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Depression Isn’t A Choice, It’s A Kind Of Brain Damage

Depression Isn’t A Choice, It’s A Kind Of Brain Damage

After years of debate, researchers finally determined that persistent depression causes brain damage, and not the other way around.  Neurologists previously had hypothesized that brain damage was a predisposing factor for chronic depression, but a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry sheds a different light.

The study, which consisted of 9,000 individual samples, collected from the ENIGMA group, succeeded in definitively proving a causal relationship between persistent depression and brain damage.  Magentic resonance images (MRIs) showed evidence of hippocampus shrinkage in 1,728 patients diagnosed with chronic depression compared to the 7,199 healthy individuals partaking in the study.

Specifically, the study found that those patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder, “showed robust reductions in hippocampal volume (1.24%) in MDD patients compared with healthy controls.”  You can read the full study here.

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    What is the hippocampus?

    The hippocampus is a small area of the brain that is located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain.  It is comprised of two halves, one which resides on each hemisphere of the brain.  It is generally agreed that the main functionality of the hippocampus encompasses the creation of new memories, the formation of long term memory, and spatial navigation.

    Inside the hippocampus resides the amygdala.  The amygdala is a part of the brain which has previously been linked with depression.  Studies in the past have suggested a direct relationship between a shrinkage in the hippocampus and depression, but the sample size of previous studies hasn’t been large enough to yield definitive results.

    The hippocampus and depression

    Researchers have found that in addition to its importance in forming and maintaining memories, the hippocampus is also pivotal in controlling emotions.  Professor Ian Hickie, a co-author of the study and a renowned mental health campaigner, explains the hippocampus’ relationship to depression, “Your whole sense of self depends on continuously understanding who you are in the world – your state of memory is not about just knowing how to do Sudoku or remembering your password – it’s the whole concept we hold of ourselves”

    Professor Hickie further elaborates on the relationship between a shrinkage in the hippocampus and changes in behavior observed in animals from the past, “We’ve seen in a lot of other animal experiments that when you shrink the hippocampus, you don’t just change memory, you change all sorts of other behaviors associated with that – so shrinkage is associated with a loss of function.”

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    Those who suffer from depression usually have low self esteem and lack confidence in managing their daily lives.  It is common for those suffering from depression to also have a deflated ego, which simply refers to an individual’s sense of self.  This could potentially affect how one forms memories, and how they view themselves in the past and thus project themselves in the future.

    What is depression?

    Depression is a seemingly hopeless state of mind where one takes extremely pessimistic thought patterns as reality. The key word is “seemingly.” Someone who is depressed generally has a deflated sense of self and a faulty perception of the world around them and how they view themselves in it.
    I believe that the state of depression manifests through repetitively regretting your past and fearing the future. It is not a singular conscious choice. I believe that it is a consequence of repetitive thought patterns that results in a negative outlook on life and one’s self in it. A negative outlook and thought cycle only leads to more negative thoughts without some form of intervention. Sort of how like an avalanche only goes faster and gets bigger when careening down a snow-covered mountain.

    These statistics concerning hippocampus reduction are intriguing as one could argue that the reduction in the hippocampus parallels this change in thought pattern. Couldn’t it be harder for someone with even the slightest reduction to step out of this negative thought cycle without the full capacity of their brain?

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    Change Your Outlook

    From my experience, my journey overcoming this condition started when I accepted what my misguided thoughts were telling me for what they were– thoughts. I found for much of my life that I tried to escape this state of mind which in a sense gave validity to it.
    One simple, but effective tool in breaking free from depression is to get in touch with the present moment. Meditation and yoga has been essential in my daily life.
    Surrounding yourself with positive individuals is also extremely beneficial in overcoming depression. Sometimes when someone is depressed they simply cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel or find any hope in their life. That doesn’t mean that those around them can’t show them it’s there though!

    Depression in the United States

    Depression is not something that should be taken lightly.  From 1999 to 2010 the suicide rate in the United States amongst Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 has increased over 25%.  Additionally, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that report that spanned from 2007 through 2010 found that almost eight percent of individuals 12 or older suffer from depression.

    In the past, depression has often been thought of as a lifestyle that people are just too weak to climb out of.  Other people might incorrectly assert that depression is a sign of mental weakness.

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    This could not be further from the truth.

    Whether depression is a disorder or disease doesn’t matter.  The fact remains that depression is a debilitating condition that drastically affects the lives of millions of people all over the world.  Depression is not just sadness, nor is it is symptom of weakness.  It isn’t discriminatory against race, gender or ethnicity.

    Most importantly, depression is not a choice.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2018

    35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

    35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

    Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

    But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

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    The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

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    While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

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    While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

    If You’re Staying In

    1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
    2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
    3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
    4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
      • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
      • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
      • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
      • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
        • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
        • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
        • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
          • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

          If You Want to Get Away

          1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
          2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
          3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
            • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
            • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
            • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
            • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
            • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
            • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
              • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
              • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

              New & Exciting Experiences

              1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
              2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
                experience.
                • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
                • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
                • Experience white water rafting.
                • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
                • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                  • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                  • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                    • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                    • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                    • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                    Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                    Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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