Is Depression a Brain Disorder?

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Okay who here gets Scientific American magazine?  In April they had a very interesting article called Faulty Circuits:  "Neuroscience is revealing the malfunctioning connections underlying psychological disorders and forcing psychiatrists to rethink the causes of mental illness."   This article was written by Thomas R. Insel.


    Basically what they are finding now is that things like depression, OCD, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder all do have a very physiological basis. People who say that depression is all in our head...may have a point!  So much of depression is in the way that we are wired. Depression is not all due to psychological factors as some still believe.

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    Here is another key concept of this research:  "Neural imaging is revealing that abnormal activity along a circuit of brain structures involved in mental processing underlies many mental disorders, making the physical dysfunction causing the mental symptoms visible for the first time."


    So they are able to visually see the area of the brain which has faulty circuitry. 


    I say this with reference to autism all the time.  My son who has autism is wired up differently.  I think the same thing could be said of folk who suffer from depression and other mental disorders.


    Depression can therefore be considered a brain disorder. 


    It makes sense to me.


    Here is some other interesting comparisons from this article. 


    • In 2010 they see the predictors of risk of depression as family history and history of trauma.  What they hope for the goal of 2020 is that we will be able to predict depression from genes, proteins, and imaging. 
    • In 2010 the author recognizes that diagnosis is made by interview.  In 2020 they hope to diagnose by imaging, biomarkers, and interview.

    • In 2010 antidepressants and cognitive therapy are the predominant interventions.  By 2020 they hope to utilize preventive cognitive therapy or vaccine, improved medications, cognitive therapy, and brain stimulation.

    • In 2010 the outcome for depressed people using our interventions is only 50 percent respond after 12 weeks but the relapse risk is high.  By 2020 they hope to have a response time of 24 hours and a low relapse rate.

    So it sounds hopeful to me.  It is my opinion that many mood disorders can be considered to be brain disorders.  But we are still clutching onto these ancient models where the person is blamed for having a weak character or that depression is a purely psychological thing. 


    I put trust in hard science.  And I think someday they will find how to put all the puzzle pieces together.


    What are your thoughts?  Do you consider depression a brain disorder?  We are always interested in your viewpoints.  And if you have the chance do read the whole article.  It is very intriguing.





Published On: May 12, 2010