Depression isn’t simply definable. You can’t pinpoint precisely where it comes from. But it does have numerous connections to the nervous system.
In this article, we’re discussing the connection between the nervous system and depression.
Whether you’ve considered sending your teenager to a program for troubled teens or struggling with depression yourself, you likely understand the symptoms of depression. You might even understand the superficial elements.
What are the connections between depression and the nervous system? How can you better prepare yourself to ensure your nervous system and mental health? Yes, you should seek therapy if you feel depressed and you can try to improve your nervous system health by taking supplements such as Nerve Control 911.
But wouldn’t it also help to understand how depression and the nervous system intertwine? Continue reading to learn more about the connection between the nervous system and depression.
To understand depression’s effects on the nervous system, let’s first look at your brain chemistry. Your brain is the nervous system’s control center. Studies reveal people with depression have altered brain structures and functions compared to those without the condition. In particular, depression affects the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and basal ganglia.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making, planning, and working memory. Those with depression often have reduced activity in this area. This reduced activity leads to challenges in social life.
Depression can also cause the hippocampus to shrink. A reduction in the hippocampus’s size can lead to memory problems and learning difficulties, which also inhibit social life and happiness.
Depression typically causes the amygdala to be overly-active. This can exacerbate feelings of anxiety or stress.
The Basal Ganglia
The basal ganglia is a group of structures associated with motor control, motivation, and reward processing. People with depression often have altered activity in the basal ganglia and this can lead to a lack of motivation and pleasure in activities that typically motivate people.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system regulates many of the body’s automatic functions, such as your heart rate blood pressure, and digestion. You can divide it into two branches, which are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s fight or flight response while the PNS controls rest and digest functions.
Depression affects the autonomic nervous system in several ways. Studies reveal that depression can affect the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system by increasing heart rates and blood pressure, and decreasing digestion.
Depression can also interrupt the ANS’s controlled response to stress. Those suffering from depression often have heightened stress responses. This often leads to an increase in cortisol and increased sympathetic nervous system activity. Over time, this leads to physical issues, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders.
The HPA Axis
The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis describes a complex network of hormones and neurotransmitters regulating the body’s stress response. When the body experiences stress, the hypothalamus will release corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).
This tells the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH). After, ACTH signals that the adrenal glands should release cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that tells the body how to cope with stress.
Those who struggle with depression can have dysfunctional HPA axes. Studies have also revealed people with depression have increased cortisol levels, often resulting from overactive HPA axes. Often, these dysfunctional HPA axes cause physical symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, insomnia, and changes in appetite.
Chronic stress and dysfunction of the HPA axis might also have long-term effects on the brain.
Chronic stress and dysregulation of the HPA axis can also have long-term effects on the brain. In fact, studies have shown chronic stress leads to neurodegeneration. This process can contribute to memory problems and cognitive decline.
Reduced Gray Matter
Studies have shown that depression can reduce gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. In the prefrontal cortex, the reduced gray matter in the dorsolateral PFC can contribute to cognitive symptoms of depression.
These symptoms include memory retention and memory. In the ventromedial PFC, reduced gray matter causes emotional symptoms. Emotional symptoms include unregulated emotions.
The amygdala is involved in emotional processing, particularly fear and anxiety. Studies have found that people with depression have increased activity in the amygdala in response to negative emotional stimuli.
Studies also show reduced gray area in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory. Reduced gray matter in the hippocampus can contribute to memory problems and cognitive decline. The reduced gray matter might also coincide with a deregulated HPA axis.
The reduction of the gray matter won’t take shape immediately. But with cognitive depression, reduced gray matter in brain regions will contribute to emotional and physical symptoms of depression. The longer these symptoms and patterns continue, the more difficult it is to reverse the effects of depression.
Conclusion- How Does Depression Affect the Nervous System?
The neurological connections between the nervous system and depression are aplenty. Though more research is needed to fully understand these connections, it’s clear depression is a complex condition that doesn’t only affect a person’s emotional behavior. There are physiological connections.
Depression doesn’t only affect a person’s emotions and behavior. It also their nervous systems. It can alter brain structure and function, affect the autonomic nervous system, and disrupt the HPA axis.
Whether you suffer from depression or know someone struggling with depression it’s best to consult a physician for the best treatment methods. Expert professionals can guide you to the treatment that best fits your condition. They can examine your symptoms, determine a treatment plan and enact a program for you.
However, even with these physicians, it’s also wise to self-educate yourself. This doesn’t mean doom-scrolling in the middle of the night. It means you should be actively seeking knowledge about a condition that affects millions around the world.
Get the conversation started and destigmatize a condition we’re all trying to figure out together. You’re not alone.