Is Depression Really As Common As We Think?

Is depression really as common as we think? Or is it mostly socially constructed right now to serve those who are all struggling with similar economic, financial, occupational, spiritual, or whatever have you, life crisis’s?

It is a question some might be offended that I ask but it needs to be addressed. The word has been thrown around for a decade now. Laura Pratt stated “eleven percent of Americans aged 12 years and over take antidepressant medication (Pratt, 2011).” That was in 2011, can you imagine the number now? Do all these people really need medication for a physiological imbalance?

Some may argue depression is strictly environmental and psychological. They may say it has no physiological component, but I have to disagree. At Fudan University in China, researchers conducted a study on depression using MRI imaging on patients, and discovered the orbitofrontal cortex reacted differently when it came with reward mechanisms of normal patients (Sandle, 2016). When a person is not given a reward, this reacts, but in those with depression it seems this is a constant reacting mechanism, even in situations where it is not appropriate. “Specifically, activity in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex is found when subjects reach expectations about punishment and social reprisal (Sandle, 2016).” The area appears to be physically changed. Can psychological states change physicality? Or do physiological states induce psychological stresses?

I personally believe the answer is both. This is why depression is so difficult to treat. In a patient experiencing depression with little stress in life, having a genetic history, an inability to really explain why they are depressed, are all signs a closer look should be given. MRI imaging will hopefully pave the way to distinguish between types of depression. Those who have a physiological issue, might need medication and therapy. Those with a sort of socially constructed depression could benefit from just going to a psychologist, practicing good eating habits, exercising, and/or meditation.

If whatever gives us rewards, let us say, self assurance as well is essentially damaged, is there a way to reconstruct the pathways? If medication improves some, then it proves to be possible. If therapy helps, it proves to be possible. Some are living testimonies of this and credit research and doctors with saving their life from potential suicide. I believe each person’s brain has experienced stress at different stages of development, therefore pathways are constructed uniquely and need a detailed response. In order to find a solution I believe a person needs to first ask themselves why all the sadness? Has it always been there in the background since childhood? Or has it come on recently? When and what was going on during that period of time when symptoms started? What stage of development was hindered?

I have a theory that when people are young, their developing brains can only handle so much stress. Stress has a physical component and a psychological. I believe the brain is capable of whatever it has the capacity to accomplish under stress. You ever see the children who can play Bach at age ten? They usually had support at home, lessons, could focus, and had little stress at home. Children who are raised around stress, in impoverished conditions are less likely to access certain experiences in society due to the cost of them. They suffer physical and psychological stress at a young age. This could have a more lasting impact I would say on this child, rather than an adult who suffers little trauma in childhood and is experiencing depression. Gabor Mate stated:

“CT scan studies at the University of Wisconsin showed that brain centers responsible   for academic performance were up to 10 percent smaller in children who grew up in the poorest homes. Why? Because the human brain itself is a social organ, shaped in its neurophysiological and neurochemical development by the child’s relationships (Mate, 2015).”

If CT scans are showing differences in brain structure in those with better academic performances, then stress on development is crucial  to understand for ensuring a productive society. And also, maybe less cases of depression are caused by an irreversible physiological change which could give hope to those who need less invasive treatments. This could reserve medication for those who really do need it.

Erik Erikson, a pioneer in the field of psychology believes in eight stages of development, and “during each stage, the person experiences a psychosocial crisis which could have a positive or negative outcome for personality development (McLeod, 2008).” Unlike Freud, Erikson’s attention was focused upon social constructs, culture, and environmental factors affecting the ego. Freud emphasized more on a conflict arising between the id (primitive part of the brain) and the super ego which has more to do with adapting a moral conscience. This raises the question in most minds, who is right? I personally feel the answer depends on the patient. I believe Erikson’s crisis seems to come from crucial stages of development in youth, deep-rooted in memories, senses, our physical neurological pathways thus causing physiological changes. I believe Freud’s crisis is rooted in the later development stages, comes on because of social constructs revolving around morals and defining self worth in relation to them. Thus, medication will not treat this sort of existential crisis. Human (therapist) and animal companionship have shown to improve these types of depression. Exercise, healthy eating habits, healthy sleeping schedules, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and establishing goals might be a solution.

In the future, I hope medical imaging technology combined with doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists can all work together to provide the correct treat option for those suffering with depression or any mental illness. Compared to one hundred years ago, there is vast knowledge about the human brain and I am intrigued to see where research takes us.

 

Works Cited

 

Sandle, T. (2016, December 11). Physical source of depression identified. Retrieved January 06, 2017, from http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/physical-source-of-depression-identified/article/481481

Mate, Gabor. Posted Nov 16, 2015, G. (2015, November 16). Gabor Maté: How to Build a Culture of Good Health. Retrieved January 06, 2017, from http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/good-health/gabor-mate-how-to-build-a-culture-of-good-health-20151116

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The Sullen

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It just crept up on her. Like a sullen boy looking for a sullen girl. There were no words to describe it. Words were no longer easy to craft. And that, my friend, was one of the signs, she drove past, with her foot upon the accelerator.

But no, she wasn’t really wonder woman. She couldn’t just drive through all the obstacles she faced with acceleration. And that, my friend, was another sign, she again drove past. She was a little girl who thought the world was about dreams, fantasies, creativity, imagination, and boy was she wrong. She thought the world would just shed rainbows upon everyone who was deserving. But no, that’s not always the case.

