Here’s where many people go wrong with their idea of what depression really is:
They believe depression is a choice
Not only that but they believe that remaining in depression is our choice. Can I take a few moments to explain as to how asinine that form of thinking is?
I’m glad you said yes.
There are three types of depression: transient, mild, and severe. Transient depression is related to circumstances. This is the most basic level of depression and almost every single person will come across this kind at least once in their life.
Mild depression is relatively related to circumstances but takes it to a deeper level. The emotions, thought processes, and actions don’t necessarily match up with the circumstances occurring. Put more simply, this is the level that most people assume that someone is overreacting.
Severe depression is as it sounds, the most severe. This has nothing to do with your circumstances and someone dealing with this level will experience intense hopelessness and suicidal ideation are commonly occurring.
According to Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 6.7% of Americans 18 years and older deal with MDD, or Major Depressive Disorder, in a given year. Tighten that down to an even more specific number and you see that for every thirty-three children you see, one of them deals with MDD. Let’s tighten that screw a little bit more, shall we? For every eight adolescents you may roll your eyes at in a given day, one of them suffers from MDD.
While depression can be kick started by a traumatic circumstance, the truth of the matter is that this is not always the case. Most of the time it’s not the case at all. In order to better understand why and how depression begins then, we must take a look inside of the brain.
*A link to my research is provided at the bottom of the post*
There are three sections of your brain responsible for your emotional balances and these three parts of the brain also play a pivotal part in MDD. The Amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex are like the trifecta of brainy powers. If one of these beautiful pieces of trinity goes awry, odds are the rest will follow suit and will do so in a nasty way.
The hippocampus is responsible for memory retention and releases a chemical called cortisol. This chemical can be extremely helpful when regulated correctly and is released during times of stress and/or depression. The hippocampus can actually release too much of this chemical and when that happens, the neurons in the hippocampus shrink because of the overexposure and this leads to memory loss. If you know someone who has dealt with depression for a long time, have you noticed any issues with their memory? If so, it’s because their brain is attacking itself with too much cortisol.
Would you like to know what else shrinks when the brain is overexposed to cortisol? That’s right, the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is found near the front and is responsible for emotion regulation, decision-making, and memory formation. Have you ever noticed that someone dealing with MDD overreacts to situations, has a hard time coming to any kind of decision, or has trouble remembering things that happened not too long ago? If so, guess why? It’s because the vital parts of their brain are literally shrinking from the constant onslaught of cortisol.
The only thing that doesn’t shrink when cortisol is attacking is the amygdala. In fact, this function of the brain enlarges, which is not good at all, and inhibits their sleep/activity patterns and has the tendency to release an unusual amount of hormones in the body which only leads to more problems.
So, with all of that said, maybe, just maybe, depression really is “in our heads.” I can guarantee you though, it’s not there for the reasons you think it is. Our primary brain functions have been inhibited and damaged because we are being attacked by ourselves.
It’s funny how so many people are accepting of the fact that organs such as the heart, liver, spleen, or kidney can become sick and turn on its host but forget that the brain is an organ too. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Be careful how you assume and speak to someone with depression. Open your mind to the fact that depression is chemical and overexposure to high stress situations damages and inhibits basic, primary functions of the brain. This battle of ours is so much more than a constant pity party.
Plus, we all know what assuming turns us into.
Research provided by Healthline
Image via Daily Beast