Posted in Depression, Depression Treatment
Major depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in the U.S. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 17.7 million American adults aged 18 years or older grappled with a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety, muscle aches, and an inability to feel pleasure in anything. The negative effects of this illness have the ability to permeate a person’s life, harming not only their work performance but also their social relationships. An estimated 5o percent people who died by suicide also suffered from depression.
For some people, however, depression is not a disease – it’s a symptom often represented by the deficiency of an important biological marker such as vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency is an insidious, often ignored condition that can produce symptoms that mimic major depressive disorder (MDD) and other mental illnesses. People with B12 deficiency might find that their feelings of despair and self-loathing vanish with something as simple as a change in diet. This is why, when it comes to diagnosing major depression, a simple blood test can save a person’s life.
What is B12?
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that does the following:
- It participates in many essential biological functions
- It helps form red blood cells and DNA
- It contributes to nerve cell health
- It is responsible for forming myelin, a protein that aids neuron-to-neuron communication
Like all vitamins, the body cannot make B12 on its own; it must receive it through food or supplements. Vitamin B12 is naturally plentiful in meat and animal products like fish, poultry, eggs, and low-fat milk. Plant products do not contain B12.
When people fail to receive an adequate amount of B12, their physical and mental health suffer. Some people do not receive the proper amount of B12 in their diet, whereas others face difficulty in absorbing the B12 they consume. In both the cases, symptoms appear gradually and can eventually become severe or even permanent.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Jaundice (i.e.: yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Difficulty thinking
- Memory loss
- Paranoia or hallucinations
- Low mood
Many of these symptoms resemble major depression, leading a person to seek treatment for depression but not B12 deficiency. Before diagnosis, clinicians should perform a blood test to measure the amount of B12 in the body. Most routine exams will include this step.
Who is at risk for B12 deficiency?
Vegetarians, older adults, and people with digestive ailments, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, are especially prone to B12 deficiency. There are other issues that can lead to this deficiency. These include:
- Weight loss surgery that involves removing part of the stomach or small intestine
- Heavy drinking
- Immune system disorders
- Pernicious anemia, a disease that hampers B12 absorption
- Poor diet
For people who cannot get B12 in their diet, for instance, strict vegans or vegetarians, a number of supplements are available. B12 can also be found in fortified grains, such as cereal. Some people experience a lot of acidity when they take oral tablets of B12 vitamins. Such people can receive an injection that bypasses the stomach lining so that B12 is directly metabolized by the liver.
Other conditions that can cause or mimic depression
Vitamin B12 deficiency is not the only physical condition that affects mood. Other conditions that mimic depression include:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Omega-3 deficiency
Before diagnosis, patients should request a full physical exam to rule out any other physical ailments that could be contributing to their low mood. By treating this underlying condition, patients will not only be able to escape their depression but avoid other complications also.
Recovering from depression
While fortifying the food with B12 can help alleviate depressive symptoms, it is, however, also essential to screen for the severity of the disorder as early intervention in the form of medications and counseling may prove to be helpful.
Depression is a common mental health disorder that can be effectively treated with a combination of medicines, counseling, and therapy. If you or a loved one is battling depression and is looking for a depression treatment facility, then get in touch with Depression Treatment Centers of California. For more information about depression rehab centers in California, call our 24/7 helpline 855-678-0400 and speak to a member of our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.