While depression is in itself a common condition – according to one estimate it affects about one in ten people in any given year -many others are affected by depressive symptoms to a degree that would not qualify them for this more serious diagnosis. According to Dr Lewis Judd, former Director of the US National Institute of Mental Health, and colleagues, approximately one in five people interviewed reported suffering from one or more depressive symptom in the preceding month. Huge numbers of people are suffering from very distressing problems of mood, behaviour and bodily functions of the type that are associated with depression. Nor are these symptoms benign in terms of their impact on a person’s ability to function. Judd and his colleagues found that people with ‘subsyndromal depression’ reported more difficulties in their work and social relationships than were reported by a control group, and that significantly more people with these symptoms had been on disability. Given the reluctance that people have to seek medical attention even for full-blown cases of depression, and the ill-judged care they might receive once they make such a decision, it seems unlikely that a high percentage of people with subsyndromal depression will be properly treated through conventional medical channels. Such people are therefore excellent candidates for self-treatment with St John’s Wort and there is no reason to believe that it will not prove to be helpful for many of them, given its excellent track record in more severely depressed patients.

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