Top Ways to Beat Back Depression

Learn about the link between depression and osteoporosis.

By Stacey Feintuch

In today’s society, many of us strive for a youthful appearance. However, certain health conditions, including osteoporosis, may make you look older. It's not surprising then that people with osteoporosis-related issues are prone to depression. In one study, three-fourths of women with osteoporosis were found to also suffer from depression.

The reasons behind the numbers? For example, when you have osteoporosis, you may experience physical changes that exaggerate the physical signs of aging, such as a forward rounding of the upper back called kyphosis (also known as hunchback). While some rounding of the back is normal, kyphosis involves a rounding of more than 50 degrees that can also make your stomach stick out. Most clothing isn’t designed to address these posture changes and your self-esteem can likely take a beating.

Don’t suffer in silence. Know the signs to look for and how to manage them.

Signs of Depression

Some signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • depressed mood
  • decreased interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • sleep disturbances like insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • indecisiveness or decreased concentration
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • sadness or unhappiness
  • insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • agitation or restlessness
  • unexplained crying spells

Depression affects everyone differently, with symptoms varying from person to person.

Tips to Beat Depression

Depression generally isn’t an illness that you can treat yourself. Numerous treatments are available. Here are some that may work for you:

Talk Therapy: Many people find relief by talking with a mental health professional. You’ll learn what’s causing your depression and how to regain happiness and ease depression symptoms.

Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to ward off feelings of depression and promote strong bones. HealthPartners Medical Group, a physician group with offices in Indiana and Michigan, believes so strongly in exercise’s benefits for depression that its doctors are beginning to routinely prescribe pedometers to all patients screened for depression. Aim for bone-strengthening, weight-bearing activities like walking, dancing, jogging or tennis.

Diet: Healthful eating can go a long way. A study in The British Journal of Psychiatry found that the best diet for depression includes whole foods (fish, fruits, vegetables) and not processed ones (sweetened desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains, high-fat dairy products). Studies also show that eating too little omega-3 fatty acids can promote depression. Get your omega-3s, which also reduce bone loss, from fatty fish like salmon or herring or fish oil supplements.

Sleep: People who get six to nine hours of sleep reported a better quality of life and are less likely to be depressed,  according to the American Academy of Sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk with your healthcare provider.

Journaling: Writing down your feelings and thoughts can be therapeutic. Seeing them on paper (a letter, journal or diary) will give you insight into what you’re going through and can help you feel better.

Medications: Antidepressants can help improve depression symptoms, with side effects differing with each medication. A study in the Harvard Mental Health Letter found that people taking certain antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) may be at risk for thin bones. Together, you and your doctor can find one that’s right for you. Always take your medicine as directed and never stop taking it without consulting your doctor.

Education: The more you know about depression, the more empowered you'll be to beat it. Learn all you can about depression by reading about it online, picking up pamphlets in your doctor’s office and talking to others in the same situation.

Caffeine: A stimulant, caffeine can make you anxious and impact sleep. It’s wise to cut back or eliminate sources of caffeine such as coffee, tea, soda and cola. Cola can reduce your bone mineral density by 4%, according to a Tufts University study. Switch to seltzer or clear soda; the same study found no bone loss in people who drank noncola soft drinks, like ginger ale and citrus-flavored sodas. As for coffee, one or two cups may be fine, but overdoing your java may jeopardize your bones.

Support Group: Talk out your problems in self-help or support groups. Find one that works for you—face-to-face support groups, chat rooms, forums and mailing lists are available to help those conquer depression. These groups, which are generally free, will offer an outlet to discuss your problems.

Published December 2013

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