Emotions are a critical part of the human experience we laugh and we cry. Sometimes our emotions get out of hand. Sometimes the sadness we feel isn’t just the blues sometimes it’s depression.
It turns out that depression is more than just feeling kind of sad. It’s actually a neurological condition that can really affect your everyday life.
Depression is common it’s actually the leading cause of disability among American adults according to the national institutes for mental health about 18 million people had at least one major depressive episode just during a year. That’s almost 7 percent of the US population.
Depression comes in many forms but most of those forms have the same symptoms they just vary in severity and length.
Common symptoms of depression include
Worthless fatigue changes in sleeping patterns
Your ability changes in appetite and thoughts of suicide when a person experiences these symptoms. It’s interfering with your daily life it’s called the major depressive disorder.
This one you probably think of when you think of depression but it does sometimes go on for more than 2 years it’s called persistent depressive disorder.
Depression can be brought on by specific situations and life changes like postpartum depression which can occur after a person has a baby.
Seasonal effective disorder when the lack of sunlight in the fall and winter can trigger symptoms because Russian can look like normal sadness.
It’s not always obvious what caused it sometimes it’s hard for people to believe that it’s real that’s why some people argue that if you just try hard enough you can break the cycle.
You’re in control of your own emotions so you can choose to feel better. Anyone who suffered from depression knows that that’s not true.
We’re still trying to figure out what causes it and what exactly it does to our brains. It’s important for doctor.
Scientists to keep working and understanding the conditions so they can get patients back on their feet.
There’s definitely a genetic component to depression if your parent or a sibling has the condition. It’s more likely that you might end up with it too.
It can also be linked to environmental factors things like abuse neglect and severe life stressors like financial instability or a death in the family all make it more likely that a person might develop depression.
What’s actually going on in your brain up until recently scientists were pretty sure the depression was caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals within the brain.
Ducted the mono anti hypothesis of depression this theory said that a lack of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine to chemicals associated with feelings of pleasure and reward would lead to depression.
This theory is supported by a couple of things, first scientists found that people with a particular genetic variation in the gene that codes for the serotonin receptor 5 H. T. T. are more susceptible to depression.
After stressful life events when compared to people who don’t have that mutation this mutation is thought to reduce the production of serotonin receptors in the brain.
Leading to a decrease in serotonin signaling there’s also evidence mostly from post mortem brains that people with depression have changes in the dopamine signaling.
In their brains some research has found that in patients with a family history of depression deliberately reducing levels of the proteins required to make neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Decrease their mode and finally there’s the fact that antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs work these medications function by altering the release of serotonin.
Adjusting serotonin signaling throughout the brain. No longer positive the depression is a direct result of a simple chemical imbalance some of the research and treatments have been inconsistent with that idea.
The commission is really complex so researchers are also exploring a lot of other possible explanations. Brain imaging studies have found that patients with depression generally have less gray matter in several different brain regions, like the cingulate cortex the hippocampus and amygdala gray matters made up mostly of neuronal cell bodies dendrites synapses.
Leah is the place where most durable signaling happens so changes in gray matter volume can affect all kinds of things like emotions memory and decision making.
This is led some scientists to theorize the depression is more related to structural differences the neurochemical.
Basically depression shrinks the parts of the brain that are important for controlling our emotions. Making choices to take care of ourselves making it hard for patients to recover from feelings of sadness.
Some scientists think that depression could be related to changes in brain plasticity. That’s the process that lets your neurons change and adapt their signaling in response to new information it might even be related to a reduction in neurogenesis.
The growth of new brain cells even though it’s uncommon in the adult brain there are some brain regions that create and connect new cells throughout our lives.
This theory points out that chronic stress has a negative impact on neuroplasticity and a similar change of neuroplasticity is seen in patients with depression.
Antidepressants might increase the formation of the new brain cells. Depressed patients taking antidepressants have higher levels of BDNF chemical that supports neurogenesis.
Another theory about depression links it to our immune system. Researchers found that patients with depression have unusually high levels of cytokines small proteins that play a big role in the inflammatory response that kicks off when your body is responding to an injury cytokines are involved in sickness behavior.
You know how when you’re sick you’re usually not very hungry and have trouble concentrating and really just want to sleep a whole bunch.
Symptoms sound an awful lot like depression doesn’t this theory proposes that high cytokine levels caused by stress can impact of normal neurotransmitters signaling leading to the symptoms of depression.
This is why some doctors may encourage their patients taking anti inflammatory medications alongside an anti depressant therapy can be very effective at treating depression.
About one in every three people will find that cognitive behavioral therapy alone can improve their symptoms.
Cause of depression varies from person to person whatever the scientists are getting closer and closer to finding better solutions.