Tag Archives: Depression

Behavioral Activation Can Effectively Alleviate Depression.

childhood_trauma

We know that those of us who suffered severe childhood trauma are at an elevated risk of developing clinical depression as adults. Indeed, my own depression necessitated hospital admissions and electro-convulsive shock therapy as I’ve written about elsewhere on this site.

One of the hallmarks of serious, clinical depression is reduced ability to perform everyday tasks and activities. Again, in my own case, I was often confined to my bed for much of the day, stopped washing, rarely shaved and stopped brushing my teeth.

I know, therefore, that when very ill with depression, even basic tasks can feel impossible to undertake – indeed, even contemplating having to carry them out can, when one is so ill, create severe anxiety and distress. For those who have not experienced clinical depression, this is almost impossible to imagine or comprehend; such lack of empathy leaves one feeling devastatingly alone and terrifyingly emotionally imprisoned, compounding the problem.

Sadly, this loss of ability to carry out everyday tasks and activities tends to perpetuate and even intensify one’s depressive state, thus creating a vicious cycle.

behavioural_activation

Above : Avoidant behaviour can set off a vicious circle, whilst behavioural reactivation can set off a virtuous circle.

Behavioral Activation :

The psychologist Lewisohn has carried out research showing how, by reactivating the behaviours we used to carry out before severe depressive illness struck, we can alleviate our depressive symptoms, or, indeed, rid ourselves of the condition entirely.

Lewisohn suggests changing our behaviors may be more effective in treating depression even than changing our thinking style (as occurs in cognitive therapy). In other words, he postulates that:

Behavior Therapy (changing the way we behave)

may be a more effective way of treating depression than:

Cognitive Therapy (changing the way we think)

 

In order to test this hypothesis, Lewisohn carried out the following research study:

– 200 hundred hospital outpatients suffering from clinical depression were recruited into the study.

– these 200 individuals were the randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups

– these four treatment groups were as follows :

1) individuals were treated with anti-depressants

2) individuals were treated with a placebo

3) individuals were treated with cognitive therapy (to change their thinking styles)

4) individuals were treated with behavioral therapy (to change how they behaved each day)

Results of above research study :

It was found that those in the behaviour therapy group, on average :

– gained more benefit than those in the cognitive therapy group and placebo group

– gained a benefit equal to the benefit those treated with antidepressants derived

Other studies have produced similar results.

In relation to this study, Lewiston devised a therapy known as ‘behavior activation.’

What Is Behavior Activation Therapy?

In basic terms, this therapy involves the depressed person :

a) listing how his/her illness has changed his/her behaviour. For example :

– stopped socializing

– stopped exercising

– spend far more time in bed

– stopped doing housework

– reduced self-catering

b) Then, in relation to list, set goals s/he would ideally achieve. For example :

– socialize as much as before the illness struck

– go to gym for an hour, every other day

– limit self to eight hours a day in bed

– keep house reasonably clean

– care for self in same way as prior to becoming ill

Once these goals have been identified, it is necessary to undertake behaviours that help one achieve them.

Now, clearly, achieving all these goals cannot happen immediately!

Therefore, it is usually necessary to take small steps. For example, if trying to attain the goal of going to the gym, for an hour, every other day, one may start off by going to the gym for twenty minutes once per week, then very gradually increase this rate.

The importance of adjusting our behavior positively and increasing our activity levels to help improve our mood seems hard to overstate. Even by starting with tiny steps, a powerfully therapeutic virtuous cycle may be set in motion.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma: Food and Nutrition which may Help with Resultant Depression.

depression and nutrition

Due to the side-effects associated with anti-depressants, together with the controversy which surrounds their effectivenes, some individuals prefer to try to treat their depression in more natural ways; in relation to this, many people adjust their intake of nutrients in ways which research suggests may lift their mood. I examine the foods and nutients which may help this goal to be achieved below:

FOODS AND NUTRIENTS WHICH MAY HELP TO LIFT MOOD :

Not only does some research suggest that the foods and nutrients listed below may help lift mood when depressed, it suggests they may also make depression less likely to recur once feeling better:

1) SELENIUM : this can be found in oysters, mushrooms and Brazil nuts

2) CHROMIUM : this can be found in turkey and green vegetables

3) ZINC : this can be found in shellfish, seafood and eggs

All of the above nutients can also be bought in supplement form from chemists and health food shops. However, they should not be taken in large doses so be sure to read the relevant labels to obtain the recommended amounts to take.

