Depression: What Happens Inside the Brain
Depression or major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common and serious medical illness that affects the way you think, feel and interact with others. When a person is depressed, feelings of hopelessness and sadness linger for a few days or can even last for a few years. Depression is not something to take lightly. For us to have a better understanding of depression and all its aspects, in this blog, we will be looking at what happens inside the brain of a person suffering from depression.
There are various parts of the brain that are affected by depression.
1. The Hippocampus
This is the part of the brain responsible in storing long-term memories and the production of depression and stress related hormones called cortisol.
When the levels of production of cortisol increase, the production of new neurons is compromised. This causes the hippocampus to shrink. This chemical imbalance also leads to memory problems.
2. The Prefrontal Cortex
Located on the front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex is responsible in decision making and regulating emotions.
Along with the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex shrinks as well when excessive cortisol levels are sent to the brain.
3. The Amygdala
Pleasure, fear and all other emotions are the ones facilitated by this part of the brain. Due to constant exposure to high levels of cortisol, the amygdala becomes enlarged.
Medical studies suggest that the high levels of cortisol affect the brain’s physical structure and chemical activities. In a normal setting, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and decrease at night. For people with depression, the levels of cortisol are always increasing even during nighttime.
The production of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine are decreased when an individual is suffering from depression.
Serotonin hormones are responsible in the regulation of sleep, mood and appetite. Dopamine hormones are the happy hormones. These are the hormones responsible for motivation and perception of reality.