Firstly, What is depression?
Depression is a word we use to describe a pattern of negative feelings a person experiences. According to its severity, depression may affect a person’s ability to function properly in many instances. Physiologically, it is manifested by altered activity of specific neural circuits in the brain.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and a leading cause of disability worldwide. It contributes to a decreased quality of life and a greater risk of death. Everyone experiences sadness in their lives, but depression is more than just ups and downs. It is a serious condition that can affect many spheres of life.
With that in mind, there are two main types of depression: situational and clinical.
Situational depression is often temporary and caused by a tragic life event (such as loss and hardship), or a medical condition. Talking through the problem in therapy can usually address the condition. However, if it is not resolved, situational depression can turn into clinical depression (3).
Clinical depression is commonly known as major depression and is the more severe form. Research shows that clinical depression may have genetic links; 40-50% of depression’s cause is genetic, while the remaining 50% is due to physical and psychological trauma (2).
Clinical depression can alter a person’s ability to participate in regular, daily life activities and routines, sometimes for extended periods. Treatment for clinical depression usually consists of medication, cognitive therapy, participating in support groups, or some combination of the three.
Statistically, twice as many women as men experience clinical depression (2).
The most prevalent symptoms of depression are feelings of sadness and a general disinterest in activities. These are often seen as the basis for a range of other effects, including:
- Mood: Apathy, general discontent, guilt, self-blame, hopelessness, lack of pleasure in activities, mood swings, lack of energy
- Behavioural: Agitation, frequent crying, irritability, frustration, restlessness, social isolation
- Sleep Disturbance: Early awakening, extreme sleepiness, insomnia, restless sleep
- Whole Body: Loss of appetite, over eating, weight changes, fatigue
- Cognitive:Lack of concentration, trouble remembering things, difficulty with decision-making, slowness in activity, constant negative thoughts and cyclical overthinking, thoughts and/or attempts at suicide
Magnesium and Depression
Many people with depression may not even know they are magnesium deficient. Magnesium’s role in depression is quite complex—here are some ways that the two are connected.
- For people in general, a lack of magnesium can cause depression-related symptoms such as apathy, mental numbness, and emotional indifference (5). When the body deals with increased stress, magnesium levels are depleted because magnesium is involved in almost all steps of the body’s stress response and recovery (4). Supplementing magnesium can help with the stress-related symptoms commonly seen with depression (4).
- Magnesium also facilitates the use of energy in every cell of the body. Lack of energy is a prevalent symptom of depression that increased magnesium can help offset.
- Without sufficient magnesium, neurons are incapable of releasing neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry signals between neurons) in the brain. Magnesium allows the ionic channels, gates, and pumps to function optimally, thereby facilitating the conditions for the release of neurotransmitters.
Some key neurotransmitters that play a role in depression are dopamine and serotonin.
- Dopamine is linked with mood, motivation, and sensations of pleasure. It also plays a role in regulating sleep, attention, focus, and memory. Dopamine can increase goal-oriented behavior. A lack of dopamine can contribute to depression (6).
- Serotonin also affects mood. It is thought to regulate social behavior, sleep, memory, appetite, digestion, as well as sexual desire and function (7). Serotonin deficiency can cause a decline in feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and well-being. Insufficient serotonin can contribute to depression and anxiety (6).
When the body is magnesium deficient, important neurotransmitters are not released and cannot perform their roles, which in turn may cause various symptoms. If magnesium deficiency is causing an insufficient amount of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin to be released, supplementing magnesium to restore the imbalance could help with certain symptoms such as lack of motivation, emotional detachment, and irregular eating and sleeping patterns.
Increased magnesium intake can help correct imbalances and thereby restore emotional equilibrium (8). Antidepressant medications can replace some of the neurotransmitters that are lacking in the brain. However, they are not effective for everyone and can induce unwanted side effects. Magnesium supplements can raise neurotransmitter levels naturally. Please be aware, however, that in some people, magnesium might cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (9). These side effects can usually be avoided by taking the right amount of magnesium for your body. The recommended daily average dosage is 310-320 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men. It is possible to overdose on magnesium, so avoid taking more than the recommended daily dose.
if you currently take antidepressants, you can take magnesium along with them—some studies show that supplementing magnesium can even increase the effectiveness of antidepressants (8).
While magnesium is an essential nutrient, many people do not get enough each day. Certain medical conditions can also make it more likely to become magnesium deficient including celiac disease, type 2 diabetes, and long-term alcohol use disorders.
If you want to increase your magnesium intake, one of the best things you can do is to incorporate magnesium chloride (not Epsom Salt) baths or magnesium oil sprays.
Supplementing with magnesium is a safe, non-medicinal way to help depression symptoms by boosting your energy and mood.
If you are currently taking medications, check with your doctor before taking any magnesium supplement to make sure there is no adverse interaction. If you have kidney disease, be sure to check with your doctor before taking magnesium.
If you feel you need to talk to someone, there are many incredible therapists out there. Do your homework, and know there is no shame in asking for help. Magnesium has been proven scientifically to help with anxiety and minor depression. For depression that is long lasting or severe, professional help is only a phone call away.
3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression
Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
Beyond Blue Phone Number
- 1300 22 4636