4) VITAMIN B12 : this vitamin, which can also be bought as a supplement from health shops and chemists, is thought to help maintain general mental alertness and, also, help keep feelings of depression at bay. It can be found in salmon, meat, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and yeast extract.

FISH

Some scientists recommend eating fish as a way of reducing depressive symptoms. The reason for this is that some research studies have provided evidence that FISH OILS have both an ANTI-DEPRESSANT and MOOD-STABILIZING effect. However, because of the amount of fish oil which needs to be ingested, one would have to consume a vast quantity of fish. In order to rectify this problem, many companies now produce FISH OIL CAPSULES (eg OMEGA – 3) as dietry SUPPLEMENTS. These contain very concentrated fish oil. However, more research needs to be conducted in order to come to a definitive verdict on their effectiveness. One benefit of them, however, is that they have no side-effects, apart from, rarely, a mildly upset stomach.

5-HTP

Otherwise known as HYDROXTRYPTOPHAN. The body manufactures this from tryptophan (an AMINO ACID) in the diet (sources include turkey and bananas) and it is linked to the production of SEROTONIN (a neurotransmitter which I discuss in other posts – please enter ‘SEROTONIN’ into this site’s search facility if you wish to access those posts) in the brain. Depleted serotonin levels in the brain are thought to be connected with depression and insomnia. Indeed, taking supplements of 5-HTP has been linked to not only helping to treat depression and insomnia, but, also, obesity.

The Cochrane Review (2001) found two studies suggesting that 5-HTP was more effective at treating depression than placebos, but, also, concluded that more research needed to be conducted in order to reach a proper conclusion in relation to how beneficial it is.

CONCLUSION:

A lot more research needs to be conducted in order to come to any definitive solutions about just how helpful diet, nutrients and supplements are at treating mental health conditions. However, there is a vast number of people who take them and are convinced of their effectiveness.

Finally, I wish to stress that it is extremely important to speak to a doctor if you are considering coming off any prescribed medication.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

The Effect of Childhood Trauma on Genes and Susceptibility to Depression.

genes and depressin

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS ON DNA :

Recent studies have shown that childhood trauma can actually change the structure of DNA in the person who has suffered it and consequently alter how these genes work (it has been known for some time that how genes express themselves is influenced by their interaction with the environment).

Animal studies support this finding: in rats it has been shown that QUALITY OF MATERNAL CARE HAS A LARGE EFFECT ON GENES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STRESS RESPONSE IN OFFSPRING:

POOR MATERNAL CARE = ADVERSE EFFECT ON GENES OF OFFSPRING = HIGH SUSCEPTIBILITY TO STRESS IN OFFSPRING.

Indeed, there is a growing body of evidence that psychological abuse of children has BIOLOGICAL effects. Research suggests that the effects of abuse on the child’s DNA lowers their resistance to stress. This effect can persist throughout life and increases the suicide risk of the individual.

It is thought that trauma/abuse in early childhood (before the age of six) can have a particularly damaging effect on the DNA which controls the individual’s stress response.

