|Facts About Depression
Medical textbooks describe depression as a mood disorder, lasting at least 2 weeks, that produces exagerated, inappropriate feelings of sadness, worthlessness, emptiness, and dejection. "Exagerated" and "inappropriate" are two important words to keep in mind. To feel upset because of a job layoff, a broken marriage, a bankruptcy, or the loss of a loved one is a perfectly normal response to an unhappy event. Generally, our upset feelings are proportional to our loss, and this "reactive depression," as doctors call is, goes away with time.
However, major depression often strikes for no apparent reason. It doesn't seem to be caused by outside events. Instead, the black mood grows and grips from within. This crippling darkness can last for weeks, months, or years, and may make it impossible for us to carry on our normal lives.
Although we're only beginning to pull back the curtains that hide the inner workings of the human brain, we do know that several neurotransmitters (chemical messangers), including norepinephrine and serotonin, help to regulate our moods and keep us happy. Depressed people tend to have lower levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. If, for any reason, the amounts of these key neurotransmitters drop below critical levels, the result may be major depression that seems to come from nowhere, linger forever, sap our energy, and ruin our lives.
Why do brain levels of mood regulators fall in some people but not in others? We can't fully answer that question, although we know that genetics plays a major role. Depression, like other mood disorders, tends to run in families. Depression is even more likely to be shared by identical twins: if one is depressed, there's a better than 50% chance that the other will be, too.
A great deal of research has looked into possible environmental and psychological causes of depression. Some investigators believe that people who are pessimistic, often fell overwhelmed by life, or have low self-esteem are more likely to suffer from depression. It may be that some of us are lucky enough to have large reserves of "happy" neurotransmitters in our brains, but others have just enough to keep a smile on their faces.
Although biochemistry is the biggest factor in major depression, we're also affected by what happens to us in our lives. We're all hit by unpleasant events that may cause brain levels of norepinephrine and dopamine to fall temporarily. People with naturally large reserves will get through the troubling times wiht minimal difficulties, but those with low chemical levels to begin with are more likely to fall into a depression.
Excerpt from Depression and Stress Relief in The Directory of life Extension Supplements, 2000, pg 86.