Monday, May 9, 2022

Is Depression A Chemical Imbalance In The Brain

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How Depression Changes Your Brain

Is Depression a Chemical Imbalance of The Brain or a Normal Human Emotion? Psychology

It seems that more people in the world live with depression than ever before. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 350 million people of all ages worldwide suffer from this mentally debilitating disease.

Depression can literally change your brain, altering the neural pathways and synapses and shrinking the size of your hippocampus, an area of the brain that regulates emotions and memory. Mentally, you probably feel foggy and exhausted, as your brain must work harder to process information and feelings. If you dont feel well mentally, it can take a toll on every other area of your life.

Depression can make you feel disconnected from the world around you, helpless to make any sort of change, and paralyzed by the thoughts inside your head. To combat all of these feelings, many people unfortunately turn to prescription drugs as a temporary answer, but we still dont know the long-term effects of these powerful drugs. Instead of medicating ourselves, we can turn to more natural remedies that often work better than even pills can.

Today, well go over how exactly depression alters your brain, and ways to reverse the damage naturally. It takes willpower and determination, but you CAN take your life back with a few simple lifestyle changes and ways of thinking.

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The Importance Of Empathy

The brain has various defense mechanisms for handling sadness. After all, this is one of the most recognizable emotion in humans. When you see someone, you immediately know if theyre suffering from it or not. In other words, you will develop empathy for them.

This dimension allows you to support people that are sad. Everyone knows how helpful it is to have friends or family members who support us.

It is interesting to note that empathy tends to be more developed in women.

So What Is Depression If Not A Result Of Chemical Imbalances

Depression is actually a state of high arousal. Depressed people have higher concentrations of stress hormones than non-depressed people. The apathy and exhaustion seen in depressed people is a consequence of too much arousal, and the way the body and mind respond to this arousal.

The way we respond to situations affects the emotions we feel which, in turn, effect the chemicals which are released.

But the emotionally aroused brain and the presence of stress hormones in turn affects how we think and feel – so it is a two way street. Thoughts and emotions effect chemical composition and chemical composition effects thoughts and emotions.

So, to sum up, beating depression is not about bad things happening to us but rather how we have learned to respond to life events – good or bad.

Thyroid problems, food intolerances and other physical illness can lead to feelings of depression but less than 10% of clinical depression is thought to have a chemical basis. Appropriate psychotherapy has still been shown to be more effective than drug treatment alone in the treatment of chemically based depression, and far more effective in preventing relapse. By far the majority of depressions are learned phenomena, not chemical ones.

To learn more about how arousal affects physiology and depression, take the Depression Learning Path.

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How To Deal When You Have A Chemical Imbalance

This article was co-authored by Chris M. Matsko, MD. Dr. Chris M. Matsko is a retired physician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With over 25 years of medical research experience, Dr. Matsko was awarded the Pittsburgh Cornell University Leadership Award for Excellence. He holds a BS in Nutritional Science from Cornell University and an MD from the Temple University School of Medicine in 2007. Dr. Matsko earned a Research Writing Certification from the American Medical Writers Association in 2016 and a Medical Writing & Editing Certification from the University of Chicago in 2017.There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 302,480 times.

What Causes A Person To Have A Chemical Imbalance In The Brain

Depression PowerPoint

The exact cause of mental health conditions is still unclear. Researchers believe that genetics as well as environmental and social factors, such as stress or trauma, play a role.

The chemical imbalance theory is disproven, yet its often presented as an explanation for mental health conditions.

It states that these conditions are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters between nerve cells in the brain.

For example, depression is said to result from insufficient levels of serotonin in the brain. But the theory doesnt explain how these chemicals become imbalanced.

Harvard Medical School reports that there are likely millions of chemical reactions occurring in the brain. These reactions are responsible for presenting a persons mood and overall feelings.

The millions of reactions occurring makes it impossible to determine if someone is experiencing a chemical imbalance in their brain.

The most common evidence used to support the chemical imbalance theory is the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Antidepressant medications work by increasing the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain.

However, if a persons mood can be elevated with help from medications to increase brain chemicals, this doesnt mean that the symptoms necessarily come from a chemical deficiency.

Its also possible that low serotonin levels are just another symptom of depression, not the cause.

