Welcome to Joy Lab!: Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
Henry: Hello, I'm Henry Emmons and welcome to Joy Lab.
Aimee: And I'm Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. And we're doing that over the next lots of episodes as we've shared, by guiding you through this course, not just working through these coping skills of depression and anxiety, but helping you go beyond.
And so, in this next lesson that Henry will share with us, it's really this conversation, in my opinion, that really transformed my understanding of depression and sort of my relationship with it. So, Henry's going to talk about these subtypes. Henry, can you describe a little bit more about how these might take shape for folks?
Henry: so this lesson is one that I think is really important and can sometimes feel a little bit confusing. So just a little bit of context here. We're going to be talking about what I call the subtypes of depression, or you could use this for applying to anxiety too. And basically it's drawn on my observations and kind of insights gained over the years of seeing a lot of people and trying to incorporate my and the different ways that people have of kind getting in their own way, creating obstacles, if you will.
So we've all got these patterns, and we talk a lot about obstacles here in Joy Lab. Which is why we also try to talk about strengths and, you know, the antidotes to these obstacles. But it is really helpful, I think, to be able to get in the right ballpark of which of these subtypes you think that fits you the best.
And there's, there's just three of them, and I'm not going to go into detail now because we'll do that in the session, but just to say that don't feel too concerned about whether you think you've figured it out just right, because it's not that important. Every one of us has each of these patterns, these three patterns that we fall into from time to time.
But it is helpful if you can to identify the one pattern that seems like it's your default. Like it's your, kind of your automatic go to when you're struggling. When you're not feeling quite like yourself. Because then you can really pinpoint the kind of strategies or, you know, diet or movement or even medicines and supplements that might work best to bring you back on track and get you balanced again.
So move into this with a sense of, kind of expectation that it's going to be helpful, but not going into it too strongly. Like you've just got to figure it out and get it just right.
Aimee: Yeah, I think the power comes, in part, the understanding of these subtypes, from sort of narrowing down where we start this opportunity to tailor, from a sort of too big buffet of strategies. Um, and it also this. It offers some awareness, I think, and discernment of what may or may not be some tendencies that we have.
And then it's this sort of gentle awareness that I think can help us be a bit kinder to ourselves and then work toward change in a way that is more self compassionate and authentic. Also with the understanding of these subtypes, I think it can be really helpful to also then take the resilience quiz that we have.
Um, so here's your action. You can take the resilience quiz over at NaturalMentalHealth.com, you'll see it right on the homepage. You'll see it in the links for the show notes. And then you can take into consideration what feels sort of as Henry lays out in the lessons, like, what intuitively maybe you align with.
And then also in the resilience types, we have some of these obstacles embedded as well. And so you'll see an obstacle that'll show up in your resilience type, right? So it's, we're affirming the strengths that we have through those resilience types. And then there's some obstacles that pop up, and then there's these subtypes.
So you might see that in your obstacles, you might actually see one of these subtypes there. If you don't, it's nice to just sort of hold both or hold a few and consider what feels right for you. Would you agree with that, Henry?
Henry: Absolutely. Well put.
Aimee: Thank you. That's how I like to do it. Yeah. So take the resilience quiz, consider what comes up for you with these subtypes, and then we'll continue to move through the course in a way that can support you as you integrate these strategies. So, let's dive in.
Henry: It's good to have you back. We're gonna talk now about the different subtypes of depression. And the three subtypes are what I call the anxious depression or anxious mood, agitated mood, and a sluggish mood. And so those words are very descriptive, I think. It gives you a pretty good sense right off the bat, what these categories are like.
And I want to be clear, this is not something you're going to read in the DSM book. You're not gonna necessarily hear this from other psychiatrists or therapists.
This is really my own, um, way of thinking about this really based on a lot of experience with patients, but also some of the, studying that I did when I really shifted from kind of regular psychiatry to being more of a natural psychiatrist. And, and so a lot of this understanding I did draw from some of the systems I use like Ayurveda or mindfulness. I do even use some of the early understandings of brain chemistry and neurotransmitters.
And I want to be clear that this is not a hard and fast, perfect system. It's just a way to try to land you in the right ballpark. In the, the right frame so that you can choose the most helpful kinds of nutrients and even medications and lifestyle practices for yourself.
Lemme start with the anxious mood. This is, in my experience, far and away the most common pattern. I think probably 80% of people would fit into this category, at least at some point in the course of their illness. Now, sometimes it might start with this, with this anxious pattern, and then it, it kind of morphs into one or the other categories.
