Depression is a serious mental condition affecting the individual’s mood, feelings, thoughts and well being. There are several effects of depression on the brain. For example, your patterns of appetite and sleep. They would be unable to experience in pleasure in any activities and would possess a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. These are all the observable changes in an individual with clinical depression. These changes are are just some ways how depression affects the brain.
While some people experience just a single episode of depression, some others experience several episodes of depression. This type of chronic depression can hamper your daily functions such as school, work, or even maintaining relationships. Apart from mood and behaviour, they affect physical aspects such as sleep and appetite.
It is also possible that they have suicidal thoughts or ideations and also there could be few attempts at suicide in few cases. There few changes that the brain undergoes in terms of structural and functional alterations which is basically due to the chemical imbalances in the brain.
Although the causes of depression are not known, there are several factors that contribute to increasing the risk of depression:
Depression mostly affects three parts of the brain – the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. The hippocampus, located in the centre of the brain, is responsible for storing memories and creating cortisol, a hormone released during periods of mental and emotional stress as well as during depression. When excessive amounts of cortisol gets sent to the brain, it can cause problems including memory loss.
The prefrontal cortex is located in the front part of the brain and performs the function of regulating emotions and helping to form memories. In the situation where excessive cortisol is produced, the prefrontal cortex starts shrinking.
The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for producing emotions such as pleasure and fear. With excess cortisol, the amygdala expands and also becomes more active, causing problems in sleep patterns.
As per studies, cortisol is believed to create structural and functional alterations in the brain. To understand what happens in the brain during depression, let’s understand the two alterations in detail.
Shrinkage in the certain parts of the brain- The brain regions namely hippocampus and the frontal lobe shrank among those individuals who had suffered from depression for years together.
One of the possible causes for the decrease in the levels of key neurotransmitters mentioned above is because of the enzyme activity of the monoamine oxidase which breaks those chemicals.
Loss of serotonin and dopamines takes place at different rates among the depressed individuals. This would result in the variation in the nature, pattern, and severity of the symptoms of the brain during the depression.
As per studies, balancing the amount of cortisol in the brain can prevent the hippocampus from shrinking and creating any memory problems.
Some of the medications that help in balancing the chemicals in the brain are:
Though there are certain changes that take place in the brain in terms of chemical imbalances, it requires diagnostic tests to determine the same. But these chemical changes which take place are sufficient enough to diagnose the condition. Further, the causes for the changes in the brain if found specifically, then the prevention and/or treatment would become easy.
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