Some people will dismiss the symptoms of depression by telling someone who is suffering from this condition that “It’s all in your head.” But people who struggle with depression are not making up their symptoms.
Depression is a real condition, and the effects can be debilitating and long-lasting. In fact, brain scans of people who have been diagnosed with depression differ from those of people who do not have depression. In the long term, depression can actually cause changes in the brain. Our brains quite literally adapt to depression.
Here are a few unexpected ways that depression can cause changes in the brain. It’s important to note that with treatment, it is absolutely possible to heal from depression and reduce both emotional and physical symptoms.
Depression can cause shrinkage in several regions of the brain. Generally, this shrinkage occurs in regions that affect your emotional responses and the recognition of emotional cues from others.
Changes like this can reduce your higher-level thinking skills, which is one reason why so many people with depression find it difficult to concentrate or struggle with memory. You might also experience a lack of motivation.
Furthermore, brain shrinkage can affect your physical needs as well. You may notice changes in your appetite or sleep schedule as a result.
Alternatively, brain inflammation can also occur due to depression. Inflammation can happen throughout the body for a variety of reasons, and while mild, short-term inflammation is part of the necessary healing response for many ailments, chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Inflammation in the brain reduces neuroplasticity and neurotransmitter functioning. Basically, this can make it harder to learn and master new skills. It can also impact your mood and your memory.
It may sound strange, but depression can influence oxygen restriction in the brain. This is one factor that contributes to inflammation. Furthermore, this is one more reason that people with depression often find concentrating next to impossible.
Oxygen restriction in the brain can cause brain fog. Even when you try to focus, you feel like something is clouding your mind, making it hard to keep your thoughts clear.
Changes in Cortisol
Someone with depression will probably experience changes in their levels of cortisol. Cortisol is also known as “the stress hormone,” because it’s released in the body when you’re in a stressful situation. Cortisol is necessary to make it through acutely stressful moments, but if you’re chronically stressed, it can be a hindrance.
Excessive cortisol in your system can slow the growth of new neurons. This leads to memory problems and can actually enlarge your amygdala, causing sleep disturbances. It can even change your activity levels, causing you to feel sluggish and tired even if you used to be active.
Why Brain Changes Due to Depression Matter
Overall, why do these brain changes matter? It’s important for people to understand that depression is a condition that affects both your mind and body. Many people do not know that depression can actually change the physical structures in your brain.
There is a strong, undeniable connection between your body and mind, and mental health conditions create measurable changes in your body. But it’s crucial to understand that with proper treatment and healing, these changes are not permanent.
With therapy, you can learn to manage your symptoms and enjoy long-term healing and happiness.
Are you suffering from mental and physical symptoms of depression? Talking to a therapist can help you heal your mind and body. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.