What Is Serotonin and How Does It Affect Your Mental Health?

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Before we proceed to discuss the benefits of serotonin, let us review the tasks of neurotransmitters. Simply stated, information from one cell will send information to the next cell by jumping across a synapse (the gap between cells).

If you are unfamiliar with this process, our article on brain cells will help clear up any confusion you may have, but keep in mind that neurotransmitters don’t only function in the brain. 

This article will discuss what serotonin is, how it works, and ways to naturally increase its levels, and we will explore how certain medications can be used to treat serotonin-related disorders. 

By understanding the effects of serotonin, we can help maintain a sound mind and body. So let’s begin.

What is Serotonin?

This is an important chemical found throughout the human body. It is produced in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys. It plays a key role in the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, memory, and learning, and in so doing, it is often coined the “happy hormone”. 

With that said, any serotonin deficiency can have a major impact on your health, especially, your mental health. Once in the synapse, neurotransmitters connect the chemical with receptors on the neighboring cell. This communication between neurons is what allows us to think, feel, and act.

How Does It Work?

Serotonin is produced by a chemical reaction between amino acids and enzymes. Once it is produced, it is stored in specialized cells called vesicles. The serotonin travels out of the vesicles and across the synapse to neighboring neurons and as mentioned, the neurons that serotonin affects are responsible for mood, appetite, sleep, and thinking. Therefore, any changes in serotonin levels can lead to changes in these functions. 

How Does Serotonin Affect Your Mental Health?

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A person’s cognitive health is affected by many factors. These include genetics, past traumas, relationships, current health, and daily habits. Let’s take a closer look at serotonin’s effect on these functions:

    • Mood: Mood is often the first thing to be affected when serotonin levels start to drop. If its levels drop too low, they may result in a condition known as serotonin deficiency. A serotonin deficiency is often associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
    • Appetite: Serotonin helps regulate appetite by triggering the sensation of fullness. Therefore, increased serotonin levels can result in a lower appetite. A serotonin deficiency, on the other hand, can result in increased appetite.
    • Sleep: A serotonin deficiency can result in insomnia and a serotonin excess can result in hypersomnia (excessive sleep).
    • Thinking: Serotonin is associated with focus and concentration. Moreover, it is also associated with positive or negative moods depending on the situation. A deficiency can result in poor focus and a lack of concentration. This can negatively affect daily tasks that require a higher level of mental focus.

How to Naturally Increase Your Serotonin levels

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Given that serotonin is so important to mental health, taking steps to increase its levels can have a significant impact on your health. Some ways to naturally increase serotonin levels include:

    • Getting enough sleep: Sleep is essential for serotonin production. Any decrease in sleep can reduce its production and any increase in sleep can increase serotonin.
    • Eating a healthy diet: A healthy diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which are required to produce serotonin. A diet that is rich in these nutrients can help to naturally increase serotonin levels. 
    • Practicing a healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, meditation, yoga, and other forms of relaxation are known to help increase serotonin levels. 

What Foods Help Maintain a Healthy Serotonin Level?

Photo of foods rich in Serotonin
Some foods for good mood, brain, and happiness. Photo: iStock

Before we list some foods that are rich in serotonin, let us define tryptophan. This is an amino acid that plays a significant role in the production of serotonin and it is important to note that tryptophan cannot be produced naturally in the body. So with that said, let’s take a look at what foods contain this amino acid.

      • Salmon. This healthy fish has been mentioned numerous times on our website. And why? Because of all the nutrients it contains, which includes tryptophan.
      • Eggs: Another all-around healthy nutrient. In addition to all the other benefits eggs have, they are also rich in tryptophan.
      • Green Leafy Vegetables: Any veggies of this type, such as spinach contain a good source of tryptophan.
      • Pineapples: Eat them when they are fresh because they lose their serotonin levels as the ripening wears off.
      • Nuts: All of our favorite nuts contain tryptophan.
      • Tofu and Soy: Soy products are known to be significant in getting tryptophan to increase serotonin production in the body.

One note: Foods that are high in protein, such as salmon and eggs may compromise the serotonin boost even though they contain tryptophan, but if you add carbohydrates (carbs) to your meal, this can help keep tryptophan in the bloodstream.

Some healthy carb foods are brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, bananas, and apples.

What Medications Can Be Used to Treat Serotonin-Related Disorders

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Some of the most common serotonin-related disorders include depression, anxiety, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While some serotonin-related disorders can be readily managed with lifestyle changes, others may require the assistance of certain medications. 

Antidepressants are the most commonly used meds to treat serotonin-related disorders. They are helpful because they increase the serotonin level, but they may also have a negative impact on other neurotransmitters. As a result, it is important to speak to your medical provider before taking any medications on your own.

Takeaways for Better Mental Health Management

Mental health is a cyclical process that is affected by many factors. These include daily habits, current health, genetics, and past traumas. Given the impact of these factors, it is important to take care of ourselves and manage our health more effectively. 

One of the best ways to do this is by understanding serotonin and its effects. When serotonin levels are too low, a person can experience a serotonin deficiency, which can result in several mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and poor focus.

Fortunately, there are several ways to naturally increase serotonin levels. These include getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, practicing a healthy lifestyle, and discussing with a medical professional. 

Pandemic Paranoia: How it is Affecting Us in the COVID Era

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There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to its knees, and in a previous post, we saw how it is affecting the poor around the world, but they are not the only ones being forced to change their lifestyle. 

As we make our way into this new decade, thanks to the vaccines, things are beginning to change for the better, schools, offices and other public places are reopening; albeit, with restrictions. With that said, some states have recently lifted all restrictions and the pandemic situation doesn’t seem as dire as it was a few months ago as many of us are starting to go out and resume our daily activities, but we still must follow COVID safety protocols. Surely, there is still a long way to go before the world gets back into its pre-pandemic routine, but with immunizations being dispensed worldwide, normalcy is starting to return.   

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic began, governments have been forcing everyone to quarantine and as a result, some people began living in a constant state of fear, afraid of getting infected and even dying was not too far from the truth. After all, when you walk out your door, there are invisible creatures waiting to kill you, what’s not to fear? Surely, this is something that sci-fi shows are made of, but, unfortunately, this is real! 

