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SAMPLE EVIDENCE OF THE BIOLOGICAL ROOTS OF MAJOR DEPRESSION

20% of women and 10% of men lifetime rate (worldwide) and 5% yearly

People are sad, irritable, empty, bored or negative in excess of reasons for more than two weeks. (Fuller criteria available)

The suicide rate is 15%.

If you or a loved one has depression, get the best care available to you. It can be treated, but should not be trivialized. Some people who have had mild depression for years think that this is "just the way I feel" or "who I am."

Evidence Major Depression is Biological

  1. The brain stem in the back of your head controls sleep. Depression makes you have restless sleep with early awakening or you could sleep 12 hours. Both extremes show a change in something you cannot control–the chemistry of sleep. You can’t make yourself wake up too early or sleep 12 hours.
  2. Depressed people have low serotonin metabolites in their brain fluid.
  3. Depression impairs memory in objective testing for people of any age

    1. In an extreme example, some people in nursing homes have Alzheimer’s disease and Major Depression. If you give them an anti-depressant they suddenly regain some memory–recognize relatives better. They are not cured of Alzheimer’s, but the depression memory problems are treated.
  4. Any brain injury generally increases Major Depression. This is not because people say, " I have a brain injury and life stinks." While this is true, the location of the injury may determine the frequency of the Major Depression, even if all injuries are equal in loss of function. This is one reason we treat stroke victims with anti-depressants. We know that in certain locations of the brain, the person is likely to have depression.
  5. Brain tissue from autopsies of depressed or suicidal people show low serotonin and its metabolite.
  6. Tryptophan is the building block of serotonin. Low blood tryptophan concentrations are found in depressed patients.
  7. SPECT scans of the brain use a special labeled glucose, which flies off when the brain eats the glucose–a camera records the flying marker. On this functioning brain picture depressed brains are working slowly and gray color, while normal brains glow orange. (Source Daniel Amen, MD. From a course in the 1990’s–his center and publisher were unable to provide picture reference. I gave my copy away.)
  8. After successful anti-depressant treatment, the SPECT scans of previously depressed people becomes healthy orange.
  9. If an anti-depressant medication works, it stops working if tryptophan is removed from a person’s diet. Tryptophan is made into serotonin.
  10. A mixed B-Vitamin will decrease depression rates over a year.
  11. SAMe is a substance made in the liver. It is sold as a "supplement" and has been used to treat depression, arthritis and liver damage for decades. It increases serotonin, norepineprine and dopamine. In successfully treats some depression.
  12. If a person has a depressed relative, the closer they are to that relative genetically, the more likely they are to get depression. Identical twins have higher similarities in mood than cousins.
  13. Most effective antidepressants increase serotonin in the synapses between nerves.
  14. Any mechanism that keeps extra serotonin in the nerve synapse helps decrease depression.
  15. PET scans show clear deformities in function during Major Depression.
  16. Thyroid medication has treated Major Depression for decades. If you are hypothyroid you often become depressed. However, even if you are roughly normal, some treatment with T3, the potent thyroid, starting at very tiny doses, helps Major Depression. Synthroid does not work as well and is merely T4–weak thyroid. If hormones can fix Major Depression, than it is a biological illness.
  17. People with normal appetites, suddenly decrease eating or start to eat excessively when suffering with Biological Depression. The biological fullness mechanism appears to be off.
  18. Excess or very high binding areas exist for serotonin in the brain tissue of both deceased depressed patients and suicide victims. Perhaps showing a "hunger" for more serotonin.
  19. Platelets float in the blood and help clot wounds. They have similar serotonin receptors as those in the brain. They also have large numbers of "hungry" serotonin binding sites in depressed patients.
  20. If the hormone axis in the body is disrupted, one finds increases in suicide up to 1400% over normal hormone functioning. (Psychiatric Drug Alerts July/2001)
  21. Serotonin transport in brain and platelets is disrupted in depressed and suicidal patients–again, an under functioning serotonin system.
  22. If you remove tryptophan from a person’s diet who has never been depressed, but has had depressed relatives, they are at high risk to become depressed.
  23. L-5HTP is one step away from becoming serotonin. It enters the brain easily. It increases serotonin in the brain and decreases depression.
  24. Suicide runs in genetics and is not merely a learned coping mechanism. Children of suicidal parents who are adopted by non-suicidal families are still at very high risk of suicide.
  25. There is not one form of Biological Depression. Some types of Major Depression are helped by norepinephrine or dopamine system treatments.

The Take Home Message

We are not talking about a few sad days. We are talking about a serious medical condition. It is anti-intellectual to tell a depressed person to "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps." One would never do this with a serious skin cancer or diabetes.

Such comments are sadistic, uninformed and promote suicide. Some special talk therapy by trained professionals does help, but it helps fastest and more completely with medication.

Depression is often treated up to 70% and called "successful." Many people need more than a single agent if they have resistant depressions or want 100% remission. Replacing declining hormone levels may also get the final 30% if returned to natural levels of a 30 year-old with agents identical to your own hormones–not merely horse estrogen (Premarin or Prempro) and not super strong artificial ones.

Some technical serotonin comments from: Owens and Nemeroff, Role of Serotonin in the Pathophysiology of Depression, Clinical Chemistry, Vol. 40.

Diplomate: American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology
Diplomate: Forensic Medicine & Forensic Examination

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