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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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