Depression is incredibly common, yet it can feel incredibly isolating. You may feel like you’re standing in the rain at night, locked out of your own house while your loved ones and acquaintances are inside reveling.

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found about 6.1 million people in the United States ages 18 and older, or 6.7% of the adult population, had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Furthermore, anxiety disorders, which often occur alongside depression, are the most common mental illnesses in the country, affecting some 40 million adults, or 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

If you’re wondering if you have depression and if you should try CBD, this is for you.

SYMPTOMS

Depression can cause psychological and physical symptoms. The majority are not unique to depression, and depression can present differently in different people, which is one reason it’s essential to speak with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

However, according to the Mayo Clinic and American Psychiatric Association (APA), if you experience a number of these symptoms for most of the day nearly every day for at least two weeks, there’s a good chance you may be depressed:

  • Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or tearful
  • Feeling angry, irritable, or frustrated, even over minor things
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you would usually enjoy
  • Sleep difficulties, including sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Fatigue and lack of energy, to the point even minor tasks require extra effort
  • Cravings and weight gain or reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Slow speech, movement, or thinking
  • Feeling worthless or guilty, fixating on failures, or blaming yourself
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or suicide attempts
  • Unexplained physical issues, such as headaches or back pain

For many people with depression, these symptoms interfere with daily life, such as work, school, social activities, and relationships, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, some people with high-functioning depression may feel generally unhappy but continue to function more or less as usual.

CAUSES

No one knows for sure what causes depression, and it more than likely varies from one person to the next. However, there are risk factors that could make you more prone to developing depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you may only experience depression once in your life. Post-partum depression, for instance, only occurs after giving birth. However, most people experience multiple episodes. And for many of us, depression is a constant. Symptoms may fluctuate and vary from day to day, week to week, or month to month. But it is a persistent and pernicious presence that never really goes away.

It’s important to note that depression is not the same as sadness or grief, although grief and depression can co-exist. As the APA explains, grief is a natural reaction to specific emotionally challenging or traumatic experiences, such as a breakup or a family member or pet’s loss. The grieving process can look similar to depression. However, according to the APA, grieving but not depressed people typically maintain their sense of self-esteem and experience positive feelings or memories along with painful ones. Depressed people also tend to feel down most of the time for at least two weeks, whereas grief tends to come and go in waves.

A number of factors can lead to depression, according to the APA. It tends to run in families, suggesting genetics play a role. Biochemistry, or differences in chemicals in the brain, can also contribute. Personality can factor in too. People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed, or who are generally pessimistic are at higher risk. Environmental factors play a role as well. Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty can increase a person’s risk of developing depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, a history of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress, can increase your risk, as can serious illnesses, such as cancer, stroke, or chronic pain. Alcohol and drug abuse can make you more vulnerable as well, as can certain medications. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community in an unsupportive environment are more likely to develop depression.

MANAGEMENT & TREATMENT

Depression can have several long-term effects on a person’s life and health. It can spur a vicious and miserable cycle of self-inhibiting and destructive behaviors, eroding your sense of self-worth, confidence, and hope. It can also permanently impact your brain and body. Although depression is not characterized as an inflammatory disorder, multiple studies have found increased inflammation in the mind of depressed people, the same type of inflammation that can contribute to memory loss and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

People with anxiety disorders and certain other conditions, such as bipolar disorder, also tend to have increased inflammation. Research indicates this inflammation, which can result from prolonged stress or trauma, may likewise increase a person’s risk of depression and anxiety or exacerbate symptoms. Talk about a vicious cycle!

In addition to, or perhaps because of, inflammation, depression can also cause structural changes in the brain. Specifically, the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for memory, learning, and emotion, can atrophy and shrink over time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other long-term effects of depression may include:

  • Excess weight or obesity, which can lead to diabetes or heart disease
  • Pain or physical illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Family or relationship conflicts or problems at school or work
  • Social isolation
  • Suicidal feelings or actions
  • Self-harm, such as cutting or burning

The good news is depression is highly treatable. And, according to the APA, between 80 and 90% of people eventually get better. Almost everyone can get some relief from their symptoms.

Treatment will depend on the diagnosis and the cause of your depression. A health professional will interview you to identify genetic, cultural, and environmental factors that may be contributing to your condition. They may conduct a physical exam or blood test too to ensure a medical issue, such as an underactive thyroid, is not causing your depression.

Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on your situation. This may include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes, or all of the above. You may need to try a few different options before finding the perfect fit.

HOW CBD CAN HELP

CBD can help support a healthy mindset. It does so, in part, by helping you have a healthy inflammatory response, supporting your nervous system, and helping your neurons remain healthy.

Recent research has discovered that the hippocampus can recover from trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression by creating new neurons and neural connections.

Certain antidepressants work by stimulating this neural regeneration. But studies have found several other natural supplements and lifestyle changes can have the same effect without the risk of adverse side effects often associated with antidepressants. CBD is one such supplement.

CBD works with the body’s ECS, an intricate and vast network of neurotransmitters and receptors responsible for a range of bodily functions and processes. Essentially, CBD helps the ECS work more effectively. Like a well-oiled machine, a high-functioning ECS can help the body and mind heal and regenerate faster and respond more appropriately to stress and other factors that can threaten the body’s homeostasis.

In addition to encouraging neuroregeneration, CBD encourages the nervous system to produce healthy amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that protects existing neurons and stimulates new neuron production.

CBD also binds to the PPARy receptor, promoting the production of various neuron-protecting and anti-inflammatory compounds. This receptor boosts hippocampal neurogenesis as well.

If you’re interested in trying CBD for depression, anxiety, insomnia, or another condition, first consult with your doctor to receive a diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Then, if your doctor says it is safe to do so, consider trying a CBD oil like one of Bespoke Extract’s high-quality, plant-based, vegan products made from U.S.A.-grown hemp.

If you are thinking of hurting yourself or others, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. You can also contact your doctor or another mental health professional, such as a counselor or psychiatrist if you are having thoughts of self-harm. The National Suicide Prevention Line provides 24/7 support as well. Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); dial 1 after that number to reach the veteran’s crisis line.