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“The diagnosis of depression must include the search for other causes, as any illness can cause depression”

Sigmund Freud

(These are excerpts from Dealing with Depression Naturally by Syd Baumel.  The references are older, but in honor of Mental Health Month, I thought it was worth sharing. As a nutritionist, I’m all for looking at the physical functioning in all cases. This information impacted me the first time I read it and I hope it has an impact for you.)

Not too many years ago, researchers at the Texas University Medical Center decided to see if a novel medial approach could be of any help to 100 psychiatric patients who needed all the help they could get. Delivered under warrant to a Houston psychiatric center, most were on a fast track to a state mental hospital. The novel medical approach was really a very old-fashioned one: a complete medical examination and workup. It was only for the average psychiatric patient that it was a novelty.

Medical More Than Emotional

But it was not, as it turned out, an extravagance. All but 20 of the 100 patients proved to have a previously unrecognized physical illness. And for nearly half of them – including 13 of the 30 depressed patients – the illness was deemed largely or entirely responsible for their psychiatric condition. “Twenty-eight of these 46 patients,” psychiatrist Richard C.W. Hall and his associates reported, “evidenced dramatic and complete clearing of their psychiatric symptoms when medical treatment for the underlying physical disorder was instituted.” The rest “were substantially improved”.  (R.C.W. Hall et al., 1981).

This was not the first, nor would it be the last time research would highlight how often patients labeled “psychiatric” suffer secretly from etiologic (causative) physical illnesses. Over a hundred physical conditions – often in their mild or subclinical stages – can cause or promote depression and other psychiatric syndromes, while producing few if any telltale physical symptoms (T.W. Esteroff and M.S. Gold, 1984; D.E. Sternberg, 1968). Since early in the century, over a dozen investigations involving thousands of psychiatric patients have consistently demonstrated the scope of this problem – and just as consistently been ignored by most clinicians. (E.K.Koranyi, 1980; J.D. Chandler and J.E. Gerndt, 1988).

Authorities now estimate that as many as one-third to one-half of depressed patients have a physical disorder that is the primary cause of their depression, or a major contributing factor. Treating it will relieve the depression about 50% of the time (R.C. Kathol, 1984; M.S. Gold et al. Advances in Psychopharmacology). Yet the suffers are likely not to know they have it.

When to Suspect Physical Factors Affecting Mental Health

Here are some things to look for if mental health is a challenge:

  • Onset of psychiatric symptoms after age 40
  • Times of hormonal change
  • Family history of diabetes, hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, Huntington’s chorea, celiac disease or porphyria
  • Recent head trauma like stroke or injury
  • Drug use (medicinal and recreational)
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Physical symptoms that are found along with mental/emotional problems

Abby’s Note: Now for my nutritionist plug. Everything our body does (mood, repair, recovery, immunity, etc.) it does with the nutrients from REAL food so make sure you are getting the right kind of ‘happy meal’ and I hope it will help you feel happier.