting out of that spilled into other areas of his life too.
is depression a sign of deficiency?
Simply telling someone to start playing with train tracks (or the equivalent) again is obviously not going to alleviate a long battle with low mood and hopelessness for everyone.
But looking at how you are living your life and what element might be missing is just so important.
Depression as a sign of deficiency in your life
I wrote about understanding depression as a symptom of unmet needs once here.
But ask yourself this:
Are you out in nature every day, even if just for a few minutes?
Do you connect with other people? Do you feel like you’re part of a tribe?
Are you getting your daily dose of pleasure?
Do you feel connected to your work?
Are you finding ways to cope effectively with stressors in your life?
Depression as a sign of deficiency in your health
And taking it a step further, you can also look at depression as the result of a possible deficiency within your body and in your health.
Are you feeding your body a healthy diet, containing all the nutrients that your brain actually needs in order to work well?
Is your digestion working efficiently so that those health-giving foods are broken down properly? Will the nutrients from your foods be fully absorbed?
What is your sleep like? Are you sleeping long enough and are getting good quality sleep most nights of the week?
Are you moving this body of yours, the one that’s designed to be used each day?
Are you in a continuous cycle of stress with no chance of rest and recovery in between?
my (revamped) programme:
Back to light and Laughter
In my one to one programme for women suffering from depression, I very much take this view of seeing depression as a sign of deficiency. There is nothing inherently wrong with you and you’re not weak. But something is missing.
Together, we’ll look at these three steps and really try to address your mental health from as many angles as possible:
1. Assess the causes
Uncover physical root causes with independent lab tests that help explain why you feel the way you do.
2. Support the brain
Support your brain and overall health through nutrition, movement, relaxation and sleep.
3. Nurture the mind
Learn how to deal with negative thoughts, reconnect with joy and passion, and develop a positive mindset.