Life can be difficult. Unnecessarily so. She never could see reality as clear as the others. Things can happen at any point in time that can change your perception of yourself. Nothing could have prepared her for this. No curriculum, no adopted ideology, nothing could prepare her for the obstacle she faced. And no person would want to face this. Especially unknowingly.

Perhaps, that was always the issue. She was a dreamer. And then when the dream ended, reality set in and so did the clouds. The rain seemed longer than it actually was. The days seemed longer, and the nights we riddled full of a lack of sleep that no sleep aid could fix. Her eyes would shut, but the noise never did. She thought it was normal.

Did she build this fallacy of a dream and ultimately create this depression? Or did something else? The question always plagues her but there will never be a definite answer. Realistically, the answer is both. In her eyes there are so many factors in situations, she doesn’t even want to think about the past anymore. And when she does, the most sullen of beasts grips onto her as if he will never let go, for there is too much to decipher and reflect upon.

She knows if she digs deeper, she will only discover more people just like her. And the thought, brings a cringe to her face. Just a number she thinks. Everyone of us is just a number now to them. How can you keep your sanity as a number?

How can you not be just a number, when they made you a number?

She knows the fact she even asks these questions brings her hope of escaping an ideology which has done nothing for her but help further her depressing state. A kind of institutional virus she paid to be injected with. Her own ideologies questioned, not embraced in discussion. Her papers written all over with biased red ink. If she looks over them now, it will make her even more infuriated than ever.

So much difficulty she faced, just trying to be herself in a world where acceptance is so hard to come by.

She looks outside though. The sun is still there, shining. She remembers it has always been there and always will be there probably until the day she dies, no matter what happens. She thinks, they sure as heck cannot take away the sun, so I should be okay. Some things cannot be controlled by the human hand.

The Pilot with a Mental Illness

Did you hear about the pilot who drove the plane right into the mountains? Well, if you haven’t I don’t know where you have been. The minute I heard of this event I immediately felt something was terribly wrong mentally with this man. It makes no sense a plane is above 30,000 feet then falls dramatically to 100ft before hitting a wing and colliding into the terrain.  It had to be the pilot or a serious issue with the plane.

The black box and a passenger recording has exposed the truth. The man locked himself inside and immediately set the plane into a rapid decent. It must have been insane. The other pilot was trying to break down the door with no luck, pleading with the man to stop, but later on growing angry.

How did it get to this point though? How did a man become so sad he felt like the only way to end his life was to take a plane down? Why did he feel it necessary to bring down 150 people with him he didn’t even know instead of just simply hanging himself? Was he full of hate? Or did he feel so alone he felt like the only way out was to die with a bunch of people? Did he feel he had no purpose so he had to make his mark in history with a tragedy rather than an accomplishment? Did he stop his medications? Did his wife ask for a divorce? What happened to bring this man’s mind to this state?

All of these questions are important. Not because they are related to a tragedy but because they address a broader issue going on with people: mental illness. I am not excusing this man from what he has done, it is horrific, but in order to help prevent this from reoccurring we must understand it. We must ask uncomfortable questions and try to get inside how a person like this thinks so we can help. To ignore them is to turn a eye to a person being mugged. Their illness is REAL. It can start off small then lock onto the core of society until eventually we have an epidemic that could have been avoided.

It amazes me this man went to a doctor it seems, was diagnosed with something, but continued to work. How was he allowed to work? Did he hide his condition for years on end? Or did he not hide it and when he told someone they reacted with a typical “everyone feels sad sometimes” response?

Depression isn’t sadness. It is more than that. It takes out your soul and smashes it unto the ground until you lie there motionless, wishing you had a purpose.  There are no words really to describe it, only emotions sometimes. A person at times knows how silly they are for feeling that way, yet cannot shake it. There is something preventing it from being broken. The cycle continues until the person survives or does not. And survival could mean, never being the person you once was and accepting that. But it takes a lot of strength to get through it. It sometimes takes support from others. Perhaps, the pilot brushed his teeth, ran through the park, went to work, and at times still cried. And after years of hiding the tears, he snapped. Were there no signs? Was he that good at hiding it? I think it was a combination of people in general not understanding mental illness and also people feeling ashamed to admit their condition. Mental evaluations for high stress jobs should be mandatory though an there needs to be more social workers utilized. We cannot live in a social media based society without addressing the issues we create when we put unrealistic expectations on human beings. There are not enough centers for those who are mentally ill, not enough funding, psychologists, social workers, etc…Sometimes the mentally ill are left homeless or incarcerated or they end up flying a plane into a mountain. Whatever it is, it isn’t okay.

If medications help some people, then more research needs to be done on specific elements in combination to certain conditions. Right now it is too broad. You have bipolar patients on the same medication as depressed and/or anxiety patients. C’mon. And if meds do not help some people, more funding to alternate therapies as well. Either way, we must try to prevent innocent people from being hurt by those who were hurting but did not tell anyone. We must lift the stigma off the mentally ill and admit sometimes it isn’t their fault. As a society we cannot let it be suppressed because it only leads to tragedy. Let’s not blame anyone or anything specific but rather fix the problems at hand. My heart goes out to all those who perished.