So it is within this framework that paranoia can develop and subsequently trigger a panic. For those that worry a lot or have sensitive mindsets, pandemic paranoia can become a reality. They will become fearful and refuse to accept any changes in the COVID situation. 

So, what characterizes pandemic paranoia and who is more likely to have it? Let’s find out. 

Paranoia Can Lead to Psychosis

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Paranoia is defined as the irrational belief that one is being victimized and is a target of premeditated persecution. If this is an ongoing issue with someone, it falls in the realm of an issue with their mental health. These people can lose touch with reality. They believe that everyone is out to get them and is conspiring against them. 

One of the categories where this can occur is with people who suffer from anxiety and depression. Additionally, those that are always on edge or worry a lot or tend to lead to negative thinking, also resulting in a state of paranoia. 

For these people,  their thoughts are mostly baseless but continue anyway and consequently, their fears can get so overwhelming that after some time, the person may even begin to hallucinate, completely losing the sense of what’s real and what’s not.

Another category where paranoia can develop are people who are subjected to prolonged exposure to stress, social deprivation and/or loneliness. And once they fall into this mindset, it can eventually lead to psychosis, which is the medical term for a condition in which the brain begins misprocessing information. As a result, the person loses touch with reality.

Pandemic Paranoia

Tired businesswoman in officeFeeling restless and scared due to a rampant and deadly viral infection is understandable. So, naturally, when the COVID took over, many people, especially those psychologically fragile became wholly preoccupied and obsessed with the fear of getting the disease. So much so that after taking all the necessary precautions, their anxiety did not dissipate.

And now, when things are beginning to get better and the dangers of the coronavirus have gone down, people suffering from pandemic paranoia still feel exposed and afraid of catching it. 

People Who Get Pandemic Paranoia and What They Do

When a person’s preoccupation with the coronavirus gets to the point where they aren’t able to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not, they become obsessed with taking preventive measures, which can include:

  • Washing hands repeatedly
  • Disinfecting household articles again and again
  • Staying indoors at all costs
  • Getting groceries delivered and then sanitizing all items
  • Getting worked up at every cough or sneeze, thinking that they have caught the coronavirus
  • Quarantining if they ever leave the house, even with all the protocols

Other activities indicating pandemic paranoia in people include:

  • Watching COVID-related news all the time
  • Following COVID-related mortality stats
  • Talking about the pandemic with every other person they speak to over the phone or via messages

Parents with Pandemic Paranoia

People with pandemic paranoia don’t just affect their lives, but everyone else who lives with them. They demand their cohabitants perform similar rituals and avoid social contact. Being forced to do actions driven by the irrational fears of a family member is hard to understand for most people, but it’s unfathomable for children whose parents have become this way.

Parents with pandemic paranoia force their kids to do unnecessary things, such as: 

  • Keep their kids locked in and not let them go out, even with PPE
  • Push them to shower multiple times a day to stay safe
  • Stop them from meeting friends
  • Don’t send their kids to school, even now when schools have begun opening nationwide.
  • Isolate them if their child sneezes, coughs or runs a fever.

Living with paranoid parents can lead to developmental problems in children. Kids who are not allowed to leave the house, even to go to school can develop psychological issues and become aggressive or socially awkward.

Dr. Laura Saunders, a child psychologist at IOL, Institute of Living, believes that venturing out is essential to a child’s emotional and mental development. Denying kids the opportunity to explore the outside world could be detrimental to their well-being. She thinks that parents need to reconsider their methods and let their children go out and socialize as long as they abide by the state commanded restrictions.

One of the most damaging aspects of the restrictive social movement in children is losing or not building a sense of self-worth. Children are prone to feel anxious in unfamiliar environments, so they need to be exposed to varied social settings. If you don’t let your child meet with people or socialize with friends, you increase their chances of developing social anxiety or fueling any underlying psychological issues.  

Parents need to understand that children are extraordinarily resilient and need to get all the opportunities for mental, physical and emotional growth.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for people to meet in regular social settings, like in the pre-pandemic days, the world’s new normal has presented alternative ways of socializing, such as Zoom. Those may not be the most convenient methods of interacting with one another, but they are not undoable.

The Way Forward for People with Pandemic Paranoia

If you follow the state guidelines regarding going to public places, meeting with people and wearing the necessary PPEs, you may be able to adapt to this new lifestyle, but long exposure to it or to make it the permanent norm is not recommended. That goes 10-fold for people suffering from COVID paranoia. For such patients, Dr. Saunders suggests the following steps to overcome these fears:

  • Stay away from COVID-related news as much as possible. 
  • Fight the urge to clean things repeatedly and needlessly (but don’t completely stop. Cleanliness is still essential; however, there is a balance between normal behavior and obsessive behavior)
  • Let the kids go out with a facemask and sanitizer
  • Reach out to support groups or medical professionals for help
  • Understand the difference between physical distancing and social distancing. You don’t need to completely distance yourself from other humans; as long as you maintain a safe physical distance, you can interact with them.


It takes time and patience to overcome fears, especially if those fears may be unrealistic. Yes, COVID-19 is a dangerous disease, but hundreds of millions of people are managing to maintain their normal lives, as long as they keep to the standard policy of wearing masks, keeping a safe distance from others and washing their hands frequently, but not obsessively, they should be fine. 

Decluttering During the Pandemic

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Aside from the disruptions the coronavirus has caused, it has given people a lot of free time since many of us are finding ourselves quarantining or just working from home.

Whether that’s a good thing or not is debatable because for many, idle time means an onslaught of unpleasant things, such as anxiety about the future.

Additionally, some are finding that being ‘cooped up’ in the house is causing unexpected issues with relationships, not just husbands and wives, but whole families. Simply put, having so much free time may not be the best thing for a lot of people.

Sadly, there isn’t anything anyone can do about the many available hours the pandemic has granted our planet and the results that this pandemic has perpetuated upon our social lifestyles is something that is going to be researched for many years to come. 

