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The Mental Impact of Depression

Depression has many common effects that people will be fairly familiar with, however, the impact of depression on brain chemistry is much more complex than we realize. Not only does depression alter one's thinking, but it also affects how we process information and our ability to recall memories. When dealing with depression, one's memories can become more vague. Depression even makes it harder for one to develop new memories due to the difficulties focusing. Not only that, access to negative memories is more prominent while positive ones are far and few in-between. The condition of only being able to recall negative memories also makes it harder to stay positive or improve one's mindset. Therefore, there is a vice versa correlation; 'not only does depression affect memory, but the memory problems may also exacerbate and sustain depression'(Kelleher). This snowball effect makes it increasingly difficult to conquer your mental health if you find yourself suffering from depression.

From a scientific point of view, the hippocampus is most responsible for these effects; the brain structure in charge of memory formation and the release of stress hormones. In an MRI scan, depressed individuals have been found to have a smaller hippocampus, meaning their center for short/long-term memory has fewer active neurons. Additionally, the chemical process of transferring a memory from short to long-term requires a certain amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in short supply for individuals with depression. This is what makes it harder to form new, positive memories.

Though the mental impact sounds damaging, the article offers some basic steps to counteract depression and heal the hippocampus:

1). Exercise: Doing anaerobic activities help to stimulate the production of neurons and may potentially reverse hippocampus shrinkage.

2). Antidepressants: In a general sense, antidepressants can also increase neuron count. Medication is usually the first suggestion for treating severe depression.

3). Memory Therapeutics: This is a guided exercise routine used by psychologists to help individuals relax and allow them to recall memories that are harder to access. This technique allows them to confront their subconscious.

4). Self-Reflection and Expression: Often, checking in with your emotions and analyzing how you're feeling and why allows you to self-correct and therapeutically internally talk through your struggles. Journaling is one of the most popular forms of self-reflection suggested by psychologists.

Even for healthy individuals, effectively determining why and how you're feeling a certain way isn't exactly straightforward and oftentimes, is still difficult. This is why when struggling mentally, it's imperative to be honest with your emotions as much as possible. If you find yourself trapped in a negative mindset that exacerbates with time, it's important to try to address it sooner rather than later. Additionally, you don't have to be alone in this battle; it can help to talk to family, trusted friends, or a psychologist who may have an outsider's insight about yourself. Wanting to improve is the first step to recovery and it's never a bad idea to ask others about what your triggers and symptoms are. As a general rule of thumb, it's ALWAYS a good idea to exercise as much as possible and spend time with yourself for mental health maintenance. Starting with these basics may be enough to help you figure out a strategy or what to do next.

What are some techniques you engage in to improve your negative symptoms? What have you learned about yourself that allows you to catch the problem before it matures? Let us know in the comments!

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