What if we took just a moment to imagine depression in a different way than you’re used to hearing. What if – rather than thinking of depression as a disease – we thought of it as a symptom?  The fundamental difference between a disease and a symptom is that a disease IS the problem that causes illness. But a symptom only points toward another cause for the problem.  

For some people, depression is a disease.  However, far more people will experience depression as a symptom. And this is good news, because if the actual problem is resolved, then the depression will also be resolved. In fact, if the actual problem is reversed and actions are taken to avoid its return, then depression abates and is much less likely to return.

Only by learning what is causing YOUR depression can you get to the root of the problem.


So what are some common causes of depression?

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Poor adrenal function
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Food allergies
  • Antihistamines
  • Infections
  • Stress
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Thought distortions
  • Heart problems
  • Grief
  • Lung disease
  • Dental problems
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Genetic factors
  • Changing Seasons 
  • Trauma
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Birth control pills
  • High blood pressure medications

This is a short list that does not cover all medical, physiological, social, nutritional, or lifestyle causes of depression.  As you can see, in these cases the depression is a symptom of another problem.  Important to note is that depression may be caused by more than one issue.

Too often, when a person experiences depression, the FIRST course of treatment is the prescription of an antidepressant medication rather than exploring and solving the underlying cause of depression.  This simply masks the symptoms.  (This is not always the case, there are some instances where serotonin levels are the cause of depression, so an SSRI would be effective.)

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Next Steps You Can Take:

Whether or not you are currently taking an antidepressant medication, if you are experiencing depression I would encourage you to explore other possible causes.  These would be the next steps to take to begin assessing and treating the cause of your depression:


Talk to Your Doctor

Visit your doctor and request tests to be ran for:

  • Vitamin D levels
  • Vitamin B levels (B2, B6, B9 or folic acid, B12)
  • Vitamin C
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • An amino acids analysis
  • Thyroid function (TSH, T4, T3, Free T4)
  • A1c (if you suspect diabetes)
  • Blood glucose test (possible hypoglycemia)

Talk to your doctor about whether your birth control pills are right for you. If you noticed a start or increase in depressive symptoms when beginning birth control, this would be a strong sign that exploring other birth control options may be needed.


Pay Attention to your Body’s Needs

  • Begin increasing nutritional foods in your diet.  Vegetables and then fruits are the best to start with. Be careful with fruits if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

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  • Begin eliminating toxins in your diet, including: high levels of caffeine (more than 300 mg daily), refined sugars, “junk” food, and foods you are sensitive or allergic to.  You may not be aware of food allergies, so talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about the best way to determine possible food allergies.


  • Increase your physical activity to at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.  Start slowly if needed, with even just a 10 minute walk daily. Over time your body will be able to handle more exercise.


  • Visit the dentist and practice good oral hygiene.


  • Get a good night’s sleep. If you struggle with sleeping properly, take a critical look at your bedtime routine. When do you stop drinking caffeine in the day? When do you stop looking at a screen? What do you do to relax and tell your body it’s time for rest? If needed, ask your doctor about melatonin.  It’s a natural sleep aid that is non-habit forming.


  • Take time to de-stress from life. Go for a walk, take a hot shower or bath, get a massage, get lost in a good book.  Whatever you need to take a break from stressful situations.

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Increase Your Support

  • Spend time with people. As social creatures, our relationships have an enormous effect on us. Go out with the girls, go on a date, or even just have a short conversation with the cashier at the store. Anything to increase your social interaction will begin to help.


  • Find a therapist to explore possible thought distortions that may be leading to depression.  Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating depression by helping a person to alter the way they see, experience, and interact with the world.


  • Seek support following a loss. Grief is normal and feelings of sadness are expected following the death of a loved one, a traumatic event, or the new diagnosis of a chronic disease.  Friends, family, and counselors can all be helpful in processing and coping with your loss.


This is not a comprehensive list of the possible causes or treatment of depression. Rather, my goal is to get people thinking about the possibility of depression as a symptom of another problem.  Hopefully this has inspired you to look more closely at what may be causing your depression, so that you can return to optimal health faster.

If you are interested in exploring the option of counseling, I offer free 30 minute consultations where we can explore your needs and goals for recovery.  Give me a call at (531) 289-8246 and we can set up a time to meet.