When I was younger, around 25 years old, I simply did not believe that depression was real. Being a hyper-optimist, I was one of those people that denied that it even existed, I used to tell my mother that it would never happen to me because I have always been a positive thinker (I ‘inherited’ this personality trait from my father).
Little was I to know that only a few years later, I would suffer from a terrible bout of depression. It was enough to make me cry & sob every single night. At one extemely low point I remained physically paralysed by this condition. It was precisely then that I seeked out professional help. Yes, I openly admit that I’ve taken prozac and other chemicals – and yes I believe that on the surface they do seem to work quite well. But no I don’t think they are a miraculous and permanent wonder cure. While taking them, there’s the nagging feeling that “you’re cheating at the game of life”; the sense that even while taking a relatively high dosage, you can never feel truly happy -with or without them.
I felt positive enough to halt my medication in January of 2008. But I now believe that once you contract chronic depression, this truly insidious disease never completely goes away. Or at least not until the underlying factors have been significantly reduced or eliminated.
How can we prevent depression? To do that we need to understand what causes it. Changes in brain chemicals, scientists say. As you’re probably already aware, they’ve pinpointed at least some of the brain chemicals that change during a phase of clinical depression. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have even taken the steps to restore the balance of seritonin levels using prescription medicines. Although in my opinion, the medicinal approach will never be able to prevent the disease, only attempt to cure it.
More important questions to ask are: “what actually initiates these changes?” and “why has it suddenly become so prevalent in today’s modern society?”. Could all of these chemical fluctuations merely be a response to changes in thinking patterns? In order to get closer to some real answers, I think the central question we have to ask ourselves is not what causes depression at the chemical level, but what are the risk factors which occur at the personal level… not just genetic risk factors or personality traits, but environmental risk factors as well.
Of course there are already well-known external factors which are being studied such as the environment (exposure to sunlight & good nutrition) and amount of physical exercise. But surely it’s much more complicated than receiving a healthy dose of sun, eating right and getting enough exercise. Which people are more prone to depression? Widows? Prisoners? Unempoyed people? Pessimists? Indigenous people? Homosexuals? Expatriates? People experiencing major life changes?
I’d like to know the proportion of research studies concerning the following two types of scientific research into depression:
1) “Evaluating the effectiveness of seritonin-reuptake-inhibitor treatments in cases of mild depression” and
2) “Investigating the demographic and personal statistical susceptibility of chronic depression sufferers”.
I believe that more focus should directed at the latter type of research instead of the former; I expect it would be cheaper to get real results and they could be obtained faster than any chemical-based study. Heck, even a scientific examination of individual case studies would probably be more useful at actually preventing depression in future generations. The question of why there seems to be so many depressed people alive today will have to be raised in another article…