I always found it irritating when (it was more fashionable at the time) our lecturers were keen to ascribe all psychological disorders to chemical “imbalances”. While I agree that drug therapy has its place, drugs are far too often used where they are not appropriate, or where some other form of therapy is also called for. Saying depression is caused by low serotonin levels is like saying headaches are caused by pain. It’s a facile, pseudoscientific non-explanation. IIRC serotonin is used in two ways: as an ordinary neurotransmitter (between neurons) and also as a modulator (a chemical that pervades the brain and affects a large number of receptors). Dopamine likewise. Serotonin analogs or MAOIs can only perform the modulation function, and by their presence can interfere with the systems that are producing endogenous serotonin. SSRIs essentially have the same effect by allowing serotonin to ‘leach out’ of synapses. I don’t know much about them because they weren’t popular when I was at university, but I believe they’re going out of fashion lately because they simply don’t do anything useful.
The brain is a highly dynamic system capable of rewiring itself in response to environmental stimuli; while it may occasionally become seriously “de-tuned” and need a quick fix to prevent escalating problems, it’s not a substitute for finding out what the underlying issue is. Over the years, I’ve got to know several people who struggle with depression, and it’s often become apparent that they have deep, festering emotional problems that would depress anybody. Note especially that the behavioural symptoms of depression are almost identical to those of learned helplessness. [/quote]
The mind-brain connection is poorly understood and depressive feelings may just as much indicate a purely biochemical misfunction as any 'deep emotional issues" (what the hell are they?).
Simply look at the effects diminished sunlight has on people in northern climates during winter. The symptoms of SAD are the same as a deep depression. Mentally and experientially they are also the same. I know as I used to suffer from it terribly. Is there some deep emotional issue I and millions of others have with winter?
Why do I no longer suffer seasonal depression? Because I have learned that at least one day a week of prolonged outdoor exercise (say a 6-8 hour hike or bike ride) in addition to a couple 1-2 hour bouts of exercise, and of course good diet, ect, is enough to keep it in check. I also used to use high spectrum lights though I don’t need them now in Taiwan: just pop down south a few times.
No need for therapy, no underlying emotional problems. And the same negativity that I used to record year after year in a journal is suddenly mysteriously no longer there. If you don’t get that last part I’ll explain. If you read my journals, and no you won’t, you’ll find that every December through January I was writing about the same doubts, feelings of insecurity and hopelessness. Often times I was using the exact same words. It’s quite clear to me that there was no issue. My mind was simply making up negative issues to explain in a sense the way I was feeling.
Depression is a symptom of many types of common illnesses; again because the mind tends to want to dwell on negative emotions when the body is out of sorts. And as is obvious, when depressed it is difficult to concentrate, to focus, and hence to think clearly. Self-esteem issues are as often the result of depression as the provocation.