So, what can we do about it? Staying positive is the number one priority and by utilizing a positive attitude, we can find ways to take advantage of this free time to our benefit. This situation can be analogous to our “Thinking Out of the Box” techniques which would definitely apply here whether you are in a state of depression or not. But there are other methods of keeping busy and can even be added to your short-term bucket list of accomplishments.

If this year has taught us anything, it’s how unpredictable life can be and how meaningless material things are. If you believe that, consider getting rid of all nonessential items in your home and Marie-Kondo-ing your way out of materialism.

Not sure where to start? Don’t fret because we have got you; here are all the essential tips on decluttering your home during the pandemic.

Don’t Think of it as “Getting Rid of Stuff”

Decluttering doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking process that reduces you into a sweating mess for fear of losing items you love. If you step into it thinking that you have to extricate things you once loved from your life, you will be anxious throughout the process and not enjoy the outcome.

You are supposed to feel light and free after going on a decluttering rampage, and if that’s not how you think, then perhaps you don’t have your mind in the right place. To truly benefit from eliminating all the unnecessary items in your house, you should focus on making the right choices instead of the part where you get rid of things. 

For instance, pick up an item and ask yourself, “Will it make me happy?” “Will its absence affect me?”

Another way to go about making the right decision could be asking yourself if you love the item in question. For example, you look at a present you got a few years ago and you can’t decide whether you want to keep it or toss it. To arrive at a conclusion, ask yourself, do I like it? The first answer you hear your mind say will tell you what you need to do.

Give Away Items You Have Many of

There is an endless list of material things that we excessively buy even though we don’t need them, such as shoes or bags or watches, etc. Some people can be passionate watch collectors, while others can be obsessed with buying Air Jordans. In other words, everyone has one particular good that they are guilty of over-buying.

All those products that you have a bunch of, you should give away some of the models. Tossing out prototypes of the same item might be hard for you, but it will be a relatively easier decision because you’ll instantly know which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to throw out.

To get over the initial nerves of getting rid of something you so lovingly bought, think of the process as freeing yourself from unnecessary possessions. This way, you will have a different direction to think in and who knows, it just might work?

Have an Ordered Disorder

Decluttering doesn’t always have to mean you should throw away stuff. You can categorize items and stow them out in an organized way without much hassle.

  • To do that, all you need to do is label the things you wish to sort. Make two piles; keep it and toss it.
  • After you have the two piles ready, begin organizing the items you have categorized as ‘keep it.’
  • Put them in separate boxes based on their urgency of use. Keep the things you will not be needing anytime soon in one container and put it in the garage or any other storage place. For all the remaining items, use organizers to keep them sorted and in reach at all times. 

Focus on Rooms That are the Most Crammed Up 

Storage rooms, garages and attics are often the most stuffed rooms in a home because most homeowners dump all the ‘not-in-use’ items without any system in place.

Use your available time to sort out the messiest rooms. Don’t just cram things from all over the house in your garage or attic; instead, work out a system. Label all the boxes, keep them in neat piles and categorize them in whichever way you like. You can use colors or the utilization of things to organize the stacks of storage containers.

Decide What You Want to Do

Just because you don’t want to use something doesn’t mean no one else can. Many times, things we find useless serve others for many years. So, instead of throwing away items you don’t want to use any longer, donate them or sell them to make a profit.

The internet is bursting with buyers looking for stuff at reasonable prices. Avail the opportunity and put up your belongings for sale on social media or websites to earn a little. And if you are feeling generous, consider donating the thing you have decided to get rid of.

To donate stuff, try the local goodwill center or Salvation Army donation center. If those are closed, then look up online sites to give away your things. Online portals such as Facebook Marketplace and the Nextdoor app allow sellers to list items they wish to put up on the market for interested parties to see and contact. 

And thanks to the e-payment system, you don’t even have to worry about receiving payment. Set up a PayPal account or register with Venmo to receive or make payments without fear of fraud.

Take a Breather and Declutter Your Life

Your overthinking or constant worrying isn’t going to change the fact that the world is in the middle of a pandemic. So why exhaust yourself emotionally and mentally over something that’s so completely beyond your control? Instead of getting worked up about the unprecedented circumstances, do something productive. Getting rid of unnecessary possessions is one way of doing it.


Distinguishing Between Depression and Sadness

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Continuing our series on depression, we will focus on sadness and discuss how the two are related. According to the reports by the American Association for Anxiety Disorders. Depression is a debilitating condition and can alter the quality of life of anyone who suffers from it, but how does this relate to depression?. A person may exhibit many symptoms, including anxiety, sadness, higher irritability, etc. Even though sadness can be part of depression, people often confuse the two terms and use them interchangeably.

So What is the Difference?

It is a feeling, an emotion that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. However, depression is a medical condition that is characterized by sadness and multiple other symptoms. It’s essential for people to understand that the two phenomena are fundamentally different in order to seek help when need be. 

In simple terms, depression and sadness are not synonymous; one is a mental disorder while the other is a naturally occurring feeling. A chemical imbalance causes depression in the brain, and a traumatic or painful incident can trigger sadness. Sadness can fizzle out, but depression doesn’t. No matter how pervasive the sadness feels in the wake of a tragic accident, it will dissolve after some time. However, it is important to note that any traumatic event can be the triggering factor for depression, with sorrow as one of its symptoms.

Positive things can be done to manage both sadness and depression, for instance, if a person has a horrible boss and it induces sorrow in them, thinking about a day out with friends or going away for a day or two could bring relief to the sufferer. This method can help reduce anxiety, whether if it is just sadness or you are going through a depressive episode. 

However, severe depression may need more positive inducing factors. And that’s a main difference between sadness and depression.

 Sadness Symptoms

Sadness can, at times, can be all-encompassing, as if it has taken over a person’s life. And that’s natural. When people are hurt or faced with unpleasant circumstances, they can feel bad about it, but when those circumstances start disappearing or settling, people start feeling better. Even in times of extreme sadness or temporary depression, people can smile about things that make them happy. 

Depression Symptoms

Depression is an abnormal state of being. It is physiological, which affects a person’s mood, behavior, thought processes, perceptions, and even appetite. It’s a psychological disorder that colors every aspect of a patient’s life. Here are some of the most common symptoms of depression.

