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Cannabis and Alternative Therapies for Depression: A Quick Reference

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in every 10 Australians said they experienced depression between 2017 and 2018. That’s around 10 percent of the population.

It’s a challenging mental health condition, with profound impacts on quality of life, which may be why people are looking into medical cannabis as a treatment.

Read on to learn what every Australian should know about depression and how to treat it.

What Is Depression?

Everyone experiences feelings of sadness at some point in their lifetime, often in response to a sad event or loss. However, if you find yourself in a perpetual state of feeling down with elements of anger and even self-loathing, you may be experiencing a bout of depression.

Depression is defined as a mental disorder in which feelings of sadness persist for longer than 14 days, though the episode can last longer. Bear in mind that depression is distinct from grief you experience after losing a loved one—depression lingers and may not have a visible cause.

Depression can interfere with your daily routine, causing you to lose interest in school, work, or other activities you once enjoyed. Additionally, women are more likely than men to experience depression. It’s also the top reason people become disabled worldwide, and if left untreated it may progress into suicide ideation and even suicide itself.

Symptoms of Depression

The primary symptom of depression is feeling deeply sad and uninterested in daily activities constantly for a period of 14 days or more. Things that used to make you feel satisfied or happy no longer hold the same appeal, rendering you withdrawn from the world.

Along with this can come a variety of other symptoms, such as anxiety, anger, excessive crying, feelings of worthlessness, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep patterns, weight gain or loss due to appetite changes, decreased libido, slowed movements, and thoughts of suicide.

Depression can affect women and men differently. For example, men are more likely than women to withdraw from their family, use substances, experience and express anger, and display risky behaviours when they’re depressed.

In some cases depression can also lead to physical issues such as chronic pain (including headaches and cramps), as well as gastrointestinal (GI) issues.

Causes of Depression

Like many mental health conditions, the scientific community doesn’t fully comprehend the overarching cause of depression. It likely exists at the nexus of genetics, brain health, and various environmental, psychological, and social factors.

There are known events that can trigger or exacerbate depression, however. They include traumatic experiences (especially as a child), medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, as well as insomnia, substance use, and experiencing physical or emotional pain.

Hormones can also have an impact on depression in women. This can be an issue regardless of where a woman is in her menstrual cycle, including during and after pregnancy as well as in menopause.

If you’re diagnosed with another mood disorder, that can also bring on a depressive episode. For example, if you have bipolar disorder, you’re more at risk of having one.

Treatments for Depression

Depression is a serious medical condition. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of treatments for it, including conventional pharmaceutical medication, psychological therapy, light therapies, and alternative therapies. Some people also turn to medical cannabis.

Depending on your unique physiology and condition, your doctor may prescribe you medication to treat depression. This can include SSRIs, SNRIs, or try-cyclic antidepressants, which are the most commonly prescribed medications for depression. However, these often come with side effects that can further impact quality of life.

Psychological therapies are also tools in your arsenal against depression. Some include cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy.

There are also alternative treatments for depression, like acupuncture, meditation, and light therapy. Treatment with white light may help alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression.

Living a healthy lifestyle and taking supplements may also help combat depression. Finally, nearly half of the participants in this study reported using medical cannabis to help manage their depression.

If you have questions about alternative therapies for depression, it’s always best to work closely with a doctor to find out what approach — or combination of approaches — works best for you.

A Multifaceted Approach to Treating Depression

The right combination of therapy, medication, lifestyle choices, and alternative therapies can help those struggling with depression. Everyone is unique in what they find helpful, which for some may include medical cannabis along with conventional treatments.

If you need immediate help, please contact Lifeline's 24/7 Crisis Support service or visit them here.

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