Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, see our mental health web guide which can point you to expert advice.

Can someone answer a question I have about depression please?

(11 Posts)
Doshusallie Mon 17-Mar-14 12:17:12

Apologies if this sounds stupid but I don't have any experience of my own to draw upon.

If, as I have heard is the case, depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can be treated with anti depressants that stabilise this imbalance, why do outside events sometimes cause depression? Like a death or redundancy or something awful happening? Would a life event trigger a chemical imbalance that perhaps wasn't previously there?

I am genuinely curious and I don't mean to imply that depression isn't a medical condition that requires treatment because of course that is nonsense. I hope you understand my question.


tiaramasu Mon 17-Mar-14 12:42:39

Interesting question.
fwiw, my view is that yes, life events end up causing a chemical imbalance.
Though I guess that chemical imbalances happen all the time to all people iyswim?
Might be a good question to post on General Health too.

AnaisB Mon 17-Mar-14 12:49:55

Everything that happens to us is associated with physical/chemical changes in the brain. Learning, bereavement, stress all have physical things that happen at the same time.

AnaisB Mon 17-Mar-14 12:53:13

Also, antidepressant don't always work. I think this is because depression is much more than a simple chemical imbalance.

Mitchy1nge Mon 17-Mar-14 13:04:37

have never met anyone who has had levels of any chemicals in their brain measured before being prescribed antidepressants so I think it must be a small part of the story at best

this psychiatrist is quite good on this sort of thing

SilverStars Mon 17-Mar-14 18:42:15
Is useful. It is not always a chemical imbalance it can be how people react or cope with stressful life events that can take time to deal with it says here.

TrueWorrier Mon 17-Mar-14 20:31:30

My GP explained to me that living in a stressful situation for perhaps weeks or months/years can deplete the levels of serotonin in your brain, because the stress hormone (I think it's caused cortisol or cortisone) effectively strips your brain of serotonin.

I've been living in a highly stressful situation for nearly 2 years, and basically my serotonin tank is now empty. And this is why I have finally sucumbed to anxiety/depression even though the stressful situation is now finally being resolved and life is much improved.

Sadly, it's going to take my brain/mind sometime to recover and for my serotnonin levels to recover. My GP explained there will be no overnight miracles for me, and no magic wand to instantly make me feel better again sad

It's taken months and months for me to finally crumble under the stress and pressure, so it will take months to recover I suppose?

LEMmingaround Mon 17-Mar-14 20:47:08

The very simple answer to your question is yes. When you are stressed, either massively or for a prolonged period your brain is less able to produce certain hormones (chemicals) that prevent anxiety and that generally affect mood. These hormones run on a feedback system, the less the cells producing them produce, the less the cells that use them have receptors that the hormones can bind to. This leaves more of the chemicals floating around in the space between the cells, the cells that produce the hormones have receptors that effectively mop up excess hormone and this tells the cell that there is enough and not to produce anymore - it all culminates in less "happy hormones" being produced. So it becomes a vicious circle. Many anti-depressants work by blocking the receptors that mop up the excess so that more hormone is available to the receiving cells over a longer period of time and fewer messages are received by the producing cell to tell it not to produce more - the hope being, that in the long term, the brain produces enough of the hormones involved in preventing anxiety and depression. So with something like depresssion and anxiety it definately can be produced by a life event. I would guess that most depression is triggered this way.

Its not just chemicals though - its thought processses as well, which is why therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) work so well as they help the person overcome negative thoughts. The same with traditional counselling that allows a person to get closure on bad things that may have happened to htem.

Not all mental illness is caused by events, there could be a genetic reason, so someone with schizophrenia will have a genetic origin to their condition, so would someone who is bi-polar and many other mental health disorders - disorders tend to be less easy to "cure" and these people would most likely need to be on long-term, if not life-long treatment for their conditions.

I suffer from anxiety and depression, i can trace it back to when my father died when it really came to a head, this was 8 years ago, i had treatment and counselling and it got better, although the anxiety never really left me, then something happened last year an it triggered it again. I am on medication, it helps alot. I think i have always had anxiety and self esteem issues, maybe they came from my childhood, im not sure.

<waves to trueworrier, hope you are doing ok>

LEMmingaround Mon 17-Mar-14 20:48:44

trueworrier, explained things much better than i did smile

Doshusallie Tue 18-Mar-14 09:10:10

thankyou very much for all replies

TrueWorrier Tue 18-Mar-14 10:15:03

<waves back to LEM> smile

Thank you for asking, I'm doing okay thanks. My GP told me to slightly increase my amitriptyline from 30mg up tp 50mg, as he considered that a more useful dose for anxiety.

I had a bad couple of days last week, then had a great weekend followed by a 'quite' bad day yesterday (but not so bad as last week) and today I woke up feeling really good.

So it comes and it goes, but you know how that feels. Have my first session of CBT this week which I think will be interesting and I hope it will get to the bottom of lots of stuff.

I'm like you in that I have finally realised I do have self esteem issues and have probably always suffered with 'hidden anxieties' eventhough on the surface I look incredibly self assured and confident.

Looking back over my life I have suffered several almost identical anxiety/depressive episodes just like the one I'm in now, and they have very effectively stopped me moving onwards and upwards with my life. They have made me want to always stay 'safe' and never challenge myself.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now