Upset woman in front of computer
  • Feeling of despair
  • Sadness
  • Feeling of discouragement
  • A loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • An overpowering lack of motivation
  • Receding self-esteem
  • Feelings of self-doubt

A person suffering from depression likes to stay isolated and doesn’t want to take part in social activities, such as hanging out with friends or spending time with family.

If these symptoms last for more than two weeks, then a person may be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, commonly known as depression.

Some common signs of MDD are:

  • Low levels of energy, lethargy
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Continuous depressed mood for days
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Feeling  of worthlessness or excessive levels of guilt
  • Inability to make decisions and concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Recurrent episodes of uncontrollable crying

Anybody who experiences any 5 of the mentioned symptoms is most likely suffering from depression. However, to make a formal diagnosis, the doctor must link all the signs to depression and not to a different underlying mental condition like substance abuse.

Depression hampers a person’s ability to get through the day. If you have depression, then you must often find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning.

Biology of Depression

The nerve cells, known as neurons, communicate with one another within the nervous system via a chemical known as a neurotransmitter. When there is a discrepancy in the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, the brain experiences a chemical imbalance.

In the case of depression, the brain encounters a lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for communicating the feelings of happiness and ecstasy. The brain senses or registers the feeling of joy in the presence of serotonin; otherwise, it doesn’t recognize the feeling. When there is a shortage of serotonin in the brain, a person experiences symptoms of depression. And those symptoms can only be treated with a proper treatment plan. 

Treatment of Depression

If a person experiences symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, then they should seek professional help, because unlike sadness, depression doesn’t go away without a proper treatment plan.

The most common treatment routes prescribed by psychiatrists are


To balance out the chemical imbalance in the brain during an episode of depression, doctors use drugs in patients with depression. The most common type of antidepressant medicine given to treat depression is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs increase the level of serotonin in the brain, which leads to mood enhancement and remission of the symptoms of depression.

SSRIs do help people with depression, but they can also have some adverse side effects. In some cases, they can aggravate the symptoms of depression and may even lead to the ideation of suicide in younger people.

Due to the adverse side effects of these medications, they come with black box warnings to ensure people know about the impact before consuming the medicine.

Psychotherapy and Counseling

Psychotherapy is talking with a trained professional who helps a patient tackle their symptoms of depression. Depression patients can take therapy with or without medication.

Woman holding hands with others

A therapist helps people with depression in identifying their trigger points and come up with coping mechanisms for those trigger factors.

In extreme cases, where a patient attempts suicide or harm themselves, psychotherapists are crucial to calm such patients down and help them deal with their severe symptoms.


Sadness and depression are two separate things. Both can occur independently of each other; however, depression needs proper treatment, while sadness can go away on its own.

An Alarming Rise in Antidepressant Usage Across the US

Man displaying frustration in front of a deskAmericans have been increasing their dosage and intake of antidepressants like Prozac, Celexa, and Effexol just to name a few. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of antidepressants has increased exponentially among adults and teens (individuals aged 12 and over) alike. The study documented an almost 400% increase between 1988 to 1995 and 2005 to 2008.

Research undertaken by the federal government has found out that one in every ten Americans takes an antidepressant daily. This has made the drug the third most popular prescription medicine in the country.

What Do the Numbers Say?

The picture painted by further segregation and analysis of the statistics appears to be rather grim.

  •        24% of women older than 40 years of age take antidepressants on a regular basis, the highest intake reported among any other age or gender category.
  •        14% of whites, 4% of blacks, and 3% of Mexican Americans consume antidepressants.
  •        Less than a third of Americans who use the drug have seen a mental health professional over the course of a year.
  •        Differences in income do not reflect variability in antidepressant usage.

Why the Need for Concern

There is a consensus among mental health experts across the board that even though antidepressants may prove to be effective, they act as suppressors and do not address the underlying cause of the issue. Professionals believe that the benefits of antidepressants have been overstated in targeted marketing campaigns carried out by major pharmaceutical companies.

Common Side Effects   

The most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the country are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa. These medications are considered to be “safe” but come with side effects for some people.

Patients taking SSRIs suffer from insomnia, skin rashes, digestive issues, mood swings, nausea, and joint and muscle pain to name a few. The severity of these effects varies from patient to patient with some cases being mild, others severe or in between. A rather serious issue arises when blood clotting capacity diminishes. Patients are at high risk of internal bleeding.

Some patients consuming SSRIs suffer from reduced sexual desire, performance, satisfaction or a combination of all these side effects. Lowering the dosage of SSRIs might prevent this but could potentially reduce the drug’s benefit. Antidepressants may also lead to weight loss or gain, depending on the prescription.

If antidepressants are taken alongside other serotonin-affecting drugs, a rare illness termed serotonin syndrome can occur. This syndrome leads to faster heartbeats, sweating, high body temperature, and increased blood pressure. Antidepressants should most definitely not be mixed with certain other prescription drugs. A medical professional is required to determine the correct medicine and proper dosage for the patient.

Can Antidepressants Stop Being Effective?

Even after depression symptoms are alleviated, a patient might be required to continue taking the drug. This is done in order to prevent the mental issue from resurfacing in the future. However, for many patients, these drugs stop being effective after a while. Medical science has not been able to pinpoint the exact reason for this but there are some reasons that can lead to the drug being ineffective.

Severe depression. Depression, in most cases, does not occur overnight. Rather, it is a buildup which worsens if left untreated. Even if a person is currently taking antidepressants, depression may exacerbate depending on a number of factors such as family or workplace stress, social or financial issues to name a few. Beyond a certain point of depression, antidepressants may stop working and your current dose might not be enough.

Age factor. Depression tends to get worse with age in some cases. People who are elderly experience changes in cognitive processes. They also go through mood swings that become more frequent and severe. The prescribed medication starts to lose its efficiency or can completely stop working.

A new prescription drug. Some medications meant for unrelated medical conditions may hinder the effectiveness of antidepressants.

