Depression Is More Than Mood—How It Affects Your Brain

by Sep 13, 20220 comments

Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness.

Anxiety. Guilt. Irritability.

Helplessness. Mood swings.

These are all common signs and symptoms of depression.

Many of these may be in line with typical moods or emotions that someone can experience day to day, but depression is much more than that.

Here’s how depression affects your brain.

Brain Size

One common change we see in the brains of people with depression is changes in the actual size of the brain. Shrinking can occur in several brain regions, including the hippocampus, frontal cortex, and prefrontal cortex.

Cortisol, also commonly known as the stress hormone, is the culprit when it comes to shrinkage. In addition to the signs and symptoms that depression can cause on the body, including fatigue and weight gain or loss, depression can cause the hippocampus to raise your body’s cortisol levels, which can affect the development of neurons in the brain.

Brain Inflammation

Depression can also cause the brain to show signs of inflammation. The longer depression goes untreated, the more inflammation the brain can show.

The inflammation can kill neurons, which can lead to a lot of different problems down the road, especially if the depression is left untreated.

One of the main problems that can occur is the brain’s ability to change as someone gets older. If a brain is having difficulty growing, this can lead to cognitive problems.

Brain Oxygen Intake Levels

There is a link between oxygen intake levels and depression as well.

Depression can cause individuals to change their breathing. Ultimately, this can lead to a restriction in overall oxygen intake. What may seem like a minor change can actually impact a person’s judgment, motor skills, and memory.

Sleep Disturbances

While the hippocampus, thalamus, frontal cortex, and prefrontal cortex show signs of shrinking, the amygdala increases in size. The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls emotions, so the size increase can cause sleep problems, mood swings, and other hormonal issues.

Sleep deprivation can lead to worsened symptoms of depression. Not getting the proper amount of rest and recovery that your body needs to properly function can bring on more negative feelings, overall mood, and thoughts.

The amygdala changing is one of the most dangerous things that can happen as a result of depression.

Physical Health Issues and Illness

The stress hormones that are released in your brain can impact your physical health as well, making you more susceptible to illnesses.

Stress hormones can make your heart beat at an increased rate due to your body and brain thinking you’re in danger. Your heart isn’t meant to always be running at high speeds. If your heart continues to beat at an increased speed for extended periods of time, this can lead to heart issues in the future.

In addition to heart issues, your digestive system also is affected. Depression can cause an individual to change their eating habits, either eating too much or not enough, during the day. Gaining or losing weight too quickly is very harmful to your body.

How to Get Help

Depression is more than a mood. It has a number of effects on both the body and the mind.

In addition to the common signs and symptoms that depression can bring on externally, there are a lot of changes happening internally as well that you may not notice or pick up on.

There are treatment options and resources available for you. You don’t have to go through depression alone. If you or someone you know is depressed or showing signs of depression, seek help.

Reach out to us today for more information on therapy as a treatment option for depression.