Serotonin and Depression
Singin 'About The Blues, Feeling Blue and Really Being Darned Blue
The challenge of being human puts us right in front of feelings that we would call depressive, sad, melancholy or withdrawal, hopelessness, helplessness, despair, sorrow, sadness. There is a whole musical genre called "The Blues", which specializes in certain chord patterns, lyrical themes, musical tones and general melancholy outlook. Then there is "feeling blue" which might be because your are suffering a romantic setback or other personal loss. Really being "darned blue" can approach the clinical, the psychic, the spiritual or the existential. The full range of human feelings can go from mild melancholia to suicidal preoccupations. So, understanding that we are dealing with great breadth and great depth, this article wishes to address the least serious aspects of this issue. Especially when it appears to be in the nature of a mood imbalance. In other words, when there are no definite, notable, events or situations involved, and the word depression appears to be used to describe your "outlook". (Of course all of the above mentioned conditions can still involve SSRI's along with other treatments).
In Western Culture A Positive Upbeat Outlook Is Seen as Beneficial and Healthy
There are millions of people in other cultures on this planet who actually see blues and depression as preliminary preludes to spiritual breakthroughs, or simply natural states that are their resident, incipient and ever present realities. Beaming toothy smiles is not their "thing". Some religious traditions see existence itself as complete with suffering, and then a natural state would appear to be "blue" and depressive. Our main issue then has to do with the specific Western outlook which sees a Mood Disorder as a particularly disquieting situation that hopefully one could affect and alter, so as not to "hold one back" from the achievement and progress that they are trying to make In their lives. And so, this article discusses the modern occurrence of being able to treat and affect mood and psychological states with accessible treatment in first world, western, industrial cultural settings in which these treatments are accessible, permissible, affordable and desirable.
Enter The Neurotransmitters in General and Serotonin Specifically
Serotonin, Noradrenaline, Acetylcholine and Dopamine are the main neurotransmitters and they have overlapping and divergent effects. Sometimes acting on their own, and sometimes together, they mostly affect cognitive function, mood, motivation, sexual drive, pleasure, anxiety, irritability, appetite and aggression.
Serotonin seems to be the main player in depression and is the subject of this article, but serotonin receptors are involved throughout the body, especially in gastrointestinal and circulatory issues. One should understand this so that when one contemplates entering into a treatment program, they appreciate the complexity and wonder of the body's and brain's functions and how they should not be approached lightly or ignorantly. However, it should be noted that SSRI's seem to have more subtle effects and that are beneficial for "everyday living". As in all cases of drug treatment however, individual cases can vary and not fall into norms, averages, or means.
What Is Reuptake?
What the brain naturally does is reabsorb serotonin after the system delivers a certain amount of this neurotransmitter to the brain. Researchers discovered that neurotransmitters in the brain are regulated by some not clearly understood process in which the system "clears" a certain amount of serotonin from the brain; Probably in an attempt to achieve some kind of internal stasis. When the researchers figured out how to prevent the brain from "picking up and removing" the serotonin, they then affected the process by leaving more serotonin in the brain. Precisely how SSRIs affect depression is not clear. As we have said, certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are associated with depression, including the neurotransmitter – serotonin.
Some research suggests that abnormalities in neurotransmitter activity affect mood and behavior. SSRIs seem to relieve symptoms of depression by blocking the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin by certain nerve cells in the brain.
This leaves more serotonin available in the brain. Increased serotonin gains neurotransmission – the sending of nerve impulses – and improvements mood.
The long name is "Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inibitors". The "selective" process has to do with the fact that these drugs seem to select serotonin and not other neurotransmitters.to affect only serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.
One author did present a potential problem; Commenting that one should remember that these do not make MORE serotonin, they simply keep the serotonin the body is making "in circulation". Long term, he speculated, how much serotonin the body actually makes might be affected by this interruptive process.
Genes, Alleles, Individuality Play in the Stress and Depression Drama
Therapeutic effects of antidepressants may vary in people, due in part to each person's genetic makeup. Some researchers and studies have observed that some ethnic groups may seem to have natural chromosomal makeup which are more susceptible to certain depressed characteristics and then benefit more acutely than these kinds of treatments. It's thought that people's sensitivity to antidepressant effects, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor effects, can vary depending on:
How each person's serotonin reuptake receptor function works – Individuality
His or her alleles – the parts of chromosomes that determine inherited characteristics, such as height and hair color, which combine to make each person unique. – Family or Ethnic Characteristics
Depression in Certain Somatic and Ethnic Types
Enough years have passed and studies have been done that the medical industry has been able to focus on gender, healthy / disease states, ethnicity, societal outlook and behavior to demonstrate how depression is affected by all of these factors. While this article does not deal with all these issues, ethnicity is particularly interesting because, besides gender, it appears to be one factor that is simply fact ours at birth, which we then have to deal with. This article discusses a Northern European family and their experience with SSRIs.
A correlation shows to exist between latitude and susceptibility to depression. Northern Europeans are the most intolerable, with Scandinavians suffering from the highest and Mediterranean suffering from the lowest rates. Certain races also appear to be more intolerable, with whites suffering greater rates than blacks.
Studies are done all the time, and demonstrable scientific conclusions have not yet been met. However, early hypotheses are exploring the idea the hair color, height and even the vague term "temperament" or "societal outlook" seem to be involved, and have definite life changes because of this "happy pill".
One family of Dutch and German descent, all sufficed from depression, mood imbalance and a certain kind of morose and stoic outlook. Over the last two decades, three of the six members of this family have started the "happy pill" (as they call it). First the father, the much older and more serious case, took the SSRIs under a doctor's care of course. His outlook and mood were definitively affected. The family would make jokes about how his temperament would change, joking about when he was "on" and "off" the pill.
Irony Plays Its Hand
The children of this father, who laughed and joked in their youth about their fathers mood changes have now been taking SSRI's. One for over a decade, and another for just six months. The one who is newer to the treatment says: "I am back again. Like I was as a girl, much more talkative, cheerful and merry .. My husband says I am downright bubbly again."
The children who used to joke about their father are now being amusedly and happily commented upon by their children. Now the adult children point their fingers at their children and say: "Do not laugh. Someday you might see the need."
It appears from reports that SSRI's can be taken over a long term. Of course, there are always side effects, and reactions vary from individual to individual, and doctors' care is the only way you can obtain these. So, be encouraged to study, investigate, ask questions and explore. But if you feel you can benefit, even remotely, you should at least take a look.
Personal Experience, Though Anecdotal, Makes A Strong Impression
This is not a comment upon how many people consume these products, and when all of them are needed. We tend to be an over medicated society and drug abuse is also a common American malady. However, when one observes through personal and intimate contact real life case histories of people "converted" from morose moodiness to normal and bouncy outlooks that they used to have as younger people, it makes a very strong impression.
Certainly some people ask for these drugs who may not actually need them. Recreation and entertainment can become prime motivators for trying to get these and other types of drugs. However, the abuse or misuse of these drugs simply indirectly demonstrates their power and effectiveness. The individual who is seriously suffering should not be dissued by these social factors. The true need and desire for relief from suffering is the main motivator in seeking treatment and a kind of cure. Certainly this family is a testimony for SSRI's. It affects how they interact, how they parent, how they relate, how they sleep and how they work. Fundamental temperamental and mood-based changes can have a thorough and profound effect on the complexities of modern daily life.