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When To Call Your Healthcare Provider

If you have 5 or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, call your healthcare provider:

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood

  • Loss of interest in almost all activities

  • Appetite and weight changes

  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as inability to sleep or sleeping too much

  • Slowing of physical activity, speech, and thinking OR agitation, increased restlessness, and irritability

  • Ongoing feelings of worthlessness and/or feelings of undue guilt

  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide

Is Depression Caused By A Chemical Imbalance

If you think the answer is yes, youre not alone. According to one survey, over 80% of people think that depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

While it is true that low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin or norepinephrine can play a role in depression for some people, this is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. In fact, the chemical imbalance theory has not been proven as the main cause of depression in over 50 years of research. Multiple studies have found that decreasing the levels of tryptophan has not consistently led to depression or other mood disorders.

While simple explanations like the chemical imbalance theory may be easy to understand, they dont capture the whole picture of the brains activity and relationship to the rest of the body. New research shows how the brain is more like a complex computational system with intricate networks and connections.

When It Comes To Depression, Serotonin Isn’t The Whole Story NPR

Antidepressant medications like SSRIs target chemical imbalances in the brain, such as low serotonin or norepinephrine activity or other dysregulated levels of neurotransmitters. While this has been helpful for some people, one study found that only 46% of patients get fully well when receiving a combination of antidepressants and talk therapy.

In order to help those who havent improved with antidepressants, we have to look beyond the chemical imbalance theory to other causes of depression.

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Molecular Processes Mediating Neurobiological Changes

The alteration in the hippocampus signifies a potential outcome of injurious feedback that occurs via neuroendocrine dysregulation. A consistent finding in patients with MDD is a high level of the stress hormone cortisol, which may cause impairment in neuroplasticity and cellular resistance . An imbalance between glucocorticoid and mineral corticoid receptors in MDD along with high-density glucocorticoid receptors may also contribute to the hippocampus susceptibility to neuronal damage . Subsequent hippocampal atrophy could result in further neuroendocrine dysfunction and hence a potential run-away system . Postmortem comparisons of brain tissue in patients with MDD and age-matched healthy controls have shown hippocampal shrinkage in depressed subjects that was caused by increased density of neuronal cells and a significant reduction in neuropil .

The Brain’s Impact On Depression

Why Depression Isn’t Just a Chemical Imbalance

Popular lore has it that emotions reside in the heart. Science, though, tracks the seat of your emotions to the brain. Certain areas of the brain help regulate mood. Researchers believe that more important than levels of specific brain chemicals nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits have a major impact on depression. Still, their understanding of the neurological underpinnings of mood is incomplete.

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Can I Ever Get Too Much Dopamine

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing. A chemical imbalance of dopamine in your brain is possible. Too little is linked to some mental illnesses, while too much of the feel-good hormone can lead to negative behaviours like being overly competitive, aggressive or having poor impulse control. Some people become addicted to activities like eating, gambling, sex, drinking or recreational drugs and its thought that the dopamine hit they get when they indulge plays a role in this.

How Do You Know When You Have A Chemical Imbalance

Since chemical imbalances are something that develop overtime in the brain, it may be hard to tell when youre experiencing it yourself. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of chemical imbalances:

  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Drug or alcohol misuse or abuse

If you regularly experience any combination of the side effects above, it may be time to ask your doctor if you may have a chemical imbalance. However, there is still research being done on how to exactly determine a chemical imbalance, so tests such as urine and hair tests may not be accurate. If you think you may have a chemical imbalance or a mental condition such as depression or anxiety, your doctor may be able to diagnose you by evaluating your thoughts, feelings, sleeping and eating habits, and daily activities. If your doctor is not able to reach a diagnosis, they will likely refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further treatment.

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Balancing Brain Chemicals Naturally

  • 1Exercise more often. When you have anxiety or depression, exercise may not be high on your priority list, but research shows that it can make a big impact on mood by stimulating and/or balancing numerous chemicals and neurotransmitters in the body.XTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the worlds leading hospitalsGo to source Regular exercise is theorized to help ease depression and anxiety in a number of ways, such as: releasing feel-good brain chemicals reducing immune system chemicals that are linked to worsening depression and increasing body temperature, which seems to have general calming effects.
  • Research published in 2005 found that walking briskly for about 35 minutes daily five times per week or 60 minutes daily three times per week had a significant impact on mild-to-moderate depression.XTrustworthy SourceHarvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical Schools Educational Site for the PublicGo to source
  • Other types of cardiovascular exercise that may provide similar benefits include swimming, cycling, jogging and dancing.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish , other seafoods, including shrimp, algae and krill, as well as some nuts and seeds .
  • If supplementing, consider taking fish oil, krill oil and/or flaxseed oil.
  • Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include poor memory, mood swings and depression, among others.
  • In one study, it was shown that 10 grams of fish oil daily helped bipolar patients treat their symptoms.XResearch source
  • The Annals Of Chemical Causes Of Depression In The Brain Refuted

    Problems with Modern Psychiatry (Part 1): The Chemical ...

