If you’ve been feeling depressed, tired, sluggish, or overly anxious, one of the first things you want to do is schedule a physical with your doctor, including a full panel of blood work. The reason? The key to your change in mood may be in your blood.  Women can have changes in their body chemistry following childbirth and/or as they age, which means that the symptoms you’re worrying are all in your head, may well have their source in your bloodstream.  Vitamin deficiencies can present with a whole host of emotional and physical symptoms, which can be surprising.  That multivitamin your doctor urged you to take may not be so optional after all.

Here are 5 physical causes of depression that your doctor may consider:

1) Vitamin D deficiency

2) Vitamin B12 deficiency (and other B complex vitamins)

3) Thyroid problems (too low or too high)

4) Iron deficiency (as well as other deficiencies in other minerals)

5) Vitamin C deficiency

Follow your doctor’s advice in terms of what tests to get and how to remedy any deficiencies that may get identified. You may just find that the first step in dealing with your mood changes is a shopping trip at GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe.  Do check with your doctor regarding recommended brands for supplements as not all vitamins are created equal.  As this Dr. Oz feature shows, there can be a lot of variability in the quality of vitamins because they aren’t subject to the rigorous testing required to get FDA approval.

Of course, while you may have a physical reason for your depression that can be remedied with supplements, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still underlying emotional issues bothering you.  That’s why one of the most potent treatment plans for depression is taking medication (including vitamins) and going to counseling.  Given that one of the most corrosive aspects of depression can be intense feelings of loneliness, counseling can be a bridge to another person — someone who is in a position to help.  No vitamin — no matter how good — can accomplish that!  Counseling can also offer the support you may be missing from your daily life, can keep you on track in battling your depressive symptoms, and help you develop new ways of thinking about yourself and relating to others.  Counselors are trained to help women like you to feel better and to move beyond depression.

Regardless of the reason for your mood symptoms, if you don’t like how you’ve been feeling and would like to do something about it, please reach out to me at 703-868-8609 or via email at elizabeth@alexandriawomenscounseling.com.  I regularly work with women in Alexandria and greater Washington, DC who aren’t quite sure how to start battling their feelings of lethargy, fatigue, sadness, or worry.  Together, we work toward having them feel happier, healthier, more balanced, and more energetic.  If you’re outside of the DC Metro area, check out the therapist finder on Psychology Today where you can read about the therapists in your area and choose your best fit.