An addiction. People suffering from addiction problems generally tend to take more than their prescribed dosage. This leads to reduced efficiency of the drug and may stop being effective all together over time.

Increased Awareness

The increased level of antidepressant usage could be reduced by spreading more awareness about mental health issues. No doctor or patient wants to be reliant on prescription drugs to find a cure.

Times are turbulent and social media does little to quell people’s worries and fears. A changing political landscape, economic transitions, and the increased usage of technology to replace jobs are just some of the more macro issues that people have to deal with in addition to regular life problems.

There is consensus across the board that prevention is better than the cure. Alternate forms of treatment such as therapy or even talking to loved ones may keep mental issues at bay. In the end, lifestyle choices do play a major part in mental health problems.

Some lifestyle choices are not an option such as a highly stressful job, which significantly contributes to aggravating mental health problems. However, other choices are in our hands such as regular exercise and better diet control.

Surveys and studies have shown that people who eat better and live better are less vulnerable to be plagued by mental health problems. A daily habit of a 20 to 30-minute exercise can really do wonders for our physical and mental wellbeing. Even patients suffering from mental issues have been known to cope with the illness better through increased physical activity.

Bottom Line

Antidepressants aren’t for everybody, but many people do use them and, for the most part, with partial or substantial success. With that said, however, the recovery from depression when using medication doesn’t happen overnight. It may take weeks, months or sometimes even years. The reason is that there are so many variations of the illness that it sometimes requires the right mix of medications for the patient to achieve results. In addition, many people who take antidepressant medications also go to therapy.  But it all starts with a visit to your doctor where he/she will determine the next steps to follow.

CBD Oil or Pharmaceutical Drugs: The Battle Against Anxiety and Depression

Depressed ManMedical science, with all its innovations and advancements, has still not managed to tackle the underlying causes behind mental health issues. Surely, elements such as trauma and high stress have been identified as causation factors but doctors still have not been able to identify the root cause behind mental problems.

One of the most prevalent problems in the US today is the mental health problem identified as anxiety. It plagues almost 18% of the population in the US. People who suffer from anxiety also tend to suffer from depression as a result. Half the people suffering from depression also suffer from anxiety-related issues as well.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

We experience daily bouts of anxiety and stress in our everyday life which sometimes is good as it gives us the nudge we need to complete tasks and reach goals. However, for people suffering from a clinically diagnosed form, anxiety is a regular feeling that hinders everyday activities and social life. It even manifests in the form of panic attacks.

Anxiety, depression, and chronic stress can even take on a physical manifestation where people may experience shortness of breath, complete despair, insomnia, unhealthy weight loss, and hormonal issues among many others.

The stress we take on every day, our past, and even family history all play a part in impacting our mental health.

Identifying and tackling anxiety and depression in its early stages is very crucial. With the correct balance of nutrition, mindset, and lifestyle choices, people can actually manage these problems. However, people nowadays turn to clinical drugs as an alternative which can have devastating side-effects as well as expose one to the danger of addiction.

Pharmaceutical Treatment

The most conventional methods of treating mental health issues are taking drugs such as Valium, Xanax, and other antidepressants, anti-psychosis medications.

These drugs work by increasing the number of certain neurotransmitters in the body such as serotonin (responsible for bringing about feelings of joy) in the human brain. This essentially means they are a temporary solution and do not address the fundamental cause of the mental issue.

Neurotransmitters are messages sent by the brain to coordinate and control the functions of the body. These messages are responsible for our thoughts, mood, actions, and our very survival. To name a few important ones: serotonin (responsible for sleep, thoughts, and food consumption), dopamine (the pleasure sensor) and endorphin (controls pain).

Drawbacks of Pharmaceutical Drugs

Focusing on a single neurotransmitter that might be functioning normally leaves patients with a higher risk of exacerbating the illness. The problem with laboratory drugs is that they target only one particular neurotransmitter at a time. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety exist because different neurotransmitters are in a state of disequilibrium. It often takes a combination of these drugs to obtain a satisfactory result, usually after numerous tries with the patient. And that could take months, even years.

Since antidepressants work by upsetting or adjusting the chemical balance within our body, there can be side effects and not everyone suffers from the same side effects even if when they are taking the same drug. Your genetics and existing metabolism play a major part in determining the type of side effects that you might experience. Some common are nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, insomnia, loss of sexual desire, fatigue, and irritability.

Where Does CBD Fit in?

Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant and even in the human body. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive extract devoid of THC that is gaining widespread popularity and increased usage as it has been shown to have amazing benefits for the human body without experiencing the high associated with marijuana use. People are increasingly using CBD to combat anxiety and depression.

While there are plenty of benefits of CBD, some stand out more than others such as its anti-inflammatory traits, reining in the spread of cancer, reducing side effects from cancer treatments, reducing anxiety, and combating depression among many other uses.

What Does CBD Research Indicate?

CBD has been in the spotlight for a number of years and the attention is now shifting from personal consumption to more clinical and scientific research purposes. With over 20,000 research articles published on the plant and its many components, there now exists scientific backing to prove the benefits of CBD.

CBD has been proven safe to use without any side effects (except dry mouth which can be cured by drinking water) for the following mental disorders: anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How Does It Work?

The largest neurotransmitter in the body is known as the endocannabinoid system and it makes up a vital part of the human body’s nervous system. The endocannabinoid system plays an important part in keeping us alive and our body in check. The systems covered by the endocannabinoid regulates sleep, digestion, reproduction, memory, and mood to name a few.

Cannabinoids which are found in CBD and our body act as message carriers for the endocannabinoid system and they restore balance to any dysfunctional neurotransmitters in our body.

When we consume CBD, we increase the number of endocannabinoids. This opens up paths for receptors which regulate our mood and bodily functions and consequently reduces anxiety and depression-related disorders.

In a nutshell, CBD can adapt within our body and help to restore neurotransmitters imbalances, thereby aiding in the alleviation of mental disorders. Because it works in junction with the same system that balances our body’s central nervous system, it knows exactly what to do to bring the body back in balance without creating any unwanted side effects.

