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Anyone who has ever gone through a period of depression knows how alone it can make you feel.
Not only is it as if you’re living under a cloud where no happiness can break through, but it can seem as if there’s no help available.
Even when you can get a doctor to listen to you, the medication they prescribe can lead to everything from headaches, dizziness, and insomnia to blurred vision, nausea and even sexual dysfunction. And, you can suffer these side effects while taking the drugs and still not find relief from your depression.
It’s all in the neurons
The medications that doctors most commonly prescribe for depression are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Basically, how they work is to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain where your neurons (nerve cells) connect. This is supposed to boost your mood since serotonin, which is known as “the happy chemical,” helps coordinate your nervous system and plays a role in happiness and well-being.
Unfortunately, for 30 percent of patients who take SSRIs, this theory doesn’t translate into real life results. Until now, the reason why some people respond to the drugs while others continue to suffer has been a mystery. That’s not surprising, considering that the mechanism by which serotonin works required studying 300,000 neurons out of the total 100 billion neurons in the brain.
Luckily, researchers at the Salk Institute found a way around that issue…
They took skin samples from 800 patients who had either drastically improved when taking SSRIs or saw no effect from the drugs, and reprogrammed the cells to create serotonergic neurons they could study in a petri dish.
And they found that the shape of these neurons affected the varying degrees of how they responded to the drugs.
Put simply, people who have neurons that have longer projections are out of luck when it comes to SSRIs. According to the scientists, these abnormal features could lead to too much neuronal communication in some areas of the brain and not enough in other parts, altering communication within the serotonergic circuitry, and explaining why SSRIs do not always work to treat depression.
Other options for depression
If you are one of these people for whom SSRIs just don’t work, you could be suffering from what’s called “treatment-resistant depression” thanks to the shape of your brain neurons.
But, don’t give up hope.
It can help to see a specialist, such as a psychiatrist or a therapist, to get a diagnosis. In the meantime, it’s also important to rule out underlying problems that can make your depression worse such as a thyroid disorder.
You can also work to improve your depression naturally by:
- Getting enough exercise – Studies show that physical activity can improve mood and anxiety in up to 80 percent of people.
- Trying yoga – Yoga specifically has been shown to significantly improve depression. Quite a few of the studies on the subject have focused on how Bikram yoga can reduce symptoms, but if you don’t have a Bikram studio near you, any type can work.
- Checking out medical marijuana – A study in Brazil found that the cannabinoids found in marijuana had the power to improve depression symptoms in days. So, if you live in one of the 30 states plus the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal, it could be an option for you.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — Mayo Clinic
- When neurons are out of shape, antidepressants may not work — Salk Institute
- Treatment-Resistant Depression — WebMD
- 10 minutes a day towards a happier you — Easy Health Options®
- Yoga is strong medicine for depression — Easy Health Options®
- Marijuana may hold the key to curing depression for good — Easy Health Options®