If you’re an over thinker like me the need to know the truth about depression and your brain is essential. Firstly, to know what effects it has, secondly if these effects are physical or chemical, and lastly what those effects mean to us as people.
When we talk about depression, we usually talk about a chemical imbalance in our brain. However, that view doesn’t capture the complexity of disease.
New research, New Findings on Depression and your Brain
The research being done confirms it is not a result of having a chemical imbalance. Researchers are finding firstly nerve cell connections, secondly nerve cell growth, and finally the functioning of nerve circuits have a significant impact on depression.
The findings are pointing to depression and losing nerve cells having many causes. Causes such as faulty mood regulation, genetic predisposed, stressful life events and medical problems. The belief is when these causes interact; they bring depression on.
Causes of Depression in your Brain
Our genes control our bodies from the moment of conception. Similarly, this includes our brains. Firstly, our genes make the right proteins at the right time. When our genes get it wrong, they alter our biology. Because of this alteration our moods become unstable. Genetic predisposed to depression means stress pushes our brain biology off course.
Stress causes its own issues by triggering chemical reactions and consequently the responses within the body. If stress is short term, our body will return to a normal state. When stress is long term, our systems get stuck in overdrive. Because of the overdrive there are long-lasting changes to our brains.
Early life trauma has a lasting physical and emotional effect on our brains. Research has shown that trauma directly causes changes in our brain function that can is accounted for with depression symptoms.
Medical problems such as thyroid hormone imbalances will cause depression. The first diagnosis is hyperthyroidism, the excess production of thyroid hormone. This can trigger the manic symptoms of depression. Just as important is hypothyroidism, the production of too little thyroid hormone. This leads to exhaustion ending in depression.
How to Improve Mood to Improve Depression
The experts want to know if depression is caused by low levels of neurotransmitters, why are people not feeling better as soon as neurotransmitters increase. They have found that mood only improves as new nerves grow and in addition form new connection within the brain. This process takes weeks.
The result of this new research is that experts believe they should develop medications to promote nerve regeneration. Therefore, the hope is that patients would see faster results from medications than now.
The goal in treating the biology of depression is to
improve the brain’s ability to regulate mood.
Depression and your Brain Physical changes
The disease can also lead to physical changes in the brain.
Parts of our brains can reduce in size when we experience it. Research has shown the parts of the brain affected are:
- frontal, and
- the prefrontal cortices.
Studies have also linked brain inflammation with depression. Directly linking inflammation of the brain to the length of time a person is in a depressed state. Notably a significant amount of brain inflammation is likely to be prevalent as a result of long-term depressive situation.
Brain inflammation will cause the cells of the brain to die, leading to complications, such as; shrinkage, decreased neurotransmitters, and the reduced ability to change as the person ages. These issues combined will impair; brain development, learning, memory and mood.
They associate depression with reduced oxygen levels in the body. The reduction in oxygen could be because of breathing changes the depression can induce. Our brains are sensitive to oxygen reduction and this reduction can cause;
- brain cell injury and
- brain cell death.
Structural and Connective Changes
Depression is likely to cause structural as well as connective changes in our brains. Changes will include;
- Reduced functionality of the hippocampus which will cause memory impairment.
- Limited functionality of the prefrontal cortex which results in preventing the person from getting things done and inturn affects attention span.
- Reduced functionality of the amygdala this will directly affect the ability to regulate mood and emotions.
The resulting physical changes to our brains will typically take up to eight months to show.
The simple way to stop all these changes that are happening to our brains is to ask for help and then get treatment. Treatment may include medications and psychological approaches. It’s simple, in theory. In reality remember, we are the only ones that can change what is happening to us. Get the needed help.
If you or anyone else you know is depressed please seek help.
National help lines and websites
Carers Australia -1800 242 636
Headspace – 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
MindSpot Clinic – 1800 61 44 34
Qlife – 1800 184 527 3pm-12am
Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277
SANE Australia -1800 18 7263