Biological and not Cognitive Illness
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Depression is defined as a medical sickness, which results in a recurring feeling of sadness, as well as loss of life interest. It influences the manner one feels, thinks, and acts. When a person is depressed, physical transformations occur inside his or her body. In this line, depression is regarded as a physical rather than psychological or cognitive illness. The fact that low level of significant neurotransmitters is associated with depression has raised controversies concerning the depression causes. For some time, doctors have held that depression results from deficiencies in some brain chemicals (Bicknell, 2007). In this regard, depression is biological and not a cognitive or physical disease. Therefore, just as diseases like diabetes are caused by inadequate production of insulin, depression is an illness resulting from inadequate secretion of serotonin in the human body. Therefore, the argument is that the true causes of depression are biological and not cognitive. In support of this argument, the paper explores the biological basis of the illness.
Depression caused by biological abnormality is referred to as endogenous or clinical depression. It implies that depression is inborn, and other emotive factors are not the contributing ones (Andreasen, 1984). Similar findings indicate that depression is a bio-chemical phenomenon and is not caused by certain environmental or personal factors. Different theorists have asserted that depression is a result of neuroendocrine abnormalities contributed by the generated cortisol level in the blood system. Catecholamine hypothesis is a part of another theory, which asserts that patients suffering from depression have a low norepinephrine level in the brain. Major systems in the brain reserving catecholamine were evaluated; the results of the test of the norepinephrine level in patients’ urine revealed that people with depression had lower norepinephrine level. Additionally, biological depression is caused by low level of a chemical in the brain, namely serotonin. Hypoglycemia, caused by low blood sugar level, also is believed to result in biological depression. Ross (1976) confirms that many clinical patients, who suffer from biological depression, have a low level of blood sugar; thus, individuals having depression without causes should be considered to be suffering from hypoglycemia,
Hypothyroidism also can provoke biological depression. The theory asserts that thyroid glands, which are found in the neck, secret hormones that find their way up to the brain through the blood stream. The glands produce extremely small amount of this hormone, which in plenty ensures psychological wellbeing; little amount of this hormone, on the other hand, can result in a strong feeling of unhappiness and oppression (Bicknell, 2007).
In addition, other scientists have considered imbalances of hormones levels as a causing factor of biological depression. This issue was noticed in women, who experienced a change in behavior during their menstrual cycles. The argument, however, is not convincing because of the premise that many women have not experienced any changes in behavior at all; thereby, their example disapproves this theory. This theory also held up as an example the postpartum depression in women who just gave birth to a child. However, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that hormones can cause depression. The hyperactivity associated with cortical axis (known as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) is the most researched neuroendocrine feature that is associated with depression. About 20 to 40 percent of outpatients suffering from depression demonstrate raised secretion of cortisol, whereas the same is evident in 40 to 60 percent of inpatients suffering from depression.
Other factors also support depression as a biological illness. The brain stem is believed to have control over sleep; depression is a major factor that makes an individual restless or causes total insomnia. These consequences show change in chemistry beyond cognitive causes and consequences. Biological depression also impairs memory. In clinical conditions, some patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, after a treatment with antidepressants, regain their memories and begin to recognize people, whom they could not recognize before. In this case, the main goal is not to treat the Alzheimer’s disease but the memory. On the other hand, brain injury is another cause of biological depression; however, the location of the brain injury may factor depression. Patients of cerebral concussion are treated with antidepressants depending on the part of the brain affected by depression. In fact, magnetic resonance imaging has revealed that the brain of an individual suffering from depression is different from the brain of a person, who did not suffer depression before. Areas working in conjunction with the brain are also affected. Brain cells responsible for communication are also affected. Brain tissue extracted during autopsies of individuals suffering from depression indicates the reduced serotonin level, as well as level of its metabolite. Serotonin’s building block is tryptophan, the concentration of which in the blood is low in depressed individuals. This fact is a clear evidence of the biological origin of depression (Bicknell, 2007).
