You might have come across ideas like ‘Depression is caused by some chemical imbalance in the brain’ but this expression does not, in any way justify the complexity of the disease. In fact, this explains too little.
Depression is not as simple as you might have read over Social media. It is a complex condition, talking about the causes of which, Genetic predisposition to depression is not any less important. Children born to depressive parents are at a higher risk of becoming depressive at any point in their lives. Other significant causes include Faulty mood regulation, Trauma (both physical and emotional), Early losses, Stressful life events, Society’s attitude, Certain medications and Certain Medical issues like chronic Illnesses. Sometimes the cause remains unknown, forever.
What exactly happens in depression? What role does the brain chemicals play? Human Brain is the foundation of one’s life and life style. Both end when it refuses to work. The brain is connected to millions of braided networks of neurons (brain’s cells) and nerves within which operate millions of chemicals and processes to make a normal life possible. In people having depression, irrespective of the cause, the brain is affected in certain ways. The Brain is divided into many parts, out of which 3 important parts are mainly affected in depression. The three being Hippocampus, Amygdala and The thalamus.
Researches have proved that The Hippocampus is around 10-13% smaller in size in people with depression as compared to normal. This maybe accounts for the decreased number of neurons in this region, which also adds to depression. In fact, many antidepressants work on the principle of increasing and multiplying the number of these neurons thus helping depression. The Hippocampus is also the part concerned with long term memory and recollection, this together with Amygdala, the part which is responsible for all the human emotions like Anger, fear, sorrow and sex, play an important role. The interplay between the two might account for the adage “The burnt child dreads the fire” where hippocampus stores in memory all the stressful and traumatic events and on recalling them, Amygdala, ‘The emotion Center’ is activated causing low mood. The activity in amygdala is shown to be higher when a person is sad or depressed. The thalamus senses the input and directs the output in the form of behavior and attitude, clearly a problem in which can lead to depression.
The much talked about chemicals are actually the neurotransmitters. These are basically the chemicals that transfer signals or say messages, in response to certain stimuli, to and from one brain cell to the other controlling certain activities. Important Neurotransmitters in this regards are SEROTONIN (aka the happy hormone) which regulates mood and inhibits pain, the deficiency of Serotonin leads to low mood and sadness and also unchecked pain both of which are very important factors. In fact, there is a class of antidepressants that work only be increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain and body and they have proved to be of great help. The other important neurotransmitter is DOPAMINE, the hormone which influences motivation and perception, the deficiency of which, results in decreased or no motivation to live or do anything, at all. This deficiency also affects perception. Things are not perceived in a healthy manner which is again important. There are also other neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, glutamate etc the metabolism of which holds an important role in certain psychological disorders like psychosis, Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia.
The different causes like Trauma, losses, stressful life events, chronic illnesses and certain external and internal influences operate together and lead to these changes in the brain network thus causing a person to have actual symptoms that are suggestive of clinical depression which include low mood, cry, suicidal tendencies, zero motivation, anxiety and un explained sadness which needs to be identified in time. Depression is definitely a Clinical Condition. We come across people who appear to be depressed or claim to be depressed but not each one of them is suffering from clinical depression. Labeling someone as clinically depressed is a clinicians preferably a Psychiatrists job and they must be approached as early as possible but the treatment, the treatment is not only a clinicians duty. The society has to play its role. The importance of which, should not be denied.
- www. kellybroganmd.com