So some people will be in that anxious state for a really long time, but then, things start to maybe break down a little bit more and they end up feeling really sluggish and lethargic. So if that's true for you, you might need to start by getting your energy going. But the anxious type is the most common, I think, because it's so closely connected to stress.
Stress of course, is ubiquitous. It affects everybody. And it's not even something that I think we need to avoid or think that it's a bad thing in our lives. I think stress is normal, even healthy. We need to be challenged at times. And there's some really good things that happen from facing something that's stressful, dealing with it, and kind of mastering it, if you will.
We will talk more about stress later. But really it is stress that drives a lot of this anxious pattern. And so it creates these symptoms that we're all familiar with. Things like not being able to sleep well; laying awake worrying, thinking about all the things you have to do or thinking about the next day.
It creates, obviously, symptoms or emotions of anxiety, of fearfulness, worry. But for a lot of people it goes a little deeper than that. There's a sense of insufficiency. That I am not enough somehow. Or I don't have enough, and I'm never going to. That sense that things will never quite be sufficient to fill this hole or this gap that's inside.
And a lot of people do get into problem behaviors trying to fill that very gap. Maybe it's a food addiction. Or just even carbohydrate cravings because it, for a little while, it feels like it helps. It makes one feel a little better. Um, or more destructive things, even, like alcohol, sex, gambling, any number of addictions are at least sometimes an attempt, unconsciously usually, an attempt to make a person feel better by filling this sense of need and emptiness.
People often, feel stressed out or stretched too thin, too many things on their plate. All of these things that kind of correlate with feeling anxious and stressed.
The second pattern, I call it an agitated mood or agitated depression. It's actually a little harder for people to sort this one out, even professionals, because we often don't ask the right questions. I think this is really important to identify, especially for people who are considering going on medications, because this is the pattern where people most often have problems, sometimes severe problems, with the antidepressants.
So if you've ever experienced this yourself or you've know somebody who has, when somebody, let's say, is prescribed Prozac or Zoloft, and at the very start of that, taking that medication, they feel much worse. They get much more agitated or angry, or sometimes people will self-harm. Or sometimes people will even feel suicidal and sometimes attempt suicide.
I think this is a much, much bigger risk with people who have this preexisting pattern of being overly agitated. So what do I mean by agitated? To me it means that there is an edginess to the mood. Sometimes the mood is just not stable either. Can kind of go a little bit up and down, but there's a sense of edge or being ill at ease. Not just feeling worried and anxious, but feeling irritable, easily frustrated, really driven sometimes. And oftentimes, kind of rejecting, pushing things away. So a person with this pattern is more likely to be kind of critical and negative. Sometimes that gets directed toward the self, but oftentimes it's directed toward other people so they can find it a little hard for people to want to be around them because they have such a, almost a sense of hostility at times. And this is a reflection of very different things going on in the body and the brain than the first type with the anxious mood.
The third pattern then, which I call the sluggish mood, is something that people used to think about when they thought about major depression or clinical depression. It's having trouble getting off the couch. It's not being able to get up in the morning. It's kind of really being incapacitated by the depression.
So the mood might be sad or down, but it also might be just kind of flat and not feeling much of anything. Often there's a big loss of motivation with this type and frequently it is really hard to get interested in things or to get any pleasure out of things. Really, it's a lot of being shut down. And this is very common pattern in the winter.
If you live very far north and you've experienced sort of a, a seasonal depression or winter depression. This is often what people feel like. It also can be kind of the end result of being really, really stressed in a anxious pattern for long periods of time. So long that the body starts to kind of wear out or burn out in some fundamental ways.
So these are three patterns that are going to help you identify what choices you might make for the foods you eat and the exercises you do and the nutrients you do.
So I want to take this a step further and say a little something about how my thinking about brain chemistry and causes of depression has changed. Early in my career and when during my training it was, I think pretty widely understood that it was a deficiency of something like serotonin or dopamine that caused depression. And if you could just find the right medication and kind of tweak that brain chemical, the person would recover. And I no longer see it that way. And I think more and more people are coming to realize it's just not that simple or straightforward.
I think that the problem really lies in the way that the brain communicates with itself. So it has much more to do with brain circuits or neural circuits. And, one part of the brain maybe not talking quite properly to another part of their brain. They lose their normal sense of communication.