Scholars argue that about 40-60 percent of outpatients and almost 90% of inpatients exhibit abnormalities in sleep electroencephalogram during a severe depression attack. Individuals at risk of depression seem to experience a premature sleep loss, unhurried delta-wave sleep, as well as rapid eye movement (REM). The REM phase linked to dreaming happens in most people who are suffering from bipolar and major depressive incidents. This phenomenon is regarded as decreased rapid eye movement latency, which is constant with the anticipated symptoms of a genetic character. The declined latency, as well as shortfall in sleep pattern, continues after recovering from a depressive attack. Data received from studies suggest that patients with depression, who have no symptoms, are less likely to react to treatment with tricyclic antidepressants that restrain premature rapid eye movement sleep (Bicknell, 2007).
Further studies hold that biological depression is related to genotype of an individual. If an individual has a person suffering from depression, and they are genetically associated, there is a likelihood that they both may suffer depression. Individuals, who exhibit abnormal appetites, may reduce or suddenly increase their eating in case of biological depression. Such behavior is an indicator of relation between neurotransmission and physical behavioral traits. Similarly, researchers done on twins indicate that the genetic factor is the major player in developing the depression illnesses. Other studies have revealed that the average level of mood illnesses shared by identical twins is 45 - 60 percent. In other words, in case one twin is depressed, the chances that the other twin will be affected are 45 - 60 percent. However, the percentage drops to 12% in case of fraternal twins. Some people inherit mood disorders; consequently, they are at a higher risk of depression because of genetic susceptibility (Cardwell, & Flanagan, 2003). Nonetheless, it should be mentioned that genetic factors interrelate with environmental factors to cause depression.
Numerous tests conducted still proves the biological origin of depression; for example, if the hormone axis is interrupted, the suicide level raises and is equal to 1400% more than in people with a normal level of hormones. Furthermore, in suicidal cases, serotonin production in the brain is disrupted. Biological depression is connected with suicide: depression is likely to lead to suicide in individuals, whose conditions are caused genetically. Additionally, children of suicidal parents even if adopted by foster parents, who are non- suicidal individuals, have the higher risk of suicide than other people do (Cardwell & Flanagan, 2003).
The treatments used in managing depression are another clear indication that the illness is caused biologically. For instance, most effective antidepressants elevate the level of serotonin between nerves in the synapses. Keeping the extra serotonin inside the nerve synapse enhances the improvement of depression symptoms. On the other hand, PET scans reveal vivid deformities in performance in case of major depression. The same illness has been treated with thyroid medication for a long time. Hypothyroid patients become often depressed. Evidently, if hormones are able to manage major depression, the illness is a biological disorder. Similarly, when a patient undergoes anti-depressant treatment successfully, the SPECT scans of people previously diagnosed with depression turn healthy orange. An antidepressant halts its performance upon the removal of tryptophan from the diet. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin. In addition, depression reduces for more than a year by using a mixed B-Vit. The liver produces a substance called SAMe, which is a supplement used in managing depression. The supplement raises serotonin and other influencing hormones (Bicknell, 2007). The supplement treats certain depression types successfully.
In conclusion, depression is definitely a biological and not cognitive illness. However, controversies have risen concerning the biological basis of depression because scholars have attributed the development of the illness to multiple factors. The paper reviewed considerable evidence supporting the biological origin of depression. Most depressions are caused by biological factors, which include genetic, biochemical, and hormonal alterations. It is clear that individuals can inherit a predisposition to depression from their relatives. Identical twins are affected in case one is depressed and influences the other. Biochemically, the brain has neurotransmitters, which cause depression when there are certain abnormalities. The brain interacts with other body parts, which are affected by the depression, because they are controlled by the brain. Interference with hormonal regulation has been proved to cause depression. On the other hand, sleep loss is evident in depressed patients because of influence on the sleep-wake cycle, particularly the REM. At last, treatments prescribed for depressed patient are enough proof that the illness is biological. This is because the hormonal treatment of depression proved to be extremely effective and successful. Therefore, it is obvious that depression is caused by biological and not cognitive factors.
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