The Bottom Line

Research has vouched for the use of CBD as a safe medical alternative that can cure a number of physical and mental problems. People suffer from different illnesses due to various reasons and it is always better to consult a physician before a complete switchover from pharmaceutical drugs to natural options. Never do it on your own!

Psychedelics as a Tool to Help Cure Depression

Psychedelic IllustrationDepression can be described as a mood disorder. It may be classified as feelings of sadness, loss, anger or disappointment that impair a person’s day to day activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 8.1 percent of American adults over the age of 20 suffered from depression at any given time during a two week period from 2013 to 2016.

Depression is a complex disease. The reason as to why exactly it happens is still not known but there are a variety of issues that increase the chances of someone suffering from it. Some people experience depression during a serious medical illness. Others may experience it due to changes in their life such as a move or the death of a loved one and some experience the sadness and loneliness felt for no apparent reason.

Symptoms may include:

  • Apprehension
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Appetite changes
  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia
  • Reduced sexual desire
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Sadness and loneliness
  • Thoughts of suicide

Major Causes of Depression

Family history. Individuals who have a history of depression in their family are most likely to suffer from it as well.

Early childhood trauma. Past events may influence the way the body reacts to fear and stressful situations. Past physical, sexual or emotional abuse can increase the vulnerability of clinical depression at a later age.

Brain structure. There is a greater chance of depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active.

Substance abuse. A history of alcohol or drug abuse tends to increase the chance of depression.

Medications. Some drugs such as corticosteroids can increase your risk of depression.

Major events. Even happy events such as a graduation, the start of a new job or getting married can lead to depression.  

Death or loss. Sadness and grief from the loss of a loved one or close friend might increase the chances of a prolonged depression.

What are Psychedelics

Psychedelics, also known as hallucinogens, are chemical substances which induce hallucinations and other sensory stimulations. They are substances that induce a heightened state of consciousness which induces the feeling of an alternate and more spiritual self. They work by adhering to receptors in the brain called serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of fulfillment and wellbeing. Some of the most popular psychedelics are psilocybin (found in mushrooms), DMT, ketamine, mescaline, LSD, and 2C-B.

Healing With Psychedelics

Depression is a challenging and long term condition that is difficult to cure. In clinical settings, research on psychedelics has shown a significant impact on mood improvement, even when it was used in just a single session.

Many people who suffered from depression and then recovered found that they needed a combination of steps to find their way out. Good nutrition, regular exercise, an increase in social time, normal sleep cycle and personal introspection (through psychedelics or meditation) can be a compelling combination; although any combination of a healthy lifestyle, along with possible medication would be advantageous towards recovery, but only sessions with a trained medical professional will be able to determine the best approach.

For years, psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD have been used in clinical trials, private therapy and at home as a cure.  In recent times, the prescribed medication ketamine has shown promising results in the healing process as well.

Any drug has a high potential for abuse; thus clinical studies delving into psychedelic research has very stringent protocols in place to prevent abuse and a bad experience. Patients for psychedelic trials undergo screening for schizophrenia and related disorders which could compromise the trial. At the same time, those who are selected undergo training sessions where they are informed about the drug they signed up to take.

Participants are taken to a room that has been set to give a warm and comforting feeling and then they are given a dose of the substance. A researcher is with them at all times during the experience which usually lasts between four to six hours and may talk them through any anxiety that the patients may experience. Typically patients are asked to don headphones as well as eyeshades and then lie down. They are encouraged to go as deep in the stimulated feeling as they can to connect with their subconscious. As the trial ends and the hallucinogenic effect wears off, patients and researchers examine the experience.   

Results of Research

A study conducted in 2010 indicated that psilocybin reduced anxiety and depression in patients who were at an advanced stage of cancer, which helped them reign in their fear of death.

Similar research conducted more recently has shown similar and promising results. In 2016, for example, a study conducted by John Hopkins and a follow up by New York University, found that 80 percent of cancer affected patients showed a significant reduction in depression, mood swings, and anxiety levels; even six months after receiving just a single dose of psilocybin.  


Between the ’50s and ’70s, the Federal government funneled millions of dollars into research in psychedelics. Through the mid 60’s psilocybin and LSD were legal and quite easily accessible. Through the Controlled Substances Act, signed by President Nixon, psilocybin was grouped with Category A class narcotics such as cocaine and heroin; prohibiting their use for any purpose. Research soon came to a halt and whatever data was collected, almost all of it got erased from the field of psychiatry. Only recently, researchers have started to delve back into conducting healing through psychedelics with promising results in a short period of time.

Psychedelic medicines provide a path of treatment that is often more productive than other methods, with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medicines. Psychedelics have also proved to be more effective for patients who have been immune to other approaches.  

If the research stays on track, the advances made could drastically change the landscape of mental health. Psychedelic treatment won’t be available for just anyone and recreational use is still banned. But those with certain illnesses could seek a psychiatrist certified in psychedelic therapy. People afflicted with terminal illnesses could enjoy the remainder of their days without the fear of death looming over them. People suffering from PTSD might find relief in normal life without suffering flashbacks or trauma.

We are not at this point right now but such is the promise of psychedelic medicine.

Simple Ways to Tackle Stress and Depression – Part I

Stressed businessman
Both internal and external circumstances can cause stress

Some people have or will have experienced stress and anxiety at least once in their lifetime. For others, it may be a frequent occurrence. Maybe it’s because of ongoing issues at home or on the job or it may be physiological, as you might be suffering from a lack of certain chemicals in the brain.

The quick pace of modern times has also made this problem a more prevalent one, especially now during this COVID crisis. More people are now victims of stress and its consequences. Here, we will try to help you with a small yet effective guide on how to deal with stress and we will be applying some suggestions that you usually won’t see on psychology websites when dealing with depression.

Longtime stress can lead to more hazardous health conditions, such as anxiety attacks and depression, so it is best if your situation can be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. Let’s take a look at what you can do to help alleviate your anxieties.

How Can I Cope?

DepressionAlthough you might think it is the end of the world, it is not. Below are some suggestions that have been proven to work. All it takes is a simple tryout and then you can see which ones will work for you. The idea is to find something that will stop you from worrying and subsequently give your body some rest from feeling anxious, which can lead to numerous physical issues. You can stop it and if there is one factor to emphasize, it is don’t give up!

