A Bit About Depression

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

As someone who has studied psychology in college I have read and heard quite a lot about depression. I am a firm believer that antidepressants should not be the first option in treating depression. However, I hope that by the end of this quick post I can convince you that antidepressants should not be completely avoided either.

First of all, a person is diagnosed with major depression when they have been in a depressed mood for more than two weeks. Specific symptoms of major depression include some of the following:

  • loss of interest in activities they normally enjoy
  • weight loss/gain
  • trouble concentrating
  • guilt
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • worthlessness
  • suicidal ideation

Depression can impact a person’s social life, career, and/or performance in school. A family history of depression can slightly increase one’s risk of depression. However, there are a number of environmental  factors that can contribute to depression as well:

  • history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • major life events such as the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job
  • other mental illnesses or other physical ailments
  • history of, or current, substance abuse.

Of course, taking antidepressants is not the only effective treatment option for depression. Effective alternatives include physical exercise, psychotherapy, and in extreme case electroconvulsive therapy or ECT.

Physical exercise can increase endorphins, which can counteract the symptoms of depression. Research has shown that physical exercise can also improve overall brain health by promoting the birth of new neurons.

Psychotherapy, where the depressed person talks to a mental health professional, can help the depressed person change their negative thoughts and actions and replace them with positive ones. Psychotherapy can also help people find better ways to cope and solve their problems. Research has shown that psychotherapy can be just as effective as antidepressants for people with moderate to severe depression. Overall, psychotherapy is especially beneficial to people who experience depression due to the challenges or difficulties they’ve faced in the earlier days of their life.

In extreme cases where no other treatment option including antidepressants, has worked Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT can be used. During the ECT procedure, the patient is given general anesthesia and then a series of small electrons are passed through their brain and this purposefully triggers a seizure. ECT impacts the neurotransmitters in the brain to help relieve symptoms of depression. For many patients this is only a temporary option.

What some people may not know about depression is that aside from affecting our moods and behaviors it also negatively impacts the biology of our brain. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the body during times of physical and mental stress. However, in people with major depression excessive amounts of cortisol are released and sent to the brain.

In the long term excessively high levels of cortisol in the brain can lead to a wide range of problems. Some of these include:

  • slowing down the birth of new neurons
  • memory problems
  • shrinking the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for regulating emotions and making decisions)
  • High cortisol levels also increase the size of the amygdala which is responsible for emotional responses. This can lead to sleep disturbances and it can cause the body to release irregular amounts of hormones and other chemicals.
  • High levels of cortisol also decrease the brains structural plasticity (which is the brains ability to adapt to different situations).

The reality is that for many people depression is not limited to constantly feeling sad. For some people depression is caused by biological changes in their brain and for many people if depression is left untreated, in the long-term it can cause potentially irreversible damage to the brain.

Unfortunately, physical exercise, psychotherapy and ECT cannot prevent or improve the biological causes and the long-term biological damage that is associated with untreated major depression.

Once again, if someone is diagnosed with depression they should most definitely try physical exercise, psychotherapy, or any other non-prescription remedy. However, after a certain period of time if these other remedies don’t work it might be time to try an antidepressant.

For those that are wondering about the effectiveness of antidepressants, the latest research has shown that compared to a placebo (in a scientific experiment a non-drug  sugar pill that is presented to the patient as an antidepressant) the actual antidepressant are significantly more effective in treating depression. Of course, some antidepressants are more effective than others and only a doctor can correctly prescribe the right medication for you.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people with depression do not get the help and treatment that they need. In developed nations only one in six people receive treatment for depression and in the developing nations its only one in twenty-seven people. If you do suffer from depression, please make sure to reach out for help regardless of which treatment option you choose, never leave depression untreated.

I know that for many people this is much easier said than done because unfortunately,  here in the United States not everyone has access to a mental health professional and going to visit one can be very expensive. These are systemic problems that the government and those with power have the responsibility of fixing.

Aside from exercise here are some free mental health resources.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

9 thoughts on “A Bit About Depression

  1. Really insightful post! Mental health is, for some odd reason, really difficult for those in power to comprehend. Similar to most thing in life, the powerful believe if they can’t see it, it isn’t there. A broken leg is particularly visible, whereas depression is not physically visible so its existence is ignored.
    Fortunately, we are making strides in mental health care with a lot of institutions focusing on its importance and understanding there is a great need for further attention. I just hope this trend remains on track.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very well said! Thank you so much for your kind words and I definitely agree with you that for far too long mental health has been looked down upon and not taken very seriously. However, like you I am hopeful that things continue to improve in the future!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just don’t believe that people fully come out of depression without God’s help. Call on Him in Jesus’s name and he will make you free. What we need to understand is that we can live in the world but not be of it. This earthly life is transitory, but the afterlife for believers is where it is all at 🙂 It is very difficult to exist in today’s world with all the stress lurking about but if we study the word and pray daily we are given so much help.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! As a Muslim i definitely agree with the overwhelming majority of what you’ve written!😊 However, I do believe that if depression is like any other physical disease and it should be treated with a combination of prayers and a tangible treatment option as well!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes – my point was (wo)man cannot do it alone. Also I know people who have been on anti depressants for decades and still they suffer. And badly. ADs do not necessarily work and in many documented cases have lead to suicide. Depression is a false sense of the self and only God can truly help with that.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, it is a huge subject. People tend to forget that clinically significant depression does not occur only in people who are otherwise physically healthy and fit for walking and exercising. Severe depression episodes can frequently happen in post-operative patients who are bed-ridden, as a result of wrong medication administration and generally it is very complex matter that frequently involves underlying disabling conditions, including not-well-controlled type I diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, accompanying cancers and severe digestive problems.
    Unlike many think that clinically severe depression can be easily talked or prayed away, it can be so bad that the person has such a strong physical pain with unknown origin, such a state of not feeling and noticing their surroundings that they stop walking, eating and even talking. I’ve seen people with perfect make-up and dressed-up like for a show flirting with camera and discussing how depression can be cured or how they cure it. That is mild depression or depressive moods at the best which every person experiences at some point of their life. Depression needs to be correctly diagnosed at first.
    I think everybody who is unable to notice the severity of their episodes should receive a very smart and intelligent therapy. It is promising that the suitability of medications that work can be genetically tested now and, therefore, the response to treatment is much more suited to that particular person. There are no 2 exactly the same cases and exactly the same etymology of severe depression. Following wrong advise in such cases can be very damaging to that person. Internet is certainly not a place of cure.
    Canada puts big efforts in trying to help depressive patients, however, not everybody even goes to a doctor. Or not everybody can get a family doctor who refers to a specialist. I hadn’t had a GP for 5 years now which meant I hadn’t done even basic blood tests for 5 years.
    When it comes to depression, nobody ever mentions things that would prevent it from occurring. Prevention should be the biggest focus in any diseases, not only depression or other cognitive and mental dysfunctions.
    As it appears, the more chemical is food people consume for generations, such as completely processed or unnatural, the more polluted or toxic are the surroundings, the more mental functions will be affected in children. Also, parenting at young age would literally decrease lots of childhood mental problems, as well as extreme obesity is a factor.
    It was definitely interesting to read this post. It is an intelligent post and suggests the right things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your very thorough and thoughtful comment! You seem very knowledgeable on this topic! You brought up a number of excellent points that I definitely agree with! Indeed no two people are the same and so not every treatment option works for everyone! I love how you mentioned genetic testing and honestly I haven’t heard much about this until you mentioned it and I definitely agree with you that prevention is much better than the cure!

      Like

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