I wrote an article on the link between depression and inflammation for The National this week and it's getting some really good traction and reaction. One of the most interesting things to me, in researching it, was that Lighthouse Arabia, a therapy centre in Dubai, sees the same pattern in the people who come in for help.
People present at the end of their rope, figuring they've got some sort of clinical problem, only to have their therapist focus on stabilizing their body with sleep, good food, exercise, et cetera, before even thinking about their psychological issues. Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and a managing director at the centre, says that usually helps them feel better. Then they are calm and clear enough to figure out what the real problem is.
"I think if you took underneath those symptoms, a lot of that has to do with an unhealthy lifestyle, inflammation of the body, difficulties in relationships, chronic stress, and poor sleep patterns, and if you manage for those, the depressive symptoms almost always manage themselves. Usually the depression lifts off."
This makes me feel so sad for all the people who aren't coming in for help, and as we know, most people don't ask for help. Dr Afridi even told me very few people are self-aware enough to say "I'm in trouble here" and reach out. So how many people are out there just suffering in emotional pain on their own?
Of course the bad news is that often underneath that stressful episode lies a real problem people don't want to deal with: a relationship or job that is no longer working being some of the top causes.
The link between depression and inflammation is one of my passions, by the way, as I've struggled with my own moods much of my life and have only put two and two together in recent years, that what I put in my body is directly correlated to how I feel in my body. (I really should have figured this out before, but there you go) Life is much nicer when you are living healthfully, managing your gut microbiome, sleeping, moving. Then when things start to get stressy, eating well, sleep and exercise are often the first things to go, replaced by bad habits, when they should be the only things you are focusing on. And then everything gets worse. Inflammation is what makes you feel so low when you are sick; imagine what that terrible diet, drinking problem, smoking, sleep issue or lack of movement is doing to your psyche on a daily basis.
Also, I quote an excellent book on the subject, Dr Kelly Brogan's A Mind of Her Own, and I highly, highly, highly recommend it to people who are struggling. It is aimed at women, but there is tons of good stuff in there for men. I am hoping she comes out with version targeting men, I think it would change a lot of lives.
Too many people are turning to medication for their terrible moods, or just not living a real life, living a tiny, scared, upset life, when the keys to feeling better is often right there, and often very simple.