It doesn’t take Fred Gage, a famous neuroscientist at the noted Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute, to tell us what depression feels like. What it looks like physiologically, though, is startling.
Gage discovered the human brain continues to produce new brain cells after birth, and thank goodness. Without that little piece of info, we’d be relegated to a depressed and anxious state forever – but armed with some additional key information, we’ll likely all be motivated to reclaim our happiness instead of writhing in a hormonally-induced hell forever.
The unfettered message in healing depression is one of promise, but of ultimate responsibility-taking. There may have been really big challenges which you have experienced in your life that helped to create your depressed or anxious state, or you may have been “born this way.”
The great news is that just as devastating as depression can be to your overall health, the victorious rebirth of a happier, calmer, more ‘sane’ you can undo even several decades of depression, but we have to stop treating it like a “mental health” condition, or simply an imbalance of chemicals in the brain.
Aside from making you feel like yesterday’s garbage dumped out on a hot summer’s black asphalt pavement, depression absolutely wrecks your health. Here’s how:
Depression Isn’t a Mental Illness, It’s a Whole-Body Illness
Proven just recently by a team of researchers lead by the University of Granada, depression should be considered a systemic disease. This is because it affects every single system of our bodies. People with depression are associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease, and cancer, not just with higher incidence of suicide.
The lead author of this study is Sara Jiménez Fernández, PhD student at the UGR and psychiatrist at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at Jaén Medical Center (Jaén, Spain).
Fernández’s findings looking at depression in almost 4,000 people, are eye-brow raising.
The specific changes in a depressed-person’s body compared to someone who is not depressed are startling:
- Their cells deteriorate more quickly as measured by an increase in various oxidative stress parameters (especially malondialdehyde, a biomarker to measure the oxidative deterioration of the cell membrane)
- Their bodies have fewer antioxidant substances such as uric acid, zinc, and superoxide dismutase enzyme.
- The autonomic nervous system fails to function properly
- Depressed people get poor sleep, or no sleep due to changes in their hormonal rhythms. Ample scientific research links poor sleep quality and duration to a host of health issues ranging from obesity, to poor heart health to high blood pressure and increased incidence of diabetes. Poor sleep also contributes to increased stress hormones like cortisol that dampen our immune systems and create chronic inflammation – another factor recently linked to increased depression.
- Depressed people don’t respond as well to anti-inflammatory medications.
- Depressed people don’t respond well to many pharmaceutical medications, and may even become more depressed by taking them.
- Depressed people have fewer nerve connections and impaired communication in key areas of the brain.
The results of this study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, explain the significant association between depression and other ailments, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer. They study also sheds light on why depressed people tend to have shorter lifespans than non-depressed people.
Simply throwing some chemicals at the brain has failed drastically, as evidenced by the continued rise in depression, and even its exacerbation in many cases.
As scientists adopt a new approach to studying a whole-body approach to depression, we may see a decrease in this disease that is plaguing more people, at younger ages, every year.