October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. I want to address the benefits of massage therapy on mental health, more specifically depression. We often talk about physical pain and massage relieving aches and pains of the body, but the truth is massage supports good mental health, too. Did you know it is estimated that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. suffer from some kind of depression? (Stats from the Centers for Disease Control). So let’s talk: what is depression? How does is affect ones health? Is there anything that can help?
What is Depression?
Let’s start with what depression isn’t: a bad day, a brief period of mourning after a loss, or a pessimistic outlook on life. It consists of a period of more than two weeks of a bad mood, decreased interest in things that one normally finds enjoyable, and can also include fatigue, changes in weight, difficulty concentrating, inappropriate guilt and even suicidal thoughts. While two weeks is the minimum length for defining depression, it can continue for months or even years.
Different Kinds of Depression
–Major depression is an episode of depression two weeks or longer that messes with your ability to function throughout the day. People can have multiple episodes of major depression throughout their lives.
–Postpartum depression is a depressive episode that occurs after a woman has given birth.
-Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated SAD) is a form of depression during the winter months, when there is less sunlight.
–Manic Depression (also called bipolar disorder) involves cycles of depressive lows and manic highs. There are also mild forms of depression that do not meet all the requirements of major depression.
Negative Health Affects of Depression
Aside from just feeling like crap emotionally (entirely bad enough on its own), depression can also have other serious effects on a persons health. People who suffer from depression are more likely to engage in negative habits such as smoking and excessive drinking. They are also less likely to get sufficient exercise and are more likely to stop the physical activities they used to participate in. Depression can disturb sleep schedules and also have negatively affect ones professional and personal relationships, resulting in more stress, which leads to its own host of health issues. It’s a truly nasty cycle.
Treatments for Depression
There are treatment options, but first step is diagnosis. (Sorry, looking up your symptoms on Google doesn’t count.) A physician will be able to speak intelligently about options like therapy, medication, and other treatments and lifestyle changes.
Oh, and you might also want to get a massage.
Massage Benefits Those with Depression
Really? Absolutely. Massage has been found to reduce depression and improve mood in people from all walks of life, from children with HIV, to adolescents with psychiatric disorders, to hospice patients. Why does this work? Well, that’s still being researched. But caring touch does seem to have a real effect on mood, whether it’s from a loved one, a massage therapist or a favorite pet.
Of course, if you’re a regular recipient of massage, you can judge for yourself: is your mood improved after a massage? And if you haven’t received a massage lately (or ever!), this is a great opportunity. Do it for science! Or, do it for yourself. Because everyone deserves to feel better, including you.
If you haven’t ever experienced massage therapy before I invite you to give it a try. Read here how you can try it for FREE in October!. You can also read about aromatherapy and which essential oils are beneficial for depression. Contact me to schedule an appointment for a massage therapy session.