What Depression Looks Like In Your Brain?

How Does A Brain Get Depressed?

So, depression is attributed to a specific pattern of activated circuits in your brain and how they’re impacting each other, but how does this tendency take shape? There are many factors which contribute to forming depressive patterns:

Genetics – Genes aren’t your destiny by any means, but they do guide the initial development of your brain circuitry. You can inherit a brain that’s more likely to become depressed. Research has determined that there’s a genetic component to depression and that as much as 40 percent of people with depression have a genetic link. If a person has a parent or sibling that has had major depression, they are three times more likely to develop the condition, which may be due to both hereditary and environment. Women have a 42 percent chance of hereditary depression, while men only have a 29 percent chance.

Early Childhood – Your childhood experiences literally shape your brain. While genes supply the basic blueprint for brain development, experience tweaks brain circuitry, and young brains in a critical window of development are particularly sensitive. Stressful or traumatic events in childhood and adolescence dictate the development of neural circuitry and influence the levels of chemicals released in the brain, which have powerful and lasting effects. The prefrontal cortex of the brain doesn’t finish maturing until a person is in their twenties and is susceptible to stress the whole time.

Stress – The current level of stress in your life is a big factor affecting which circuits are activated in the brain. Stress can disrupt a person’s healthy behaviors starting the brain on a downward slide. For example, stress at work can lead to working longer hours, which leads to missing exercise and yoga for weeks and not hanging out with friends or having much time for your partner, which puts you in a funk and causes trouble in the relationship, which only leads to more stress, which means losing sleep and binge eating etc… You get the idea. Recent research has also shown that chronic high stress kills neurons and prevents the birth of new brain cells in a region called the hippocampus which is necessary for a healthy stress response.

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