Or in some instances, maybe that loop of communication is really over, over activated. And I think that happens actually to some degree in people with this agitated mood state. But, it is still relevant to talk about the neurotransmitters because that's really how these parts of the brain talk to one another.
So there is, you know, this electrical impulse that goes down the nerve cell, but that cannot jump across the space between the nerve cells. To do that, the brain has to use these chemicals like serotonin and dopamine and norepinephrine. So it's still something that's important to talk about. And in practice, the medications that work with these do work for certain conditions. And a lot of the natural therapies we'll talk about, they do support things like healthy serotonin levels or dopamine levels, but also we'll talk about some things that might help that brain circuit communication actually work better.
So start with the serotonin deficiency. I see this in a lot of people that typically will have the anxious pattern of depression. And signs of deficiency in serotonin are things like, feeling more anxious, not sleeping as well, a lot of times women who have premenstrual symptoms, it's because serotonin levels drop as their hormones, the female hormones are changing. Or after delivery, some women will have a problem with mood. There are seasonal changes that can reflect problems with the serotonin system. In the winter, as you produce a lot more melatonin, for example, that kind of steals from the serotonin supply, if you will, so you get tired and depressed at the same time.
So serotonin, I think for most people is really an important thing to support. A person who has a deficiency in dopamine and norepinephrine, I link those together because they're so similar in what they do. They're both kind of stimulating brain chemicals. They have slightly different functions, though that's probably worth mentioning.
So dopamine is what's known many circles as kind of the pleasure hormone or chemical. Because if you lack dopamine, it's really hard to get pleasure from things. Even things that normally you would really enjoy. And so people with that pattern, that sluggish depression pattern, or people who are, you know, simply deficient in serotonin, sometimes get into addictive behaviors like cigarette smoking, for example, which hits the dopamine button again and again, it's a way of kind of compensating for that. Or doing things that give you some pleasure, but in kind of an addictive way. It's a way of trying to unconsciously compensate for that. Some people will do that with diet. They'll crave carbohydrates 'cause they're, trying, unconsciously, to hit that pleasure button, to give them a little bit of temporary relief.
And dopamine also has a lot to do with motivation. So I think of it in many ways as the motivation chemical. A lot of people who struggle, mightily with motivation, if we can just do something to boost how dopamine is working, they're gonna feel at least enough better that they can start taking action that's actually gonna really help their mood. Doing things like exercise, for example.
Norepinephrine is, while it's also kind of a stimulant, it has a lot more to do with focus. So a lot of the drugs, for example, used to treat attention deficit disorder are drugs that work on kind of boosting norepinephrine function. A lot of people who kind of crave stimulants or stimulating activities, it's because they're boosting norepinephrine, which gives them a much greater sense of focus or presence.
It also has a lot to do with energy, but I consider it the fight or flight chemical. It's very similar to adrenaline or epinephrine. And it's what makes us really ready for action. So it gives you focus, it gives you, the ability to do something that you have to do in the heat of the moment.
We're gonna get into how you address these deficiencies in the next section. Before I leave this though, there are some people who don't have deficiency so much as they have an excess. They have too much of these stimulating things and it kind of overrides the brain's capacity to keep things balanced or in check.
So there's not enough of the calming things like serotonin to kind of soothe or subdue the effects of the stimulants, like dopamine. And then you get an imbalance that shows up much more likely as this agitated state where people are revved up kind of hyper, wired, and just can't calm their mind or even their body down.
There are some things that we can do, naturally, to try to bring down the effect of these stimulating neurotransmitters. And there's also things you can do to try to bring up or support the more calming ones to try to bring that more back into balance. But that has a, that pattern has a lot more to do with creating balance and trying to really support the brain's capacity to communicate with itself.
So thanks again for being here and being part of this course.
We're gonna move on in the next section to talking about what is often referred to as lifestyle medicine. Or you might talk about it as good self care. Uh, these are things that you can do for yourself that really make a difference in your mood and in prevention of mood problems in the future. So, essentially what we're going to talk about are three things.
We're going to talk about sleep, nutrition, and movement. And I want to start with sleep because I think it's the most important.
Thanks for joining us!: Thank you for listening to the Joy Lab podcast. If you enjoy today's show, visit JoyLab.coach to learn more about the full Joy Lab program. Be sure to rate and review us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Please remember that this content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Please consult your doctor or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program.
Please see our terms for more information.