Depression & Emotional Growth

Depression is a serious condition affecting 1 in 6 people at some time with research showing that experiencing during childhood, when the nervous system is developing rapidly is predictive of depressive illness in later life.

Despite this evidence, most of the literature on the subject is confined to a discussion of the symptoms with the focus on the adult’s brain chemistry and the adult’s cognitions. There is little recognition that the adult brain is itself formed by experiences starting in the womb, or that these may have contributed to a predisposition to depression.

Positive experiencing during childhood encourages the widespread formation of dopamine receptors across the nervous system and conversely, children whose emotional needs were neglected, develop fewer dopamine receptors and have reduced dopamine levels and functioning.

Failing to understand the real cause of depression, pharmaceutical companies capitalise on the “low serotonin” doctrine as the cause of depression and make billions from a class of drugs known as “selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors” or SSRIs e.g. Citalopram, Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Seroxat).

SSRIs are thought to lift depression by raising the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft between brain cells.

The companies profiting from these drugs insist that a shortage of serotonin is the cause of depressive illnesses. However, if this were so, these drugs would work within a few hours or days, when in fact they take weeks before any noticeable difference in mood occurs.

What is actually taking place during these few weeks is a gradual desensitisation of serotonin receptors caused by the flooding of the receptors with the artificially high levels of serotonin that are now present in the synaptic cleft linking the brain cells.

This certainly explains why people taking SSRIs report that they feel “numb” or “flat”. In other words, they have stoped being able to feel not only their uncomfortable feelings, the ones that drove them to seek help, but also any good feelings! Their emotional pain is relieved but the price paid is that they feel NOTHING!

Still, the drugs are heavily promoted and more than 80% of doctors here in the UK admit to over prescibing them. Like many other classes of drugs (e.g. diuretics, H2 receptor antagonists) anti-depressants are only recommended for short term use by NICE, yet millions of people receive these drugs for years or even decades!

Addressing the cause

If we firstly acknowledge that human beings are complex, sensitive creatures and that childhood experiencing has the greatest impact on our future mental health, then we can start to wisely treat depression.

The next step is to allow the natural generation of new connections between the limbic system (where feelings are generated)and the frontal cortex (where feelings are felt), as this was the process that was pruned during childhood.

In practical terms, this requires the person to examine their thoughts and feelings ideally with a therapist or failing this, a good friend who can listen in a non-judgemental way. This “safe” relationship allows the person the opportunity to explore his/her own mind without fear of criticism.

This process of increasing one’s self-awareness is very difficult to do alone since a vital part of the process is to have one’s thoughts and fears reflected back to allow the person to understand the source of discomfort and ultimately the effect these deep feelings and thoughts are affecting the person’s life. For when we are alone with our thoughts and feelings, we are unable to examine them objectively. Often, when people emerge from such a process, they often exclaim, “I didn’t know that I didn’t know”.

Pleasure and Reward

Denial of feelings in childhood leads to a much lower density of dopamine receptors across the nervous system leading to a decreased capacity for pleasure and reward in later life. After all, it is particularly painful to reach out for affirmation and acceptance from other people and fail to receive it, so people, who as children learned that their emotional needs were not important to others, tend to deny their own needs, making it difficult for them to dare to try and have what they truly want in life. This “adaptive” profile is created as a self-protection mechanism during childhood but presents later in conditions such as; anxiety, attention deficit disorders, cravings, depression, chronic fatigue, low libido, obesity and panic attacks.

Personal Growth – Accepting Yourself 

A period of self-examination via therapy or similar is essentially an opportunity for self-acceptance, something that was impossible in the original situation of childhood – for a child whose emotional needs were dismissed by his parents, will automatically dismiss his own emotions as unimportant. And in rejecting one’s own feelings, the connection with one’s very core, one’s soul/spirit  is severed. Left with a feeling of being “unacceptable/inadequate”, many people respond by constantly striving for outward success (status, money, material possessions) to prove to the world that they really are acceptable, that they really are good enough. Other respond by a general giving up or opting out and turn to alcohol, drugs etc to numb the internal pain they feel.

It is so sad that so much real human potential is lost through damaged childhoods.

The role of PEA

As well as good therapy there is something else we can turn to to help ourselves grow.

Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a neuroamine that is released in the brain when we feel calm and joyful and people who suffer with depression have been shown to have low levels in the nervous system as measured by the main metabolite of PEA in the urine.

PEA has been coined as the “love molecule” by scientists since it is the molecule that flows in abundance when we fall in love.

Interestingly it has been shown that PEA can alleviate depression in 60% of depressed persons, the same percentage as all the major anti-depressants with the major advantage of no negative side effects.

PEA therapy may therefore have a very useful role in the treatment of depressions deserving, as many top scientists believe, to be the first line treatment since it is fast acting and can be used long term without fear of harmful consequences such as weight gain, loss of libido, and other common side effects typical of the anti-depressant drugs.

In addition, increasing levels of PEA is the perfect support for the therapeutic process described above, since it is also a neuro-regenerative molecule helping to create new connections across the brain.

PEA raises dopamine levels 

PEA acts very rapidly, in a matter of hours or days, instead of weeks. This provides a very useful tool for improving mood and preventing suicide. Particularly important is the fact that PEA is very effective in bipolar patients, as this illness represents a high risk for suicide.

PEA therapy alone may be enough to lift a depressed person out from his low mood and by virtue of its neuro-regenerative powers and ability to raise the level of freely circulating dopamine in the central nervous system it can enhance progress during any type of therapy. PEA improves mood, and the knock on effect on dopamine levels allows the generation of positive feelings: something which may have been absent for a very long time.

For research studies and references supporting the role and use of PEA please email me using the form on the Contact Us page.

For further information on PEA or to buy a supplement with a high concentration of PEA please see CalmLIFT.

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