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Depression and the Brain’s Chemical Balance

Everyone feels sad from time to time. But depression is much more serious than just feeling down. Depression is a real illness, just like diabetes or heart disease. And just like those illnesses, depression is not something a person can "snap out of." It's believed that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors cause depression.  Chemical changes in the brain may contribute to the symptoms of the disease.

Neurotransmitters sending message from one neuron to the next.
In a normal message pattern, messages travel smoothly between nerve cells in the brain.

Neurotransmitters sending disrupted message from one neuron to the next.
A change in chemicals in the brain can interfere with how messages are sent. This is one cause of depression.

Brain chemicals and depression

The brain is a complex organ. It controls all the workings of your body, including your emotions. It does this by using messages that travel from one nerve cell to another, and from one brain region to another. Brain messages travel with help from chemicals. These are called neurotransmitters. No one knows exactly what happens in the brain to cause depression. But we do know that neurotransmitters are involved.

Changes in the brain

Two neurotransmitters are mainly involved in depression. These are norepinephrine and serotonin. Antidepressants and talk therapy are the main treatments for depression. Both change the levels of these neurotransmitters. In many cases, this relieves depression symptoms.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2019
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