Everyone can feel unhappy or fed up from time to time. But depression is more than that. Someone suffering from depression can feel persistently sad for weeks and months. But the positive thing is that with the right treatment and support, most people make a full recovery.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Depression affects people in different ways, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild depression presents as a low mood, severe depression might make someone feel suicidal. See your doctor if your symptoms persist for weeks or months, and they affect your work, relationships, or social life.
Psychological symptoms of depression
persistent low mood or sadness
feeling hopeless and helpless
having low self-esteem
feeling irritable and intolerant of others
having no motivation or interest in things you usually like to do
finding it difficult to make decisions
not getting any enjoyment out of life
feeling anxious or worried
having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself in some way
Physical symptoms of depression
moving or speaking more slowly than usual
changes in appetite or weight (can be an increase or decrease)
unexplained aches and pains
lack of energy
low sex drive
changes to your menstrual cycle
underperforming at work
avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
neglecting your hobbies and interests
Experiencing difficulties in your home and family life
Types of depression
If you think you might have depression and you go to see your doctor, they will categorise the illness by how serious it is. They will class it as either:
mild depression: it has some impact on your daily life
moderate depression: it has a significant impact on your daily life
severe depression: it is impossible to manage your daily life
How is depression diagnosed?
If you experience symptoms for more than 2 weeks, on most days, you should see your doctor. This is especially important if your symptoms aren’t getting better, they are affecting your day to day life, and if you have thoughts of suicide or self harm.
Your doctor will usually carry out physical tests to rule out conditions that can cause mood disturbance, such as an underactive thyroid. Your doctor will also ask you a lot of questions about your mood and how you’re sleeping and if your appetite is affected, for example.
What causes depression?
Many things can trigger depression. It could be a bereavement, losing a job, or getting divorced. People with a family history of depression are more likely to get it too. But you can also become depressed when there is no obvious reason. Physical issues such as chronic illness and hormone changes, such as after pregnancy, can also trigger depression.
Depression is more common than you would think, and it affects 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives. Depression in young people is also on the increase.
How is depression treated?
Treatment for depression can involve lifestyle changes, talking therapy, and medication. The treatment your doctor suggests will depend on whether your depression is mild, moderate, or severe.
If you have mild depression, your doctor might suggest waiting to see whether it improves on its own, while monitoring your symptoms. This is known as “watchful waiting”. They may also suggest lifestyle changes, such as exercise and attending self-help groups.
Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), are often used for mild depression that isn’t improving or moderate depression. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed.
For moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants is often recommended. If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a specialist mental health
Usual treatments for depression
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy which aims to help you understand your thoughts and behaviour and how they affect you and your mood.
CBT recognises that events in your past may have contributed to how you feel, but it concentrates mostly on how you can change the way you think, feel and behave in the present. It can teach you how to overcome negative thinking, which is a huge hurdle for people with depression.
Sessions are normally carried out over 10 to 12 weeks.
Counselling is a form of therapy that helps you think about the problems you’re experiencing in your life so you can find better ways of dealing with them. Counsellors will help you to explore possible solutions to your problems, but they won’t tell you what to do.
Counselling is helpful for people who may need help coping with a current crisis, such as anger, relationship issues, bereavement, redundancy, infertility or a serious illness.
Many people with depression will benefit by making lifestyle changes, such as taking more exercise, cutting down on alcohol, giving up smoking and eating healthily.
Some people find that attending a support group can help, as it can give you a better understanding of what might have made you feel like you do, and to find out more about possible coping strategies. Peer support will also make you realise that you are not suffering alone.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants which boost levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain, which helps to lift your mood. A course of SSRIs usually consists of taking 1-3 tablets or capsules per day for at least 6 months, depending on your prescription. They are often effective at treating moderate to severe depression, and might be used in combination with another therapy, such as CBT. They are not thought to be addictive; however, they can have side effects such as nausea, headaches, and many others, which might make them unsuitable for some people. They also take a few weeks to take effect.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) work by raising the levels of the chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline in your brain, which can both help to lift your mood. A course of this medication usually consists of 1-3 tablets or capsules per day for at least 6 months, depending on your prescription. They are usually effective in treating moderate to severe depression, and might also be used alongside talking therapy. They aren’t known to be addictive, though they have side effects such as a dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, problems passing urine, sweating, light-headedness and drowsiness, so they may not be suitable for everyone.
Nootropics are often referred to as ‘smart drugs,’ because they enhance cognitive function. They can boost focus, learning capacity, memory, and mood.
The word “nootropic” was first used in 1972 by a pharmacologist, who took the name from 2 Greek words “noos” meaning ‘the mind’, and “tropein”, meaning towards. The literal translation of the name is ‘to turn towards the mind’.
The drugs have a wide range of benefits and suit some people who work in demanding professions and need to keep a competitive edge, and students who are studying for exams.
What qualities must a nootropic have?
To be classed as a nootropic, a drug must have certain qualities:
It should improve learning and memory
It should have no adverse side effects
It should have no detectable toxicity
It should increase the resistance of the brain to physical and chemical injuries
How do nootropics work?
The different nootropics available differ from each other in chemical structure and in how they work, as they are extracts of herbs and plants, as well as synthetic compounds. They also affect different parts of the brain and so they result in different effects. Experts are always looking to tap into the potential of the brain, and with people living longer, there is a lot of research going into developing drugs that can protect the brain from degenerative damage. Cognitive problems are usually associated with a deficiency of one or more of the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
For example, depression can be caused by low levels of serotonin and dopamine. Whether cognitive defect is caused by accidental brain damage, a genetic condition or ageing, there is a need to look into substances that can potentially reduce or prevent cognitive decline.
