Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Biochemical Illness - Depression

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A Biochemical Illness

Everyone experiences variations in moods. Many people at some point in life feel disappointment, grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one, or just the simple blues. Severe or prolonged depression that interferes with one’s ability to function, feel pleasure or maintain interest is not a mere case of the blues. It is an illness. Researchers have demonstrated that it results from a biochemical imbalance in the brain called depression. Depression is a major unrecognized health problem and is among the most common and destructive of illnesses in the United States today. In addition, many people suffer from Manic Depression (Bi-Polar) or Major Depression. Both characterized by radical mood swings and extreme behavior.

In “What causes depression”, (00) Depression sourcebook, first edition. The brain is the control center for every part of the body. It controls our conscious behavior (walking and thinking) and our involuntary behavior (heartbeat and breathing). The brain also regulates our emotions, memory, self-awareness and thought processes. The brain receives information via the neurons. Each one communicates with the cells around it through electrical signals. When a nerve signals reaches the end of one cell, it must pass over a gap to reach the other one. The nerve causes a release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The improper relay of signals may be partly responsible for depression.

The underlying causes of depression are not well understood; although there are, many clues suggesting various systems in the brain may cause depression or be affected by it. For example, major depression is characterized by excessive sleep. So, it is very likely that the brain stem, which controls sleep, plays a role in depression. Similarly, abnormalities in the cerebral cortex, which controls thinking, probably have something to do with inability to concentrate and the negative thoughts that can be characteristic of depression. “What causes depression?”.(00) Depression sourcebook, first edition (p.1) Detroit, MI. Omnigraphics, Inc.

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In any given 1-year period, .5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive illness. The economic cost for this disorder is high, but the cost in human suffering cannot be estimated. Depressive illnesses often interfere with normal functioning and cause pain and suffering not only to those who have a disorder, but also to those who care about them. Serious depression can destroy family life as well as the life of the ill person. But much of this suffering is unnecessary.

Most people with a depressive illness do not seek treatment, although the great majority, even those whose depression is extremely severe, can be helped. Thanks to years of fruitful research, there are now medications and psychosocial therapies such as cognitive/behavioral, “talk,” or interpersonal therapies that ease the pain of depression. “Depression,” National institute of mental health (NIMH), NIH Pub. No.00-561,(000).

In terms of human suffering, the consequences of untreated depression are beyond measure. This illness is considered to be a whole body illness, involving your body, mood and thoughts. They include the loss of self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse, family and career disruption, and in many cases, death.

Not everyone who has depression will experience all the same effects and symptoms. Severity of symptoms varies from individual to individual. Symptoms include persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood. Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, decreased energy, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Irritability and restlessness, insomnia, oversleeping, appetite and/or weight loss or over eating and weight gain. Thoughts of death and suicide, suicide attempts.

According to Depression (001) Disease (p.5), psychological test such as the Beck Depression Inventory can be used to determine the onset, severity, duration, and progression of depressive symptoms. The dexamethasone suppression test may show a failure to suppress cortisol secretion; however, this test has a high false-negative rate. Toxicology screening may suggest a drug-induced depression. Depression (00)Disease (p.5) Springhouse, Penn. Springhouse corporation

Researchers found that the prevalence of major depression for a lifetime was 16.% (.6-5.1 million U.S. adults) and for 1- months was 6.6% (1.1-14. million U.S. adults). Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA; Atlanta; (July 1, 00) Major depression. Retrieved July , 00 from Ebscoe database.

Even among those suffering from depression, most do not know that they have a treatable illness. Most people blame themselves and are blamed by others. This leads to the alienation of family and friends who, if they knew the illness would likely offer support and help them find treatment.

Depressive disorder is not a passing blue mood. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness or a feeling that can be willed or wished away. People with this illness cannot simply pull themselves together and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help those who suffer from depression and its effects.


Depression sourcebook (1st Edition). (00).What causes depression.(p.1) Detroit, MI.Omnigraphics, Inc.

National institute of mental health (NIMH), Depression. NIH Pub. No.00-561, (000)

Depression (001) Disease (p.5), Springhouse, Penn. Springhouse corporation

Medical letter on the CDC&FDA; Atlanta; (July 1,00) Major depression. Retrieved July , 00 from Ebscoe database

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