I remember when I was a child and extremely curious. Me and my family went on vacation at a beach resort. Its a nice beach resort, but nothing too fancy. It has the most essential part of a beach resort, the beach.
I went straight for the water and took a dip. I saw a group of fishing boats nearby and thought I would dive from one side and surface on the other. At least that’s what I planned.
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As I was trying to surface, I realized the boat was wider than I initially thought. I started to panic and didn’t know which way was which.
It was mostly a blur, but what I remembered was the eerie pressure of water in my ears and that feeling of being trapped underneath this heavy weight. I can still imagine hearing the odd bassy sound of bubbles ringing in my ear.
Sorry to spoil the ending, but I survived. No didn’t drown, unless I’m writing this article from the afterlife. I survived, but not after taking a few mouthfuls of water and literally scraping my scalp along the base of the boat until I somehow surfaced.
The Problem of Depression
The feeling of depression is very similar to drowning – you want to surface, but you simply can’t because you are lost and unable. Many people experience it as something that traps them under some anomalous blanket of despair. According to Elizabeth Wurtzel, “…depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.”
Stress May Be The Cause of Depression
Our article about the cortisol paradox discussed the strong connection of chronic stress with adolescent depression and anger issues. Research published in Journal Nature further builds upon previous scientific research that reveals stress kills brain cells, and chronic stress may in fact prevent neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells) in the hippocampus, the brains memory center.
Neurogenesis in mice
In order to determine whether stress in fact causes depression, the researchers used genetically engineered mice to simulate the effects of chronic stress to the brain’s capability to renew its cells by preventing neurogenesis in their brains. These mice were compared to normal mice with normally functioning brains.
The two groups of mice were subjected to a test involving food in an unfamiliar environment, a forced swimming test and a pleasurelessness test.
They found the mice without neurogenesis took a longer time before grabbing the food in the unfamiliar environment than the normal mice. In the forced swimming test where the mice were put inside an inescapable container, they found the mice without neurogenesis gave up on swimming a lot sooner than the normal mice.
The behavior displayed by the genetically engineered mice were very much representative of depression symptoms.
Pleasurelessness, also known as anhedonia, is a major depression symptoms among depressed individuals which involved the inability to enjoy usually enjoyable activities. Healthy mice were known to drink truckloads of sugar water, so the researchers used that as a way to determine the mice’ level of pleasurelessness.
As expected, the mice without neurogenesis drank plain water instead of sugar water.
Break Away From Stress, Break Away From Depression
The findings in this study strongly suggest neurogenesis, caused by chronic stress, may in fact be one of the unseen causes of depression. Chronic Stress, just like depression, is like being trapped. It is describe as an emotional pressure experienced for an extended period of time.
A pressure that pushes you away from enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Depression is more complicated. Chronic stress may not be the cause of your depression and could be due to a multitude of other psychological or physiological causes. The best way truly be sure is to talk to your doctor. However, that doesn’t completely disregard the benefits of relaxation. It would certainly be a great complementary treatment in addition to your current depression treatments.
Act On It
Recovery starts from action. If you are in fact ready to break away from depression, make the first step to ridding yourself of chronic stress. Pinpoint the elements of your daily routine that seem to cause you chronic stress such an emotionally abusive individual, prosecuroty thoughts, or an object that seems to trigger bad memories. If you continually encounter these chronic stressors, they may the cause of your depression or enhance its symptoms.
At the very least give yourself a place of solitude. Your safe haven where you can go to so you can relax and forget about all the bad things in your life. It is essential that you remove anything that is stressful from that safe haven, and that it is in fact safe and comfortable for you to stay in. A place like a room or a favorite chair would be a good start. Also you can check out our article 8 Steps to Permanently Cure Loneliness.