Meditation Helps in Any Situation

Young asian man meditatingOne woman explained how she was able to feel calmer by just going into a quiet room, sitting down, and closing her eyes. She was able to clear her mind and just relax. It is a natural remedy to relieve the tension that builds up during the day. This is meditation and it is a common method many people use to simply unwind.

Some people may go a step further and put on some soft music. If you are at work, take a break, go somewhere quiet, just close your eyes and clear your mind. Too crowded at work? Make a mental note that you will meditate at home tonight (and every night if you can).

There are lots of online health websites that provide complete instructions on the proper way to meditate. Have you tried yoga? Whatever technique you use, give it a shot! Your mind and body will thank you!

What Did You Accomplish Today?

Happy people in front of a laptop

Here’s a nifty idea that many people do not think about. Build a To-Do list of daily accomplishments! 

Having a daily list of things you want to achieve not only gives you the momentum to reach that goal (or goals) but also gives you something to look forward to.

Once completed, you will feel a sense of achievement, which lifts your spirits and helps you to forget or at least diminish your concerns about your negative issues. It can also give you additional self-esteem. Overall, achieving results daily will exhilarate you.

What daily items can you put down? What are your passions?

Woman writing on a notepad
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

One unemployed woman who was inundated with financial issues, including getting letters from the IRS for defaulting on her installment loan applied this therapeutic system and it helped her to remain more tranquil with her life’s daily issues.

One of her lists was to create a dinner for close friends whom she invited over to her house for a dinner and social gathering. She loved cooking, so that fit right in. This not only gave her something to look forward to but put a smile on her face knowing that the dinner she would be cooking would continue to a nice gathering of friends afterward.

Other daily routines she set her mind on were to jog every morning, then stop in the local bagel store for a bite and coffee, but she didn’t stop there.

Happy woman in front of a laptop
What did you accomplish today? iStock

When she returned home, she would go through hundreds of photographs that were taken of her family throughout the years and digitally scan them so that she could have a digital recording of all the fun times she had when her children were young. She would then pick out the best ones and email selected ones to her children daily.

The above example is just one of an indefinite number of things you can do if you put your mind to it. Just find things you like doing and set them as your daily goals! We’re sure many interesting ideas can come to mind.

Whatever your passion, make a note of it and look back at your list periodically. Maybe you’d like to change it? Never give up hope!

Taking the Accomplishments Even Further!

Many showing happyness
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The above does sound appetizing, doesn’t it? Just the thought of achieving you’re sought-after desires is enough to make anyone feel happier!

But why stop at a daily list? How about a weekly to-do list? Can you jot down things you want to get done by the end of each week? Did you want to fix those kitchen cabinets or paint the living room by week’s end or maybe go to that Broadway show you’ve been thinking about for the last three weeks? Perhaps a weekend getaway?   That broken bicycle is just waiting for you to make it work again. Does your backyard need some flower planting?

One person said he started a Facebook group about country music. How many likes can you get each month? Build on it and check it off as you complete each task toward your accomplishments.

Wait a minute! If we have a weekly bucket list, what about a monthly one? Stressful times at work? Go ahead and add job items you’d like to complete. You can even mix and match things to do between the job and home each day. Write it down and check it off!

If you want to do some things to look forward to in the future, one suggestion is to do some web searches for vacations or pick up some booklets at your local travel agency. Where do you want to go? How about a cruise?

One person said he had the following things piling up and so he set aside a Saturday to take care of them all:

      • Speak to a contractor about installing a deck in the backyard
      • Oil change for the car
      • Open a new bank account for his business
      • Go shopping with the wife (yes, some men despise this, but hey, it’s just another daily bucket list to check off as an accomplishment!)
      • Complete some business items on the computer so that they are ready for Monday

He woke up early that Saturday and asked the contractor to come at 8:00 AM, then he brought his car into the shop for the oil change and walked across the street to open the bank account.

When he came home, the wife was waiting for them to go shopping, and shopping they did. The man was home early enough to complete his business items and still had time to relax for the rest of the night.

Oh, what a nice set of accomplishments that was! Maybe they’re not the most fun things for you to do on a Saturday, but it sure makes you feel good that you completed them all, doesn’t it?

So don’t put off what you want to do tomorrow and do it today. As Santa says, make a list and check it twice! But don’t wait until Christmas to get it done. Do it today!

Dream On!!

Woman sleeping with blindfoldThere is nothing wrong with fantasizing about better times or thinking about things you might like to do in the future, so long as you keep it in perspective and don’t lose sight of the fact that it is not your reality just yet.

It has been proven that for some people, thinking about fun and happy times before or in the future can calm your nerves and make you feel less anxious, even if it is just for a short while.

Are You Angry?

Angry emojiAnger can no doubt bring along stress and anxiety. One thing that should be done is not to keep that anger within yourself. Talk to someone about it. If they can’t help, at least you have an outlet to vent your frustrations.

Abraham Lincoln stated that when he would get angry, he would write a letter to the person he is annoyed with, but he would never send it out because just the fact of writing his frustrations down was enough to quell his agitations.

Besides letting it out, some people turn it into a positive factor and (as mentioned above) will do things to make their lives better, even if it is for a day that they ordinarily would not have done. One person stated that when he would get angry or stressed, he would clean the house, whether that be just ordinary cleaning or throwing out stuff he had accumulated for years and didn’t need anymore. This was his way of dealing with anxiety.

Try dropping your pride and make up with the person you are yelling at or at least work out a compromise. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel. You can go back and pick up your pride tomorrow.

The Right Foods Can Make a Difference


So maybe you’re feeling a little better now? If the answer is yes or no, let’s discuss the most natural way to diminish stress. Without further discussion, here is a list of some of the most anti-anxiety foods you can eat. 

Cashew Nuts

Cashew nutsZinc deficiency in the body can bring several psychiatric disorders, and stress is one of them. You can maintain the appropriate levels of zinc by adding cashew nuts to your diet. Cashew nuts can be used in different recipes. They can also be consumed exclusively as a snack.

