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Depression is much more than just feeling blue once in a while. So how do you know if you have true depression, and why is that important to know?
It is important because true major depression is a medical condition that exists beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs. It is where a person experiences certain depression symptoms almost all the time. And people with true major depression simply cannot “pull themselves together” and get better – they must get help from an outside source – usually a physician or an informed care giver or advocate.
Unfortunately, about two-thirds of people with depression go undiagnosed, and that means they are not seeking the help they desperately need.
Take the quiz
Our Depression Quiz can tell you if you need to seek outside help. Do you have one or more of the following depression symptoms? Answer yes or no to each symptom and mark down the answer.
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
- A dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
- Extreme difficulty concentrating
- Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
- Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities – a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
If you have five or more of these depression symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks; and if the depression symptoms interfere with your daily activities, you may have major depression.* Therefore, you should reach out for help because you likely will not be able to overcome this condition on your own.
Strategies to beat depression naturally
The good news is that with proper outside help from your physician or trusted friend, you can overcome the grip of depression, often without the need for pharmaceutical drugs. The debilitating side effects of antidepressant drugs are well known, while natural healing options used by integrative physicians are most often effective and safe.
- Ask a friend to support you. Since depression often involves unclear and disoriented thinking on the part of its victim, an outside perspective is a critical necessity to the healing process. Who can that person be in your life? A spouse, a long-time friend, a close work associate, a dependable relative?
- Begin taking omega-3 fatty acids. Most people with depression don’t get nearly enough of the brain healthy omega-3 fats and therefore need to supplement with fish oil. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated how effectively omega-3 improves mood. Most integrative physicians recommend that every person should get a maintenance dose of 1000 mg (1 gram) of EPA and DHA (added together) on a daily basis.
- Go walking in the sunshine. The sun is the main source of vitamin D3, a type of vitamin D that increases levels of chemicals in the brain called dopamine and serotonin. Deficient levels of either of these neurochemicals can be an underlying cause of depression. You can start by walking 20 or 30 minutes at a time, beginning today. This is enough time to get an adequate exposure to sunlight for boosting your vitamin D3 levels.
Find out the underlying causes
You’ve taken the first steps to fighting your depression symptoms if you’ve identified a friend to support you and begun these natural healing steps discussed above. But you’re not finished yet!
In fact, there are numerous possible underlying causes of depression and you and your friend (or physician) must explore all the possible underlying causes and identify which ones may apply to you. Everyone is different and there is no pill or even single natural health step that works for everyone.
*Please note, this depression quiz is just an indicator of your depression symptoms and does not substitute for a medical diagnosis.
 Ross B, Sieswerda L. et al. Omega-3 fatty acids as treatments for mental illness: which disorder and which fatty acid? Lipids in Health and Disease (2007) 6: 21.
 Wilkins, C. et al, Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, December 2006; 14(12): 1032-1040.
This post originally appeared in 2013 and has been updated.