Depression can be caused by events in one’s life, but also due to genetics and the functions of the person’s brain and body. For example, the hippocampus, which is a small part of the brain that is vital for the storage of memories, appears to be smaller in people with a history of depression than in those who have never been depressed. The smaller hippocampus allows for fewer serotonin receptors, which contain the chemical that allows communication between the brain and body. Scientists have also discovered that the stress hormone cortisol is produced at a higher rate in those who are depressed.
Researchers first have to understand depression before creating the antidepressants used today. Antidepressants became quite common after they were first approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In 1988, a year after the FDA approved Prozac, 2,469,000 prescriptions for it were dispensed in America. Fourteen years later, that number had risen to 33,320,000. Then, in 2008, antidepressants were the third-most-common prescription drug taken in America. Prozac was such an effective drug because its goal was to increase serotonin levels in the brain, which depressed people would have less of.
Prozac is listed 3rd, in a rating of the top 10 antidepressants used today.
Now are antidepressants and Prozac truly helpful, or are they just “placebos with side effects”? In all tests performed, the antidepressants had better outcomes than that of the placebo drugs, but at what cost? The difference was minute for certain tests including patients with a less specific disorder.
After many complications with antidepressants having the opposite effect of what they should, doctors came to a new realization: depression was nothing more than a chemical imbalance. No smaller parts of the brain or anything of that matter. This chemical imbalance led to a “flaw in love” as Andrew Solomon, a writer in this field, likes to call it. The flaw in love leads to flaws in self-love, such as guilt, shame, or suicidal thoughts, or flaws in love for others, or even the desire for love. This relates to blame, aggression, withdrawal, and dullness, which can all be seen in a depressed person in different moderation.
Scientists today are still trying to find the best drug to aid people with depression and get rid of those suicidal thoughts, aggression, or withdrawal.
Author: Julia Monaco