Depression is a serious medical condition that has a noticeable impact on an individual’s day-to-day ability to function (Sweeney, p.231). It can manifest in people of all ages.
Clinical depression affects a person's mind and body. It impacts all aspects of everyday life including eating, sleeping, working, relationships, and how a person thinks about himself/herself (Prentiss).
People who are clinically depressed cannot simply will themselves to feel better or just "snap out of it" (Prentiss).
Dejected mood, feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt and suicidal thoughts are some of the most frequently reported affective changes in depressed individuals (Kharade).
Depression strikes all over the brain involving the cerebral cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and other regions .
Shrinkage of the hippocampus during depression leads to reduced ability to handle stress.
With the frontal lobes affected, an individual’s ability to reason is lowered (Sweeney, 232).
The hypothalamus is responsible for many basic functions such as body temperature, sleep, appetite, sexual drive, stress reaction, and the regulation of other activities. The hypothalamus also controls the function of the pituitary gland which in turn regulates key hormones (Prentiss).
The activities of this brain system (limbic system) are so important and complex that disturbances in any part of it, including how neurotransmitters function, could affect a person’s mood and behavior (Prentiss).
Mood disorders have been linked primarily to a dysfunction in the norepinephrine (adrenaline for brain- ‘zest of life’), serotonin , (impacts sleep cycle, appetite, mood, anxiety level) and dopamine (pleasure) neurotransmitter systems of the brain. So, when one or all of these systems aren’t functioning, people lose motivation. They have no energy. They feel emotionally broken.
When people feel worthless, they tend to isolate. Depression can arise from sustained separation-distress that is eventually followed by chronic depressive despair.
Humans are designed to form and maintain attachments, particularly to early care-giving figures, and also with our sexual mates and offspring and supportive social groups. Depression persuades people to give up hope if their attempts to reunite with such figures or groups do not succeed. Therefore, individuals can become psychologically detached from the world. That sustained loss of psychological “energy” can create painful, diminished feelings of internal security (Panksepp).
Within the brain, there are special chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry out many imperative functions. Essentially, they help transfer messages throughout structures of the brain's nerve cells (Prentiss).
Neurochemical imbalances, especially in the synthesis and secretion of norepinephrine and serotonin, are believed to underlie depression.
Neuronal plasticity: the primary process by which the brain acquires information and makes the appropriate adaptive responses in future‐related settings. Dysfunction of these processes could contribute to the pathophysiology of mood disorders such as depression, and recovery could occur by induction of the appropriate plasticity or remodeling (Kharade).
How antidepressants work: (An example using serotonin)
Transmitting neuron sends serotonin to receiving neuron.
Some serotonin molecules bind to receiving neuron.
Some serotonin molecules are reabsorbed by transmitting neuron through the reuptake mechanism.
Antidepressant drugs block some of the reuptake process, allowing more serotonin molecules to remain in synapse and bind with receiving neurons (Weaver, p.48).
Here is a good video that shows how anti-depressants work. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16jgq_how-anti-depressants-work_school
Other types of treatments used for depression are:
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a procedure where an individual suffering from depression receives an electric shock to the brain , which induces a seizure, while electrodes monitor brain activity. Although it is invasive, it is a safe and effective way to help treat severe mood disorders (Thakkar, p. 72-73).
Light Therapy (Phototherapy) is the use of an artificial light source to help correct biological mechanism that affect mood and other functions such as sleep and appetite (Thakkar, p.73).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps deal with the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that accompany depression. It helps an individual deal with the thoughts and behaviors associated with the illness (Thakkar, p.63). Therapy boosts the brain’s cognitive functions while lowering emotional ones and makes it easier for the brain to heal itself by reframing issues so they might be seen from a more positive perspective (Sweeney, p.233).
Left untreated, depression can destroy a person’s life, literally. “Ninety percent of completed suicides occur in individuals who have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of death. About 60% of those people have a mood disorder” (Thakkar, p.49-50). Depression is an illness of the brain. In some cases, you cannot beat it on your own due to chemical imbalances. You may need the aid of medication to help stabilize any imbalance. There is no shame in suffering with depression. There are many treatment options available in which are effective. Don’t let depression take your life.
Here is a quiz you can take to determine if you may need to seek help from a mental heath professional for diagnosis and treatment options, or it can be used to track your depression if you are already suffering. http://psychcentral.com/depquiz.htm
*Thakkar, Vatsal. Depression and Bipolar Disorder . New York: Chelsea House, 2006. Print.
This book provided useful information about the different levels of depression and the symptoms of each mood disorder. It briefly discussed the occurrence of mood disorders and the possible ways in which they can develop through imbalances in the brain. Treatment for depression was provided in this source. Fairly up to date, this book was a good resource to learn about the basics of depression and the factors that influence it.
*Panksepp, Jaak, and Douglas Watt. "Why Does Depression Hurt? Ancestral Primary-Process Separation-Distress (PANIC/GRIEF) and Diminished Brain Reward (SEEKING) Processes in the Genesis of Depressive Affect." Psychiatry: Interpersonal & Biological Processes 74.1 (2011): 5-13. Print.
This article seeks to explain why depression hurts so badly. It discusses the seven primary functions of affective neuroscience and talks about how depression is closely related to sustained over-activity of the panic system. It also discusses that depression reflects the behavioral agitation of panic and offers some new psycho-chemotherapeutic approaches that are being tested to treat depression.
*Kharade, S. M., D. S. Gumate, and N. S. Naikwade. "A REVIEW: HYPOTHESIS OF DEPRESSION AND ROLE OF ANTIDEPRESSANT DRUGS." International Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences 2 (2010): 3-6. Print.
This article investigates the neurobiological association of neurochemicals and biochemical super factors with the liability to depression. It provides and discusses the evidence from both clinical and experimental studies that imply the causes of depression and how antidepressant drugs can aid in the maintenance of depressive mood disorders. .
Weaver, Robyn M. Depression . San Diego, CA: Lucent, 1999. Print.
This book has a great amount of information about the causes of depression including chemical and hormonal imbalances, missing cells, and psychological factors. Although this source is not as current, and therefore the statistics and some of the treatments presented may not be applicable, this book still is a good resource to learn about the symptoms of depression and it expresses the importance of seeking help.
Price-Evans, Prentiss. "All About Depression: Causes." All About Depression: Home Page . All About Self Help, LLC, 23 May 2010. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <http://www.allaboutdepression.com/cau_01.html>.
This website provides expansive information about depression. It talks about the factors that lead to depression and the most accurate causes. It discusses brain function, neurotransmitters, hormones, genetics, and environmental factors. It also presents effective treatments and explains how medications can be beneficial in relieving a victim from their depressive state.
Sweeney, Michael S. Brain: The Complete Mind . Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2009. 229-33. Print.
This source provides useful information relating to depression. It discusses the signs and symptoms of this mood disorder, the forms in which it can take, and chemical treatment options. It also discusses the ways that depression is diagnosed and who it affects.
Dailymotion- How Anti-depressants Work . 11 Feb. 2007. Web. 3 Aug. 2011. < http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16jgq_how-anti-depressants-work_school>.
This video provides a good illustration of how anti-depressants are processed in the brain. It tells of how the anti-depressants can be used to stabilize an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
Grohol, John M. "Psych Central - Depression Screening Test." Psych Central - Trusted Mental Health, Depression, Bipolar, ADHD and Psychology Information. 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 03 Aug. 2011. <http://psychcentral.com/depquiz.htm>.
This website provides a great quiz for individuals to take in order to assess if they might be depressed. It provides a way for people who are already dealing with depression to track their emotions and possible need for help from a mental health professional.