Each nootropic affects the brain in a different way, so it is not yet fully understood what the exact mechanisms are when someone takes a nootropic. What is known however, is that:
Nootropics can activate cholinergic networks to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain. Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter that plays a role in learning, memory, muscle coordination and movement.
They can increase brain metabolism by stimulating blood circulation so there is more oxygen and energy available to brain neurons.
They improve protein synthesis.
They can strengthen the brain’s neural connections.
What are the main groups of nootropics?
There are many different nootropics available on the market, which offer different benefits. Here are some of the different types you can get:
This group includes drugs like Vinpocetine, and they are designed to increase the blood circulation to the brain. This leads to an immediate boost in memory and focus. These drugs are mainly used to treat language and memory problems, plus trouble concentrating.
These include drugs such as Huperzine, and these were developed in the 1980’s by researchers who discovered that memory loss and cognitive decline was associated with low levels of a chemical called acetylcholine. These drugs inhibit the action of enzymes that break the chemical down and they can also boost the levels of the chemical in the brain.
These are probably the most popular of the nootropics, and piracetam was the first drug of this kind that was available. There are now quite a few different types of this drug, such as Aniracetam, Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam, Coluracetam & Nefiracetam. They are all known to be quite safe.
These drugs include iQuzil, and they are the newest type of nootropics. this is one of the latest subcategories of nootropics. The drugs are designed to increase productivity and enhance the capacity for learning.
Nootropic drinks are being developed and are being touted as the replacement for energy drinks but they have no side effects.
So for us to function as best as we can cognitively, our neurons and neurotransmitters need to be working as they should. Nootropics help this to happen. When everything works as efficiently as it should, learning capacity, productivity, and our mood is optimal.
So do nootropics work for depression?
Taking Nootropics for depression and for boosting mood is common, especially because they have so many other benefits for cognitive function and brain health.
Mood disorders, anxiety, and depression affect as much as 10% of the population, and this does not take into account with people who are living with very mild or undiagnosed depression.
While taking pills or supplements will not be the solution for everyone, many people, especially those with milder symptoms, might benefit from trying a nootropic. Here are some of the best nootropics for depressive symptoms.
This supplement is a member of the racetam family and is well-known for its mood boosting properties. It is fat soluble, so it is best to take it with food, which will aid absorption.
Many users have reported that one of the main effects they get from this drug is that they feel stimulated, and that they have lots of positive mental energy, concentration and focus.
This energy can also be helpful in improving motivation which is definitely something that people with depressive symptoms tend to lack.
There are also other effects with Aniracetam supplements, such as they help to increase blood flow to the brain, and they act on the neurotransmitters in the brain. Some research even suggests that they can increase communication between the 2 hemispheres of the brain.
Many users report that this drug helps to influence creativity and flexible thinking.
Sulbutiamine is technically a member of the B group of vitamins, although it does act very similar to a nootropic in many ways. This supplement is a modified version of the B vitamin thiamine, that is known to possess a number of anti-anxiety and antidepressive qualities. It is even prescribed in many some countries as a treatment for these and many other conditions.
This supplement works by crossing the blood-brain barrier and increasing the levels of thiamine. This improves the ability of the brain neurons to communicate and it is also believed to have positive effects on choline, dopamine, and glutamate, which are some of the most potent brain chemicals in terms of determining mood.
Many users report that this supplement helps to relieve stress and fatigue, and that it boosts attention, and mental alertness. These are excellent benefits for those suffering from anxiety and mild depressive symptoms.
Noopept is one of the most powerful nootropics available. It has mood boosting effects which are similar to those brought about by Aniracetam, just they are more potent.
It’s a very fast acting drug because it absorbs quickly and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Users report that they feel the effects within around 15 minutes.
There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that taking this supplement increases brain energy and motivation. In fact, reports from users seem to suggest that this is the best drug for increasing motivation.
A number of studies also indicate that Noopept is a neuroprotective, meaning that it helps to keep the neurons in the brain healthy. In some cases, it may even be able to reverse existing damage to the brain. This explains why it is so effective at boosting mood and helping to alleviate stress.
It is also thought that this supplement can help to increase and build connections within the brain.
This is not a choice for someone who wants to casually try nootropics, rather it is a possible choice if all other options have failed. Adrafinil can be mildly toxic and can possibly affect liver function. It should be taken under medical supervision ideally.
This supplement affects the dopamine and serotonin systems within the brain. This helps to promote a state of alertness. Many users report feeling very productive, and they notice a reduction in depressive symptoms and anxiety.
This supplement is not a true nootropic. Inositol is a member of the vitamin B group, but it does seem to have positive effects on anxiety. It works by crossing the blood-brain barrier and then helping to increase the production of GABA, a powerful brain chemical which can bring about a feeling of relaxation. It may also help to increase the effectiveness of other medications designed to help boost GABA levels by enhancing their binding properties to receptors.
As levels of GABA increase within the brain you should notice a feeling of calm and wellbeing. This supplement also helps to reduce stress levels and promote normal sleep patterns. This is an excellent natural choice for those who suffer from mild anxiety and depression, and sleep issues, which often accompany these conditions.
There are a number of nootropics that can help with mood and depression. The test, however, is to discover what effects they have on you as an individual. Try them and see which one works for you, safe in the knowledge that they are mostly incredibly safe to take.