Deciphering Depression

Disclaimer: This is not a how-to article. Talk to a therapist or psychiatrist before making any decisions that could impact your life.  

What is depression? Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

What do antidepressants do? We say they balance the chemicals in peoples brains, that help regulate moods and emotions. Most people end up sleeping better, eating better, and start doing the things they enjoy again. I think it’s safe to say that the antidepressant market is working, at some capacity. The model used to explain the drugs is probably right, but I think it’s important to keep things simple: that most people who take these drugs get happier. 

So if the problems were entirely chemical, why do antidepressants only work 80-90% of the time? Why is there drug resistant depression? And if there is drug resistant depression, what does that say about the nature of the disease itself?

But why would some people be resistant to the cure? Severity of the episode, and duration of the episode both seem to factor in here. Also old age and anxiety disorders have significant correlations.  Truth is, we really don’t know. 

What procedures are there to treat drug-resistant depression? 

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). While you are asleep, a carefully measured dose of electricity is passed through your brain, intentionally triggering a small, brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can relatively quickly reverse symptoms of major depression. 
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).Generally only used when ECT isn’t effective, rTMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. 
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Generally, VNS is only tried after other brain stimulation therapies such as ECT and rTMS have not been successful in improving symptoms of depression. 

There are all sorts of natural remedies and foods that help combat depression. Here are the highlights:

  1. Some people have used red meat to treat depression. 
  2. Sunlight and phototherapy have been used to treat seasonal depression. 
  3. Coffee has been shown to have positive effects on depression. 
  4. Exercise helps combat depression. 
  5. Induced fevers have been used to treat depression. 
  6. Psychostimulants have been used to effectively treat depression 

So let’s pool all the non anti-depressant solutions together. What on earth do they have in common? Red meat, coffee, sunlight, fevers, exercise, and electric and magnetic stimulation. They stress the body or the brain. They stimulate. They stimulate you into action, give you energy to pursue what you’re passionate about. And with that boost, you burn energy, work up an appetite, sleep better, and wake better the next day to do it all over again. 

Why does stimulation help? I think its because stimulating these already overactive brains makes the person physiologically adapt to increasing stress. Remember, brainwaves are in higher frequencies when people are depressed. Basically, if you have to, you’ll find more energy. You’ll adapt to the stimulation, then the stimulation goes away. So the adaptation lowers your resting brain energy. 

So how does our time perception theory tie in? Read my Conservation of Dopamine post. Basically, time perception seems to factor in to every portion of this. What’s counter-intuitive is the fact that to solve the problem, you actually may need to increase stress. 

How does our logic make [and keep] us depressed? If the brain was designed to be happy, what are we doing or not doing to prevent us from being happy? What changed in you? You have been happy before. Your behavior is ruled by your fears. Your fears are based on your logic. When your logic changed, your behavior changed. So just like a computer, you’re responsible for rewriting your code. If you’re anything like me, you may have had faulty logic that was still producing desirable results. I was happy and productive, but for the wrong reasons. Because it was not properly debugged, when stress got to be too much, I broke. Without going into too much detail, my mind was not simple enough. There were filters and lenses that I used to produce desired outputs based on the context of the situation. The problem was that this did not give me a simple code to execute. Everything depended on the situation. The location, the people around, the day of the week, etc. So my mood was dependent on the amount of stress at any given time, and my whole day was spent working on trying to exit the stress. The stress wasn’t the problem though, it was me. My personality depended on the the situation I was in. So I preferred simple situations. One-on-one conversations. Alone time. Because it put my mind at ease. But complex situations were stressful for me because my mood and personality depended on the context of situation.  

So the more complex the code, the more time it takes to execute. Except, you don’t get any more time in real life. So you’re forced to press. You strain and sort through these thoughts, and slow down time so you can function in real time with your filters and lenses. 

How does vision tie in? Based on Bates method, vision issues are evidence of mental strain. So while refraction errors do not necessarily mean anyone is depressed, it could be a risk factor. Mental strain essentially slows down time and produces refractive errors. But glasses do not produce mental strain. They let you see with it.  

Why are more people depressed now than ever before? Our lifestyles, obligations, and phones demand more out of our primitive brains than has ever been demanded of them. We are forced to make more decisions per day than any civilization in human history. So what happens when you have 10,000 decisions to make every day instead of 100? You have to think more. But you have the same amount of precious time. So you cope by stressing your brain. The more you stress it, the more decisions you can make in a day. The slower you perceive time. The further you are from who your were designed to be. 

Sources:

  1. http://ijer.skums.ac.ir/article_23155.html
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/treatment-resistant-depression/art-20044324

Conservation of Dopamine

It’s the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure [among other things]. Consider for a moment the possibility that we all produce it at the same rate. 

So what would that imply about depressed people?

We’ve shown over and over again how the human brain perceives time. How it controls your sleep, your sunburn, and your height. If we can assume just for a minute that everyone’s brains produce the same amount of dopamine, how would that fit into our theory?

That would mean the most stressed people would constantly be low on dopamine. So those people that are aging the fastest are also the most unhappy.

I think we can agree that stress is the opposite of happiness. So people that are the most stressed are the least happy.  What if we all had the same amount? Could that even be possible? If dopamine is the opposite of stress, the most stressed people would run out of dopamine first.

It’s about time perception. The more stressed you are, the slower time moves for you. And the longer your days, the less dopamine you have at the end.

So if I told you that you had the same amount of dopamine as the person next to you, what would you do differently? If time is relative, and this chemical is produced relative to that perception of time, reduce your stress to increase your happy.