Anxiety and depression have become pretty common problems nowadays. Although most people fail to recognize the dangers of both disorders, they can be devastating. Anxiety may appear due to various reasons – it can be due to losing a loved one, going through a divorce or getting fired. All of these situations can make you feel nervous, anxious and agitated, eventually leading to depression. Of course, anxiety is a normal response to stress, but if it happens too often, it will lead to depression which is a serious and often deadly disease.
Some people feel anxious or depressed all the time without an apparent reason. This prevents them from behaving and functioning normally. In this case, they can’t carry on with their life due to overwhelming negative feelings, which can make them take their own life. Feeling sad, anxious or depressed for more than 2 weeks can be diagnosed as a major depressive episode.
According to experts from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the so-called Major Depressive Disorder is a growing threat in the USA and a leading cause of disability. It can affect anyone regardless of age or gender and manifests through the following symptoms:
- Losing interest in your favorite hobbies and activities;
- Feeling sad and empty all the time;
- Feeling guilty and worthless;
- Feeling emotionally and physically drained;
- Feeling pessimistic and hopeless about everything;
- Having a hard time focusing and remembering;
- Feeling anxious and irritated;
- Suffering from insomnia;
- Experiencing sudden weight loss or weight gain;
- Having suicidal thoughts;
- Showing persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, mysterious pains or digestive problems.
If you’ve been experiencing these problems for more than 2 weeks, we suggest visiting a psychologist.
The Human Brain and MDD
A recent study by the ENIGMA Working Group showed that MDD causes physiological damage to the brain. The study evaluated nearly 10,000 people or which the majority were healthy, while the remaining (nearly 2000) patients were suffering from MDD. The team of scientists compared the brain scans of the MDD patients with the brain scans of the healthy participants and the difference was obvious.
The true cause of the so-called Major Depressive Disorder is the hippocampus. The MDD patients evaluated in the study had a significantly smaller hippocampus compared to the other participants. This theory was speculated for a long time, but this was the first time science confirms it. The volume of shrinkage was 1.24%, which is quite significant.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for new and long-term memories as well as emotional responses and spatial navigation. This important brain part lies in the medial temporal lobe. The fact that it’s far smaller in MDD patients explains why these people experience depression.
Professor Ian Hickie (co-author of the study) says that memory isn’t just remembering stuff – it’s essentially a concept we hold of ourselves. The professor explains that animal experiments have shown that the same hippocampus shrinkage doesn’t harm the memory only – it’s also related to a wide range of other behaviors such as loss of certain functions. This shows why depressive people have a harder time coping with normal daily activities.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The damage done by the disorder is reversible with proper treatment. If you think you may be suffering from MDD, we strongly suggest talking to your doctor. If you’re diagnosed with the disorder, he will put you on appropriate therapy that will hopefully prevent MDD from destroying your brain.