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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Brain and a Closer Look at Depression

The Brain and a Closer Look at Depression

     The World we live in today is much different from the World that our parents lived in, as is the same for our parents. Every age group has different things that make their lives more stressful then the next, and times will continue to change each and every year from here hence forth.

     Life is for ever changing, and with it we must adapt. And sometimes, it causes many of us to be unable to cope, or adapt. Some of us will struggle, and that struggle is real. Some of us will go with the flow and it will make no difference. And to others, the World will seem to crash around them. And then sometimes, some of us don’t even notice, not the people, not the changes, and not even the ones who are suffering, let alone care. And for those who are struggling, that makes it even worse.

     But what causes the changes in our lives other than the economy, the Presidency, and the weather? Our brain is the center of it all, and it controls everything we take in, and how we handle it. 

     For starters, did you know that stress can decrease the size of your brain? Alleged studies have shown this. Also, they have proven that our brain cannot multitask, and that naps improve our brains function. Admit it, everyone loves a nap from time to time!
  Your brain is works with your nervous system is a network of cells, which sends neurons which transmit electrical signals throughout your body. These electrical signals are information. If I pinch you, your brain will tell you it hurts, therefore you know to say ow and pull away from me. 

     Scientists are now studying the limbic system and learning that this is the area of the brain that regulates activities such as emotions, physical and sexual drives, and the stress response. The hypothalamus is a small structure located at the base of the brain. It is responsible for many basic functions including: 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. My favorite word in this learning segment is this one: amygdala and hippocampus. I love saying it. The amygdala hippocampus is said to be associated with emotional reaction. The limbic activities are important and yet complex that disturbances in any of it, including how neurotransmitters function, could affect your mood and behavior. And we don’t want nor need that.

  Inside the brain, are special chemicals called neurotransmitters which are said to carry out many important functions. They transfer messages throughout the brain's nerve cells. The nerve cells, called neurons, are organized to control specialized activities.  The electrical impulses travel across the neurons at rate of speed- less than one/five thousandth of a second. Since, they move rapidly, our brains can react instantaneously to stimuli such as pain.

     Out of all the brains neurotransmitters that Scientists, and Doctors and Researchers have identified, together they have discovered associations between clinical depression and the function of three primary ones: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These three neurotransmitters function within structures of the brain that regulate emotions, reactions to stress, and the physical drives of sleep, appetite, and sexuality. Structures that have received a great deal of attention from depression researchers include the limbic system and hypothalamus. Therefore, with this research gained, another step in the right direction has been obtained in learning how to fight this disease that is concurring the World at great lengths, and winning on a daily basis. 

     Antidepressant medications have been found able to relive some of several people’s mood disorders. The medicines must be regulated, however some have been recognized as later needing to increase after certain periods of time, because the neurotransmitters become accustomed to the dosage. Others have been found to be fine with the same dosages, and then there are some who have become immune as well as others who the drug therapy only slightly worked on. However, more often than not, the drug therapy does rectify the problem as stabilizing the neurotransmitters. 

     But have you ever wondered what causes depression? Studies have shown that it could be a chemical imbalance in the brain. In many cases, there is a reduced number of neurotransmitters found (monoamines such as serotonin and norepinephrine) in individuals who are depressed. Low serotonin levels are simply another symptom of depression, not the cause. Depression can lead to chemical changes in the brain, which return to normal once your depression subsides, if it ever does. One medical cause of depression often given is the overproduction of stress hormones. The hormonal imbalances related to depression have to do with our natural reactions to stress, and stress and depression are in fact linked. 

     To deal with stress, the human body will react by: causing delivery of energy to the main muscles, lowering or even increasing your appetite for food and sex and even increasing levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When humans are stressed, they tend to think differently. 

     “Hormone levels may be intertwined with the changes in brain chemistry that are seen in clinical depression. The endocrine system is connected with the brain at the hypothalamus which controls many bodily activities such as sleep, appetite, and sexual drive. The hypothalamus also regulates the pituitary gland that, in turn, controls the hormonal secretion of other glands. The hypothalamus uses some of the neurotransmitters that have been associated with depression as it manages the endocrine system. These neurotransmitters, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine all have a role in the management of hormone function.”

     Studies have also shown that evidence for other types of depression is subtler, but it is real. A person who has a first-degree relative who suffered major depression has an increase in risk for the condition of one point five percent to three percent over normal. In other words, like myself, I had a mother who was bipolar, as is my father. Before that my grandmother on my mother’s side, was also bipolar, although back in those days: it is not known, but as we look at her past, we now know. My grandmother on my father side, same thing. Therefore, chances are high, I will have some sort of problem. I am currently on antidepressants, although they have never diagnosed me as bipolar, I feel that I am. I can also tell you, several of my children are the same way. I am also undiagnosed with some kind of ADD or ADHD, but because of my age, and what not, no one truly seems to find it relevant. I also have many other problems: I freak out when being tested. I cannot grasp math for the life of me, and when I was a child I was always in the ESEA math classes, slow learning math classes. My two sons, are ADD, and one is ADHD. They both are SLD, slow learning disorder. My husband is a math whiz, but also has SLD with reading. He also suffers from undiagnosed ADD or ADHD. We went to School in the seventies, when they just passed us along, but they did tutor us with HIRC, and tried to help us learn when time permitted. So, do I believe that problems are inherited, yes, yes and triple yes.

     They also claim that specific events can have lasting physical, as well as emotional, consequences. Researchers have found that early losses and emotional trauma may leave individuals more vulnerable to depression later in life. However, some people are known the block these out. But let us not forget the military, and PTSD. This is a form of depression in some areas, because of the fact that those in the military are having problems dealing with the things that they witnessed and even had to do.

     Winter and even a lot of rain has also been known to bring the blues on in people, some people trap themselves indoors, and become depressed. This can be considered seasonal depression disorder. This is a condition known as SAD. 

     The thyroid is linked to depression. Those with thyroid problems often have weight problems, which is known as an excess of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) which can trigger manic symptoms. On the other hand, hypothyroidism, a condition in which your body produces too little thyroid hormone, often leads to exhaustion and depression. Here is my part of my problem, I have spent most of my life on thyroid medication, with which this has caused my weight gain. I cannot regulate my sleep schedule either. This problem is linked between ten and fifteen percent of people.

     Depression affects nearly nineteen million people each year. And much of this goes undetected and untreated because people just shake it off. Some depression that is left untreated will eventually lead to suicides. 

     If you recognize the problem in yourself and or others, it is best to say something, rather than to ignore the problem, or person. Left untreated can lead to death…

Teasdale, J. D. et al. (2000) Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major clinical depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 4, 615–23.

Psychotherapy Versus Medication for Depression: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom With Data – David O. Antonuccio and William G. Danton, University of Nevada School

Nemeroff, C. B. (1998) The neurobiology of depression. Scientific American, 278, 6, 28–35.

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