Brain areas affected by depression

No Me Mireis!
No Me Mireis! (Photo credit: El Hermano Pila)

How would you describe depression? I tend to describe depression as a psychological, emotional, and physical disease. Here’s why:

  1. Psychological: depression is often characterized by how we perceive life and circumstances in our lives. For most people, depression becomes a reality when something troubling, stressful, or horrific occurs. For other people, their genetic make-up and life stressors led to depression.
  2. Emotional: Depression makes people cry, moody, irritable, negative, pessimistic, and a host of other things. For some people, they are nicer when depressed because it’s humbling. Quite frankly, some people need humbling! But in other cases, people become very hard to deal with because of their mood swings or pessimistic perspective about everything.
  3. Physiological: Depression has a great impact on our physical bodies. We feel tired/fatigued, experience multiple ailments, muscle tension, neck cramps, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and in some cases the flu.

Depression has been promoted as a biological disease with genetic components. While I agree with this, I’m not entirely sure I agree with the chemical balance theory, which states that we have low levels of serotonin in our brains when we become depressed. Research has shown very little evidence of this as true. However, I do believe that there are components of the brain that are affected by depression:

  1. Thalamus: Hunger and eating patterns ; sleep patterns; and hypervigilence
  2. Hypothalamus: mood and emotional expression; regulates energy level
  3. Amygdala: emotion center that deals with negative feels and emotional memories
  4. Pre-frontal cortex: thinking, social behavior, and personality. Sometimes its really difficult to concentrate when depressed and thinking slows down.

For a visual explanation of how depression affects the brain, click here.