(For those that are interested, environment affects DNA (and thus how it expresses itself) by punctuating it with what are technically known as EPIGENETIC MARKERS. It follows from this that the function of DNA is not permanently fixed from birth, but can be altered by its interaction with the environment).

childhood trauma and depression

The good news is, however, that the adverse effects on DNA caused by childhood trauma can be reversed in adult life by appropriate interventions. Key to these are the replacement of the traumatic environment with one which is supportive, loving, stable, safe and relatively stress-free. This is because just as traumatic environments can leave harmful epigenetic marks, good environments, over time, can reverse this effect.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, GENES AND DEPRESSION :

Just as trauma can affect genes, pre-existing genes can affect the impact trauma is likely to have on us; it is, to this extent, a two-way street then. It has already been stated in previous posts how exposure to trauma in childhood can lead to psychological problems such as clinical depression; studies now show that the risk becomes even greater if the sufferer of childhood trauma has a particular genetic make-up making him or her more vulnerable to the effects of stress:

So: children who are genetically predisposed to being particularly vulnerable to stress will typically be more adversely affected by the childhood trauma than those children who do not have the genetic vulnerability. THIS HELPS TO EXPLAIN WHY TWO CHILDREN WHO SUFFER SIMILAR TRAUMA MAY BE AFFECTED QUITE DIFFERENTLY FROM ONE ANOTHER.

Further study has shown that the children with the particular genetic variation are MORE SENSITIVE TO THE ENVIRONMENT AROUND THEM (they process emotional information differently) than children without the variation. The genes involved are responsible for the production of SEROTONIN (a chemical affecting mood, also known as a neurotransmitter) in the brain.

DISCORD BETWEEN PARENTS and NEGLECT (again, especially if the child is under six) have specifically been linked to the child developing HIGH EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITY and a greater susceptibility to stress. Again, if the child has the genetic variation making him or her particularly vulnerable, the adverse effects of the discord or neglect will be increase such vulnerability.

The research producing such findings as illustrated above is still in a relatively early stage and future research is likely to help clarify the complex interactions between our genes and how childhood trauma affects us.

genes and depression

Above eBook available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

Other Resources :

Natural Depression Treatment Program: Click Here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Serotonin And Childhood Trauma

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

As we have seen from other articles that I have previously published on this site, neurological problems resulting from childhood trauma can be reversed, and it is to the research into this exciting and fast developing area of study that I now turn.

Studies have shown that because SEROTONIN (a chemical, also known as a neurotransmitter, in the brain) can become depleted by childhood trauma, ANTI-DEPRESSANTS (e.g. Setraline) which increase the availability of serotonin in the brain can help to REVERSE the harmful effects of childhood trauma on it.

However, the beneficial effects of anti-depressant treatment is greatly increased if, in addition, the childhood trauma survivor’s ENVIRONMENT is also significantly improved, providing as many positive experiences as possible. Indeed, positive experiences can BENEFICIALLY AFFECT BRAIN CHEMISTRY (e.g. by increasing the availability of serotonin and other important neurotransmitters in the brain), just as anti-depressants can.

serotonin

So: brain chemistry can be affected by environmental factors, as well as by medication.

Because survivors of childhood trauma often FEEL OVERWHELMED BY THEIR EMOTIONS, studies have been conducted which also show that activities that discharge these emotions in a creative or constructive manner can also change brain chemistry for the better. Examples include drawing, painting, writing or even undertaking exercises such as hitting a punch bag at the gym.

In addition to human studies, there have also been some studies on animals. There is now a growing body of evidence that new experiences can regenerate animals’ brain cells. Studies in this area are likely to be conducted on humans in the near future.

Because many of these studies are new, their implications have not yet been fully taken advantage of in the construction of treatment programs. Indeed, it is estimated that fewer than 10% of childhood trauma survivors are receiving appropriate therapeutic interventions.

The exciting conclusion that we are able to draw from all of the above is that there is now good evidence that even if the brain has undergone neurological damage as a result of childhood trauma, this CAN BE REVERSED due to the fact that THE BRAIN CONTINUES TO CHANGE THROUGHOUT LIFE.

brain_damage_Caused_by_childhood_trauma

Above eBook available for immediate download at Amazon. CLICK HERE

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).