A person suffering from depression would often feel down and might have a hard time finding the energy to move. This is because different parts of the brain use chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine to talk to each other. Serotonin and dopamine are important to happiness and motivation. When a person is depressed, their brain makes less of these chemicals, so they are less happy and less motivated. This is not because they are lazy.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression is a mental illness. It can be caused by losing a loved one, medical treatments, pregnancies, and other life events. If a person is depressed, they would often feel down and might have a hard time finding the energy to move. This can last for a month or years at a time and is out of their control.
WHAT IS THE BRAIN DOING?
The brain is a complicated structure with many different parts. Chemicals called neurotransmitters to help these parts to talk to each other and decide what the body does. During the depression, the brain begins to act strangely. Partly, this has to do with a special set of neurotransmitters called monoamines.
This article focuses on two monoamines: serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine have a lot of tasks within the brain, but overall, they are responsible for happiness and motivation. If a person is depressed, there are less serotonin and dopamine in their brain. When this happens, it becomes a lot harder for them to feel happy and motivated.
HOW DO SEROTONIN AND DOPAMINE HELP US MOVE?
The brain controls how the body moves. Imagine a person reaching for a cup of water. As they decide to move, a part of their brain sends out a little bit of dopamine and serotonin. Those dopamine and serotonin tell the rest of the brain: “Yes, we want to reach for the water. Moving is a good idea!” The rest of the brain hears this and tells the arm to grab the cup.
WHY DO WE FIND IT HARD TO MOVE WHEN WE ARE DEPRESSED?
With less serotonin and dopamine, not every part of the brain hears the message. Some parts want to reach for the cup, some parts do not. Now, the brain is confused– do they tell the muscles to move or not? The chances are, they don’t! Therefore, even though the person might want to move, sometimes their brain just won’t let them.
Depression can be frustrating for the person themselves as well as friends and families. People with depression are often called lazy, but that is not true. The circumstances are out of their control. When a person is depressed, it is difficult to feel better again. Medications such as antidepressants or talking to a qualified therapist can help, but these are not perfect cures.
In recent years, there has been a lot of research into treatments for depression. Currently, scientists hope to increase how much dopamine and serotonin are in the brain through medication. However, dopamine and serotonin have tasks other than happiness and motivation. If scientists are not careful, this extra dopamine and serotonin might just cause more problems than they solve.