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Shedding Light on the Dark Side of the Mood

Help for depression: a real alternative to conventional antidepressants

“Depression” is a term that encompasses a huge range of mood disorders.
People with problems as diverse as a lack of enthusiasm for life, persistent
irritability, anorexia, chronic pain, or psychotic suicidal mania might be diagnosed
as having depression.
     Just as there are many different presentations
of symptoms diagnosed as depression, there are many precipitating environmental
factors. This fact was highlighted in a recent study, published in JAMA, the
Journal of the American Medical Association
, showing that treatment of a
mother for depression can prevent depression and anxiety disorders in her child.

The importance of environment
The lead author of the study, Myrna Weissman, was quoted in the newspaper as
saying, “Depressed parents should be treated vigorously. It’s a two-fer—the
impact is not only on them, it’s also on their children.” She went
on to say that the study findings probably also apply to treatment of the father
and that effective psychotherapy should work as well as conventional drug therapy
(which was used in the study).
     I agree with Dr. Weissman: a person’s environment,
especially their intimate emotional environment, will profoundly affect their
moods and sense of well-being. I further appreciate her openness in acknowledging
that techniques other than conventional drug therapy that lead to resolution
of a parent’s depression will also help prevent depression in their child.
     But I would like to go a step farther and discuss
depression, its perception in the medical profession, its implications for society,
and the fact that homeopathy is often an effective treatment option.

A chronic, low-grade depression
Eric is a man in his mid-30s, a computer software engineer, married with no children.
He came to me about two years ago for help with his chronic depression. Eric’s
depression was of a low-grade nature, sometimes called dysthymia. He said his
depression had always been there; he was rarely happy and had little enthusiasm
for life, but he did not want to take conventional antidepressants. “Do
you think homeopathy can help me?” he asked.
     I told him it was definitely worth a try. Many
patients with mood disorders have been helped with homeopathy. Unlike the protocols
used in conventional medicine, there is no standard treatment for depression
in homeopathy. It all depends on how clearly the homeopath can perceive the patient
as an individual and how closely that perception can be matched with an indicated
homeopathic remedy.
     When I took Eric’s homeopathic case, I asked
him many details, not only about his depression but also about all the other
aspects of his life. I learned about his likes and dislikes, his food preferences,
his sleep, his tolerance for heat and cold, his other health conditions, his
life problems, his relationships, etc.
     In the end, based on Eric’s individual and
unique symptomatology, I recommended that he take a single dose of homeopathic
Lycopodium 200c. His response to this remedy was very positive; a week or two
after taking it, his mood lifted and remained improved. As time went on, a dose
of Lycopodium every three to six months helped him continue to feel well.

He took off his shoes...
About nine months after starting treatment, Eric took off his shoes and showed
me an annoying and unsightly fungus covering both of his feet—athlete’s
foot. He said this chronic condition (that he had previously mentioned to me
only in passing) was not doing well and asked if I could give him something to
help clear it up. After some consideration, I decided to risk giving him a different
homeopathic remedy to address this condition, hoping that it would help his feet
and that his depression would continue to improve.
     I was wrong. Eric called about a month later complaining
that not only were his feet no better, but his mood had fallen shortly after
taking the new remedy and had stayed low. When I suggested that he return to
taking the Lycopodium, Eric again had a positive response to the remedy;
his mood improved, and he continues to feel well overall. His feet are as bad
as ever, but we both agree that it’s a minor problem compared with his
chronic mood disorder. At present, we are undertaking no treatment for the athlete’s
foot so as not to interfere with his good response to the homeopathic Lycopodium.
Over time, it is possible that his symptom profile will change, which would indicate
the need for a different homeopathic remedy, perhaps one that will help his athlete’s
foot symptoms while maintaining his positive mood.

