Do doughnuts make you depressed?
Posted Wednesday 29 June 2011
Do doughnuts make you depressed? The Daily Mail, in an article yesterday, has given a list of ‘surprising everyday triggers’ that it believes can cause depression.
Depression is a much more complex condition than the article implies. While some of the possible causes suggested by the article may be factors in triggering or worsening depression we don't know why some people are likey to experience depression and not others. Simplifying and focusing on a small selection of possibilities is unhelpful.
Depression is different to feeling temporarily feeling ‘low’, or sad and miserable about life. While eating sugary foods such as doughnuts can lead to a ‘sugar crash’ that will lower someone’s mood after the initial energy boost, this will not lead to developing depression. Changes in mood are natural.
Eating sugary products, drinking caffeine or alcohol, smoking and other factors can affect mood but most people do not get depressed because of them. The Mail’s article takes a seemingly random selection of possible causes and equates them all, regardless of how common they are or how much effect they are likely to have.
There is no one cause of depression; it varies very much from person to person and can occur through a combination of factors. Some people are much more vulnerable to depression than others. This could be because of the way different people’s brains work, because of experiences, or even family background.
Weather, hormone-based medicines such as birth control pills, lack of sleep, diet and stress, among other factors, can be triggers for episodes, or things that make ongoing depression worse. With the exception of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where symptoms develop and recur during a particular season, they do not usually cause it.
If any of these lead to someone feeling down changing – where possible – the circumstances causing the sadness will usually lead to an improved mood.
This is not usually the case with someone diagnosed with depression where it is less simple to determine causes or treatments. While lifestyle changes such as diet can be important, depression is also effectively treated via talking therapies such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, self-help techniques and, where necessary, medication.
It is rarely as simple as cutting out the doughnuts.
Sam Challis, Mind Information Officer
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