Restorations Therapy Blog

Research Shows Stress Doesn’t Always Predict Depression

by on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

stress and depression

Some people are depression resistant, even when exposed to chronic stressors. Changes in neurotransmission, or communication between neurons, may explain a built-in ability for an individual’s immunity to depression. 

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter and chemical present in the human body. Science believes that it helps to regulate social behaviors and moods, appetite, digestion, memory, and sleep.

Science also points to a link between serotonin and depression, which is why doctors prescribe medications known as SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, for antidepressant purposes. They prevent the neurons in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin and therefore increase the accessibility of serotonin within the brain.

These drugs, or SSRIs, are not only used to treat depression, but also nausea and migraines. 

The Science

A core symptom of depression is known as anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Researchers found that in lab rats vulnerable to anhedonia, there are more serotonin neurons after exposure to chronic stress.

Still, their reduction occurs after stimulating the amygdala, which is responsible for the regulation of emotions, moods, and other functions related to depression. 

To measure a rat’s vulnerability to anhedonia, the researchers trained rats to activate an electrode implanted within their brain connected to reward circuits that created feelings of pleasure. Then, the study had rats feel social stress once per day followed by granting access to self-stimulation of the pleasure electrode fifteen minutes after the stress.

In the rats vulnerable to anhedonia, the stress significantly increased the intensity of stimulation needed for them to feel pleasure. Conversely, the stress had little to no effect on the anhedonia-resistant rats.  

The rats vulnerable to anhedonia had more serotonin neurons in the area of the brain involved in regulating stress and reward. This serotonin increase was due to the non-serotonin signaling neurons recruiting and collecting the serotonin neurons during the stressful events.

Therefore, when researchers activated neurons to prevent this increase, the rats experienced reductions in the effects of social stress. In conclusion, resilience to stress depends on the brain’s ability to communicate and regulate serotonin.   

Feeling Depressed and Looking for Help?

Understanding depression on the scientific and molecular levels is imperative for improving and developing interventions that could stimulate resilience to stress. Stress is a pervasive feeling in the world today, and finding ways to cope with that stress in a productive and positive manner is crucial to preventing and battling substance use disorders.

However, it is essential to note that stress does not directly lead to depression. Furthermore, research looking for connections between the brain and depression is leading us to a future full of hope for those dealing with depression and other mental illnesses. 

Located in Centennial, Colorado, Restorations Therapy works with individuals who are struggling with addiction, intimacy disorders, and trauma.

In order to offer patients a more holistic approach to care, Restorations Therapy offers individualized and group therapy, workshops, psycho-educational classes, and more to restore the harm brought on by addiction and intimacy issues. For more information, please call us today at (720) 446-6585.

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