This was originally published on Liberal America on March 8, 2016.
Depression is a terrible disease. The hopelessness, the guilt, the apathy, or just the overwhelming sadness is brutal. Many people with depression also experience physical symptoms as well: headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, digestion problems, etc.
On top of that, depression still carries a stigma, along with other mental illnesses. Many people just don’t understand, and say things like “it’s all in your head.” There is also the common advice to “just lighten up.” This can often make people feel worse.
Stigma keeps sufferers from telling their friends. It could even keep them from getting the help they need. Many of them distance themselves from people because of how they’re feeling. This makes it harder to find support.
Now, we have new hope for promoting understanding and ending stigma.
New research, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggests that depression affects the body at a cellular level. The disease can decrease antioxidants that are needed to get rid of free radicals in the body.
Free radicals can be introduced by body processes or from outside sources (caffeine, air pollution, etc.). The process called oxidative stress is the accumulation of free radicals in the body without being able to detox.
Treatment for the illness was found to reduce oxidative stress and increase the needed antioxidants. The medicines, along with talk therapy, are a way to help treat depression. Some people handle it without medicine, but many cannot.
More than 10 million Americans are being treated for it. It is mostly handled on an outpatient basis, except when the person becomes suicidal. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the country.
Hopefully this new avenue of research will help people dealing with depression to get the help they need.