On Recognising and Dealing With Mild Depression

Mild depression can be a sneaky condition. It gradually creeps up on a person, catching him unawares. Insomnia and anxiety form a vicious circle. Sleep deprivation lowers resistance to all manner of minor illnesses and aches and pains. Lethargy sets in and with it lack of concentration and a lack of will to undertake the simplest of tasks or pursue formerly enjoyable leisure activities. The emotions are heightened - some people are prone to outbreaks of anger, others are reduced to tears for the silliest reasons. And we start to avoid our friends. At least, that's how it was for me. And I was constantly snacking throughout the day, gaining weight.

 Co-incidentally, I had an appointment with my GP because I had become anxious about various moles and lesions that are sprinkled around my skin. During the course of the appointment I mentioned that I recognised that I might be over-anxious and that it was probably due to the exhaustion caused by lack of sleep. Having set me mind at ease regarding the moles, she tactfully suggested that anxiety and depression form a vicious circle with insomnia. Self-referral for counselling might be the way forward.
By Mikael Häggström [Public domain]

After long consideration and vacillation, I selected a counselling service from the list of four that had been given to me at the surgery and sent off an email. In due course, a telephone assessment was arranged for me. I answered a series of questions from a checklist and spoke about my worries and concerns, surprising myself with what I revealed to the assessor. But it felt cathartic. Now I was on a waiting list to see a private counsellor. who is contracted to the NHS.  But the waiting list is six weeks long and I was starting to feel lower every day. So I did some research about self-help.

Regular exercise, and meditation are recommended to combat depression - neither of which I had the will or energy to undertake. Then, during my trawl of the internet, I came upon a herbal supplement that had received excellent reviews: 5-HTP.  It is made from the crushed seeds of an African plant.

The simplest explanation that I have read about the effect of 5-HTP relates to the essential amino acid tryptophan, which helps to make serotonin in the brain. Apparently, a deficiency of serotonin is one of the major causes of mild depression, which is why it is sometimes prescribed by the medical profession. 5-HTP is a precursor for serotonin i.e. the intermediary stage between tryptophan intake and serotonin production.

I went along to my local health food store and purchased a supply of 30 x 100 mg capsules. I am now into day 4 of taking the supplement and already the uplift to my spirits is amazing. The brand that I selected, Solgar 5-HTP Food Supplement is combined with magnesium, valerian and vitamin B6.

 I took 200 mg. on days 1 and 2. Luckily it was the weekend, because I was very drowsy, sleeping for around 12 hours each day. On Monday, day 3, I reduced the dose to 100 mg and  took it at bedtime with some complex carbohydrate - a couple of oatcakes. At the moment I'm planning to continue with the supplements for only two weeks as there is a caution on the bottle that long term use can cause mild tingling and  numbness.  I'm also increasing my intake of complete proteins, found only in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, as the are the only source of the whole range of the nine essential amino acids.

Consult a healthcare practitioner if you are taking prescribed medications because 5-HTP can have unpleasant side effects if it is incompatible with them. 

Also, if you feeling very depressed it is essential to have a proper medical assessment.