    Neuroimaging researches of individuals with bipolar disorder or other state of mind problems likewise recommend evidence of cell loss or atrophy in these same mind areas. Therefore, one more recommended source of bipolar disorder is damage to cells in the vital mind circuitry that regulates emotion. According to this theory, mood stabilizers as well as antidepressants are believed to modify mood by boosting cell survival paths and also enhancing levels of neurotrophic aspects to improve cellular resiliency. In 2008, Mathew et alia released a testimonial chemical causes of depression in the brain of novel medicines and also healing targets for extreme mood disorders that concentrate on raising neuroplasticity and also mobile resiliency. The treatment of bipolar disorder is straight pertaining to the phase of the episode as well as the extent of that phase, and also it might entail a combination of psychiatric therapy as well as medicine. Always assess clients with mania, hypomania, or blended episode, and also those with bipolar depression, for suicidality, homicidality, acute or chronic psychosis, or various other unpredictable or dangerous conditions.

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    How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed

    To diagnose this disease, your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms. You may also have a physical exam. You may also have lab tests to rule out other conditions.

    Mental health care professionals diagnose and treat this illness. They often interview family members. This helps the healthcare team get a complete picture of the symptoms.

    Understanding The Chemicals Controlling Your Mood

    While there are many external factors that can influence your mood like the weather and your relationships, there are also four main chemicals that play a big role, including serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and oxytocin. But to understand this, you need to first know a little bit about how our brain works. So, whats the relationship between brain and mood? The brain controls the release of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters which communicate with other areas of the brain to stimulate or calm us. This then has influence on our mood, emotions and behaviour.

    Its also important to know that a chemical imbalance in your brain, is when youre making either too much or too little of certain neurotransmitters. This may contribute to a mood disorder or mental health condition if left uncorrected. However, the reasons why mental health issues develop in some people and not others is much more complex than their levels of brain chemicals alone.

    We now have many medications available that work on correcting chemical imbalances in the brain, to help improve or reverse symptoms of mental illness.

    Lets dive into four different types of neurotransmitters, to find out more about the amazing chemical reactions going on in the brain. Plus, learn a few tips on how to get more feel-good chemicals in your life, naturally.

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    How Chemicals Become Imbalanced

    Heres where things get a little tricky. While doctors and scientists all agree that neurotransmitters are critical in transferring information in the brain, they cannot definitively state how these chemicals become imbalanced. There are millions of reactions happening in your brain every day, and according to the Harvard Medical School, this fact alone makes it impossible to determine if someone is experiencing a chemical imbalance.

    Still, doctors continue to prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications because its the most common evidence they have that supports the theory that the brain is experiencing a chemical imbalance. Most of these medications increase the serotonin levels in the brain, which is the chemical responsible for elevating your mood and making you happy. So, of course, people feel better when they take these medications and then slip back into their anxious states when they come off their meds.

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    Medication Recreational Drugs And Alcohol

    Challenging the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Mental Disorders: Robert Whitaker, Journalist

    Depression can be a side effect of a lot of different medicines. If you are feeling depressed after starting any kind of medication, check the patient information leaflet to see whether depression is a side effect, or ask your doctor. If you think a drug is causing your depression, you can talk to your doctor about taking an alternative, especially if you are expecting your treatment to last some time.

    Alcohol and recreational drugs can both cause depression. Although you might initially use them to make yourself feel better, or to distract yourself, they can make you feel worse overall. See our pages on the mental health effects of recreational drugs and alcohol for more information.

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    Diagnosing Mental Health Conditions

    Mental health conditions arent determined by using chemical tests. Your treatment plan wont be guided by such tests either.

    Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to rule out other conditions, such as a thyroid disorder or vitamin deficiency. Both conditions can trigger symptoms of a mental health condition.

    If an underlying illness is not determined from the tests, your healthcare provider will likely refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Theyll perform a psychological evaluation.

    The evaluation will include a series of questions about your:

    • thoughts

    Some medications work on a combination of two more of the chemicals above.

    Examples of these medications include:

    When it comes to mental health conditions, there are likely many factors at play. Its difficult to determine whether a particular treatment will ensure a cure.

    For some people, depression and other mental health conditions are episodic, which means that the symptoms come and go.

    Medications might be able to help manage your symptoms, but the disorder may take a long time to go into remission. Symptoms can also come back later on.

    While taking medications for a mental health condition, talk therapy techniques are also an important addition to your treatment plan.

    Psychotherapy may help convert your thinking and behavioral patterns into healthier ones. Some examples include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.

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