What is depression?

Associated with a state of hopelessness and despair some amount of depression is normal in every day life.  Such a state lasting for longer than two weeks (two months for bereavement) is characterized as Problem Depression.  Once a person is completely unable to function alone, or becomes suicidal, a depressive mental illness has developed. Without effective treatment, depressive disorders get worse over time.

Why do some people have a depressive disorder while others just feel “down”?

Depression Disorders are mental illnesses caused by a variety of genetic, environmental, and situational factors:

v    Genetic predisposition: increased likelihood of passing on the gene with one or both parents having depression

v    Neurotransmitter imbalance: less seritonin, epinephrine and dopamine

v    Hormonal influences: The Pill, HRT and PMS can have depressive effects in women ; decreased testosterone can cause depression in men

v    Personalities:  those with low self-esteem, less capable of adaptation, have poor communication skills can be prone to depression.  Anxious and addictive personalities are more depression prone.

v    Childhood trauma:  Abuse, abandonment, hypercritical parenting, divorce, death/suicide of a loved one, school problems can lead to depression

v    Overuse of alcohol/drugs

v    Some medication effects

v    Current situational factors:  anything from relationship issues, conflict, financial distress, to a major life transition can trigger depression

v    High Correlation Conditions:  Depression is directly associated with heart disease, MS, alzheimers, diabetes, HIV/AIDS.  Physical changes from the disease can predispose a person to depression

v    Chronic Pain:  these conditions cause neurotransmitter and endorphin depletion.

v    Mood and Learning Disorders:  eating disorders, panic disorders, learning disabilities and anxiety disorders are all known to be associated with depression

v    Diet/Nutrition: Low vitamin D, omega 3, vitamin B and protein can cause depression.  Also, high caffeine, refined sugar, high dairy consumption can lead to depression.

v    Pregnancy and Post-Partum:  A high stress pregnancy can cause depression.  After delivery it is common for women to develop depression.  It can lead to poor baby-mother bonding and can affect the baby’s neurochemistry.

How can massage therapy help with depression?

Regular massage treatments for depression have very similar effects to those of anxiety since, these two conditions involve a balance of the same neurotransmitters. In addition to the benefits mentioned in the anxiety report, a decrease in anger and an increase in energy levels have also been noticed, specifically in clients with depression. Another recently discovered benefit is an increase in oxytocin, or ‘the trust hormone’. Now more than ever we understand the importance of touch, and the depressive disorders that can develop from a lack of touch over time.


Catherine Taman is a Registered Massage Therapist practicing in Toronto, Canada.  She has a special interest in treating chronic pain, headaches, sports injuries and pregnancy related pain. To book an appointment with Catherine, visit


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