Environment versus biochemistry
As mentioned earlier, people experience many different types of depression with
many different presentations. Each of these various presentations can have different
apparent causes, different precipitating factors, different biochemical profiles,
and different associated symptoms.
     In spite of these individualizing factors, it has
become commonplace in recent years for doctors to treat all disorders diagnosed
as depression with a handful of over-prescribed medications. Patients are routinely
told, “You are suffering from a mood disorder due to a biochemical imbalance
in your brain. This medication will correct the biochemical imbalance and relieve
your symptoms.”
     This simplistic explanation implies that the biochemical
imbalance is well understood, that it applies to the individual patient being
addressed, and that it is the only cause of mood disorders. That this is not
true is demonstrated by the fact that while conventional medications do relieve
the mood symptoms in many patients, many others suffer bad reactions and unexpected
side effects.
     In fact, the very idea that a mood disorder represents
a simple, seemingly random, imbalance in the neurotransmitter content of the
brain represents a profound shift in our view of ourselves as living beings and
our understanding of the significance of our human experience. That is why I
like the JAMA study mentioned earlier. It showed that a child’s
environment significantly impacts their emotional well-being (as if we needed
a study to tell us that). And while it is true that a child is not just a little
adult, it is also true that adults are grown children. It is my observation that
the results of the study can be applied in some ways to adults.
     Throughout human history people have dealt with
unfavorable moods by examining both their internal and external lives. They looked
within themselves and expressed their discoveries in poetry, art, and philosophy.
They looked outside themselves and addressed problems of injustice, exploitation,
and dehumanizing conditions.

There is a reason
The point is that there is often a reason for people’s dysphoric
moods—a reason relating to life experience, whether internal or external.
As the JAMA study shows, the child is depressed because the parent is
depressed … but why is the parent depressed? Surely the parent deserves
the same consideration as the child—namely, that a factor in the parent’s
life may be precipitating their depression and may need to be identified and
addressed.
     The study shows that children get depressed when
their family lives are depressing (living with a depressed parent is depressing).
Adults also get depressed when their lives are depressing. Taking a pill will
not change unfulfilling relationships, meaningless jobs, social injustice, or
a lack of control over one’s destiny. Nor will taking a pill change the
fact that the inherent desire for limitless expansion found in the human psyche
cannot be satisfied through material attainment.
     I am not saying that all forms of depression are
due to life circumstances, nor that no one needs medical treatment for their
depression. I am saying that the huge glut of prescriptions for antidepressant
medications in our society reflects a deeper problem relating to our cultural
values and social institutions.

The role of homeopathy
Not everyone will react the same way to particular life conditions; the fact
that a given individual reacts with depression is often dependent on their individual
make-up. There are patients like Eric who have an inherent tendency to a depressed
mood.
     Many of these patients can benefit from homeopathic
treatment. Homeopathy does not work by forcing a change in brain biochemistry
as conventional medication attempts to do. Instead, homeopathy works by eliciting
a response in the body’s self-healing mechanism, and the brain biochemistry
changes naturally as the patient recovers.
     I have not been able to help every patient who
came to me with depression. Some of them ended up needing to take conventional
medications despite my best efforts. But many patients with depression have been
helped by homeopathy and without toxic side effects. Many of these, like Eric,
find they only need occasional doses of the homeopathic remedy to maintain their
improved mood.
     In homeopathy we do not force changes in the body.
Hence, we cannot force a change in a person’s mood that makes them “better” if
that state is contrary to their body’s inner wisdom. It is my experience
that, ultimately, the underlying cause of a person’s depression must be
addressed before they can be truly healed. Homeopathy often helps both in relieving
a patient’s depression and in bringing the precipitating cause of depression
to a level of awareness at which it can be addressed.
     Homeopathy is a surprisingly effective treatment
modality in many patients suffering from depression. Its safety and non-toxicity
make it a logical first choice in helping patients with mood disorders.

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR

Dr. Timothy R. Dooley is a graduate of National College of Naturopathic Medicine
as well as Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine. He practices
homeopathy in San Diego, California, and teaches at the Southwest College of
Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences.
He is the author of the easy-to-read introductory book, Homeopathy: Beyond
Flat Earth Medicine.
The complete text can be read online at www.beyondflatearth.com.
For more information, visit www.drdooley.net.
He can be reached at (619) 297-8641 or drdooley@drdooley.net.