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Recently, physicians and researchers have become more aware of the benefits of CBD for depression. Depression usually refers to a general feeling of sadness or lack of motivation, and is different from clinical depression, in that clinical depression is a diagnosable disorder of the central nervous system.
So What Exactly is depression?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a condition characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and general loss of interest. It doesn’t just affect how you feel; it affects you physically as well. Depression affects 1 in 6 adults over the course of their life. Every year approximately 16 million U.S. adults are newly affected by this disorder.
Patients with depression experience problems in their day-to-day routines, such as school, work, and social interaction with friends and family. An imbalance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that our neurons use to communicate, can lead to an imbalance of emotion and cognition, which is experienced as depression.
Causes of depression
According to the Center for Disease Control, clinical depression has no single obvious cause, but a complex relationship between genes, environment, and attitude moving forward are contributing factors. The basic symptoms are: feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, reduced appetite, weight loss, lack of energy, and a loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities or activities which used to bring pleasure.
Hormonal alterations and drug abuse can both contribute to depression by changing underlying brain chemistry. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with hundreds of different roles, is implicated in most cases of depression. One of serotonin’s primary roles is in maintaining mood and circadian rhythms. It is responsible for inhibiting the anxiety and fear center of the brain, which is active by default. Without constant inhibition by serotonin, anxiety and depression can occur. The production of serotonin for this purpose is controlled by a myriad of factors, including other neurotransmission, blood glucose levels, stress from daily life, and drug use.
Moreover, sometimes major depressive disorder is triggered completely by life events coupled with strongly-held beliefs instilled during one’s childhood, which affect outlook and therefore neurotransmission. While billions have been spent researching the phenomenon of clinical depression, it seems that one new answer creates ten new questions.
A physician may diagnose a patient with depression after an evaluation. By default, a physical exam would be included in addition to a complete blood test and thyroid gland function test. Most importantly, a psychoanalysis assessing your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns is the most definitive evaluation.
Sadness, while commonly associated with depression, is not a defining characteristic. Rather, overall suppression of thoughts, mood, motivation, and behavior is more closely-aligned with major depressive disorder.
There are 5 subtypes of major depression
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Current treatment options and best practices for depression
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Various types of antidepressant medications, along with psychotherapy for depression are effective for some individuals. Prescriptions can be expensive, and the US spends more than any other nation treating depression.
Physicians will usually first prescribe an SSRI, or selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This class of drugs prevents the recycling of serotonin, meaning that it will remain in the brain for longer, thus having a greater effect. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed medications for depression, but they work in less than 50% of cases, which demonstrates our lack of understanding about this disease.
Other types of antidepressants have some nasty side effects. For example, MAOIs, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, are so potent that using them requires a strict diet. There can be deadly side effects if these drugs are taken and foods such as pickles, cheese, and wine are ingested.
Often, lifestyle modifications such as more time spent outdoors or exercising is an effective way to mitigate depression, if only temporarily. In addition, cannabis is gaining more popularity as an addition to existing treatment plans for those with depression. Cannabidiol, or as it’s typically known, CBD, thanks to its lack of psychoactive effects, is highly popular among those who want to maintain a stable and healthy mental state.
How Can CBD Affect Symptoms of Depression
Thousands of people who have added CBD to their depression treatment regimen have said they experience far less symptoms associated with depression. This could due to the recallibratory effect of CBD on endocannabinoid system function, and also due to CBD’s activity as a direct partial agonist of serotonin.
In addition, Zanelati et al experimented with CBD’s antidepressant effects on mice in 2010, and the results were surprising. Zanelati and company found that mice which were given CBD exhibited results identical to those given antidepressants, following series of standard behavioral tests. This follows the trend that one of the benefits of CBD is a balancing effect on neurotransmission as a whole, along with the ability to correct many disorders and dysfunctions which arise from faulty endocannabinoid activity.
For this reason, cannabidiol derived products are already being manufactured for the treatment of depression. CBD could represent an effective option for the future treatment of depression. As usual, more research is needed and you should always consult a physician before tampering with any current regimen you may have for your depression!