In a whole-person approach, the entire body is recognized as an important component in depression. The whole-person approach accepts the body as a complex organism and looks for systemic reasons for depression. This approach is supported by Dr. Robert A. Anderson, a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association.
In the Clinician’s Guide to Holistic Medicine, Dr. Anderson makes this recommendation: “A definitive diagnosis of depression should not be made until physical conditions have been surveyed.”
The body is not merely along for the mind’s ride into depression. The body is an active participant, with the capacity to aggravate or improve symptoms of depression. The whole-person approach looks closely at the physical, emotional, environmental, and spiritual factors involved in depression. Understanding the complete picture of an individual’s depression leads to effective whole-person solutions.
For many people, their first step on the road to recovery from depression is into a physician’s office. After all, they feel bad. Whatever the factors leading to their depression, many will attempt to obtain a medical diagnosis for physical symptoms:
- Changes in sleep pattern, either sleeping too much or too little
- Changes in appetite, losing appetite or feeling as if they can never get enough
- Changes in weight, correlating to that change in appetite, result in either putting on excessive weight or losing weight
- Fatigue and a lack of vitality
- Trouble remembering or concentrating
- Heightened anxiety or irritability
These are all physical signs that point to depression and can arise from a variety of physical causes.
Although this chapter will include extensive information about physical causes, the intent is not to make you feel overwhelmed by the number of factors that could be present in your depression. Rather, they are presented to enlighten you to the very real possibility that what is going on inside you includes a physical component and is affecting your resolve to overcome depression.
After you have made a mental decision to intentionally recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy, your body may not be in a position to follow your mind. Your body may be holding you back. In order to go forward, you need to examine what is happening to you physically and make changes to assist in your recovery.
Certain studies show that addressing physical conditions can have a dramatic effect in overcoming depression. Psychiatrist Richard Hall’s findings reveal “evidence [of] dramatic and complete clearing of psychiatric symptoms when medical treatment for underlying physical disorders was instituted.”
In the whole-person approach, the body itself is considered to hold its own special key to the reason behind depression. Physical illnesses are explored as well as physical conditions that may not be diagnosed or readily apparent. Even when blood work and medical examinations are done, the physical culprits involved in depression can be overlooked.
Like a detective, you need to be informed and persistent to discover the truth. As you continue in the journey to reach beyond your own depression, be aware of any physical factors influencing your ability to sustain recovery.