Is Depression a choice?
Is Depression a choice?
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Dr. Divya Shree K.R
Psychiatrist 16 yrs exp Bangalore
Have you ever had a nagging thought that just wouldn't go away? The harder you try to stop thinking it, the louder and more prevalent it becomes. In that situation would you say that it is your choice not to let go of the thought? Depression works in a similar way. Depression is a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, unimportant and is unable to live life in a normal way.There are several theories as to why a person could develop depression. Some are --Biochemical abnormalities in the brain --Endocrine abnormalities and --Environmental contributions. Studies have proven time and again that it is a mental illness, no one chooses a disease like cancer or tuberculosis and it is the same concept here. Our brain functions with aid from several biochemicals which facilitate our thought process and mindset. There are several receptors for these biochemicals in most parts of our brain. One such chemical is serotonin. Serotonin is what we call a neurotransmitter which is involved in the regulation of mood, appetite and sleep. It has been proven that in victims of depression, the number of receptors of serotonin are increased drastically and hence to reach a normal level of happiness and goodness, there is a requirement of excess serotonin which the body is unable to produce.This is the reason for the sad and unhappy mood that patients experience. It is genetics that determine the number of serotonin receptors in the brain and hence depression is not a choice of the patient. At this point a question can be raised as to how in olden times, did people counteract the effects of depression solely by will power? Its simple - depression is a mental illness which is a non communicable disease and the first line of therapy is lifestyle modification. Just as diabetes can be controlled by exercise and healthy food, depression can be controlled by lifestyle modification and psychotherapy.Though the incidence of malingering may be high with regards to this mental illness, a high number of individuals do not realise they are depressed unless and until they read about it or consult a psychiatrist. Hence it is safe to say that depression like any other illness is not a choice but a medical illness and this infact is a very sensitive point regarding it. Studies have shown that fear of judgement deters people from seeking professional help for their depression. Many people suffering from depression believe seeing a mental health professional would illicit a negative reaction from other people in their life — some even fear the judgement of doctors and therapists themselves. Since over 80 percent of people who do get treatment for depression report that it helps, having the courage to seek treatment is a key element of recovery — and it can be tough to summon that courage when you're hearing a lot of messages about how the depression that is touching every part of your life isn't even a real illness.
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