Dark Chocolate

Sweet Candy Chocolate Delicious Dark Chocolate

According to a research study conducted by the University of Bern in Switzerland, the use of dark chocolate can alleviate the effects of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are associated with anxiety-prone conditions.

Dark chocolate also has antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals – the elements that may be responsible for heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. It contains a variety of minerals, but this chocolate with less than 70% cocoa contains dairy and sugar. Excessive use of it might lead to weight gain.


Green-bio-asparagus-buds-healthy-low-calories-sodium 1920x1080 99-hdThis spring vegetable is high in folic acid, which is considered good for cognitive health and stress conditions. Use steamed asparagus in salads. You can also roast asparagus stalks for a crispier texture. 


If you are experiencing a stressful situation for a long time, then your immune system will also bear the brunt of it. When using different food items to relieve the consequences of stress, garlic can come handy in by boosting your immune system, since it is packed with many antioxidants. Garlic is an all-season vegetable and can become a part of nearly every meal.

Make these a part of your daily lifestyle which will help you to feel happier and more stress-free. In our next section, we will explore how physical actions along with the proper medical assistance can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain calm. 

How Unrealistic Goals Pave Way for Depression

Today, our lives revolve around the idea of growth. Growth in terms of self-growth, economic growth, growth as a society, growth in technology – it has become a never-ending quest for becoming something more than what we are at the given moment.

We have become so obsessed with the idea of constant growth that the mere idea of stopping or staying still has become a synonym of failure, lagging behind, missing something out.

It is believed that if we stop, we die. After all, the time is ticking

This constant pressure to keep moving and keep doing something more has started to take a toll on our mental health, individually as well as collectively as a society. If we look back in time, we will see that today’s generation is more prone to anxiety, depression, and burnout than their ancestors. We might be progressing, achieving milestones, making things that can change the world, ticking things off our bucket lists, acquiring a new set of skills to meet with the time’s need, however, all this is coming at the cost of our mental health.

Where we are getting with this calls for the need to stop, reflect and evaluate. We need to stop and breathe and let go of the notion that stopping is the opposite of growth. Growth is not linear. It is not in one direction. Growth is inwards as well as outwards. Creating a balance between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ is too important in this time.

But, how do we do that?

There is obviously a human need to keep creating meanings out of things and events. But, it does not mean one should lead themselves to the point of burnout.

Set realistic goals for yourself. Forget there is any clock ticking. There really is not. Time is relative and it is high time that we understand this now. The purpose is to create something of value, and it can be as little as planting a new tree in your garden, painting your wall, or contributing your role in a charity cause.

The point is, do not count what you are doing. This will put a pressure on you and that will turn a healthy mind into an anxious mind – obsessive, compulsive and always restless. There won’t come a day when you are not be given an opportunity to create something, whether it is in your professional life, your personal relationships or your social life. Even if you do not realize, you are making a change. Our purpose is to live day by day so we can understand what elements make life what it is, instead of constantly chasing something.

Set goals but do not set the standards for measuring it. Do not set standards to define failure. These standards and this desire to achieve the idea of perfection are the main causes of increasing anxiety disorders and depression in today’s generation. Setting the goals too high will only throw you back too low. Go outside, exercise to feel good about your body, be generous and give as much as you can. Do not narrow the scope of your being by always trying to achieve something in materialistic terms.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Symptoms of Postpartum DepressionCommonly known as baby blues, Postpartum Depression hits some mother’s post childbirth pretty hard. The condition is also known as postnatal depression and is caused by the sudden lapse of hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone along with various hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Production of these hormones generally plummets after childbirth. Add sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts and anxiety and feeling of loss of control over one’s life; and you have a recipe for disaster.

In order to have a better understanding of postpartum depression, you should know what to expect in post birth and how to assist your spouse with this type of depression, the symptoms of postpartum depression are the following:

Inability to bond with baby

One of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression in women is the inability to bond with the baby. This could be both, physical and emotional. While some women experience lack of connection with their newborn and have to ask for their partner’s assistance or the hospital staff, others may find it difficult to hold and nurse the baby themselves at all.

Crying Fits

If you have forgotten all about PMS during pregnancy, you are in for a huge surprise after you deliver the baby for the postpartum symptoms, which includes excessive crying on top of the list. The feelings of guilt due to not being able to care for your child, the inability to help the baby latch on to you for a few days, or simply a colic child can induce the feeling of inadequacy, which are too common during the phase of postpartum depression.

Loss of Energy

Not only do new mothers face a drastic shift in their energy levels, but they also experience severe drops in appetite as well as overwhelming fatigue most of the time. Mothers experiencing these symptoms should consult their medical practitioners for treatment.  

Suicidal Thoughts

Postpartum depression is obviously heightened if the mother is having suicidal thoughts or thoughts to cause physical harm to herself and (or) the baby. Usually, these symptoms occur in cases of acute depression. Anxiety and panic attacks are also common symptoms of postpartum depression.

Constant irritability

It is one thing being annoyed the morning after your baby had kept you up wailing all night, and it is an entirely different thing to be irritated at everything and every person around. Symptoms of postpartum depression include constant irritability and expressed thoughts about not being a good mother, or feeling unworthy of the bundle of joy.

Shift in Sleeping Patterns

Either the patient suffering from postpartum depression would face severe insomnia or would be sleeping too much. In either case, the symptom needs to be monitored for whether it is only the postpartum fatigue or postpartum depression (postpartum depression would be paired with various other symptoms of postnatal depression along with disturbed sleep patterns).

Reduced Interest in general Activities

Some postnatal depression patients report a sudden loss in interests and activities which they used to enjoy a lot. Many people lose interest in their jobs and quit considering it as a general aftermath of giving birth, but that’s not it. Also, many postpartum depression victims show symptoms of diminished thinking ability or lack of concentration on general matters.

Though it is often a difficult battle, overcoming postpartum depression is not impossible. It is critical that you seek help for it immediately, ensuring that you would be, in time, able to take the best care of your baby. Prolonged postpartum depression is detrimental to mental health in the long run and may heighten the risk of the problem recurring after future pregnancies.