Depression is not simply a mood disorder, a feeling of sadness, or being ill at ease. Depression can completely shut a person down, manifesting as an inability to make decisions, to take action, to think. Even sleep is affected by depression.
Researchers and clinicians who treat depression are learning that the physical manifestations can be mirrored by internal, cellular changes. Some people with depression have decreases in their gray matter volume, particularly in areas like the hippocampus (important to memory, learning, and emotions) and prefrontal cortex (where higher-level thought and planning abilities are based).
Additionally, imaging has shown a decrease in the number of synapses—the structures through which electrical or chemical signals are passed between neurons and other cells—in persons with chronic depression. Without the signals that synapses transmit, brain function is disrupted.
And without intervention in depression, synapse decrease can continue.
While there are drugs and behavioral therapies to treat depression, these therapies can be slow to act and sometimes ineffective. In addition, once synaptic loss has occurred, these therapies are less effective.
“It has long been recognized that these compounds (serotonergic psychedelics like psilocybin) may have therapeutic potential for neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction”.
The world we live in is increasingly high-paced and demanding of time and attention. Cell phones and social media keep us constantly stimulated. This kind of environment can lead to stress. Stress is a normal reaction to high-pressure situations and can be a healthy mechanism to help us increase performance for a short period of time.
While stress is a response to a specific situation, anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness that may not trace back to an identifiable source. Anxiety is a perfectly normal feeling to have once in a while, especially during or just before or after periods of prolonged stress. This feeling can be beneficial in some cases by creating a heightened awareness and preparing us for what is to come. Continue reading “What are you so worried about?”
Please believe me when I say this is the hardest thing I’ve done. Typing this sentence might as well be lifting a boulder, and the next could be even heavier. Before this, the hardest thing I’d done was say “good morning” to co-workers, and before that, it was simply getting out of bed.
Just about the only thing I find easy is going to bed, but sleeping is a different story. Every night I lie down, unsure if I’ll fall asleep within seconds and wake what seems like moments later, swatting aimlessly at my alarm clock, or if I’ll remain awake, tired beyond belief but some mysterious finger in the dyke preventing a flood of sleep from washing over me.
I’m one of the approximately 21 million people in the United States who suffer from major depression. Let me tell you, it’s kind of a bummer. Lying awake at night might sound terrible, but it’s the easiest thing in the world compared to writing a sentence, saying “hello”, smiling. I live each day negotiating a watery fog, often unsure what people tell me, confused about what comes next, and desperate for the energy to participate in the world.
This isn’t an essay asking for sympathy; receiving pity from others would only make me feel worse. Besides, as a function of suffering from depression, I’m convinced nobody is reading this, that nobody is going to read this. This essay is for me. Only by engaging and grappling with this disease in words and in actions can I ever hope to pin it to the ground.
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