The old argument about nature vs nurture surely must be solved by agreeing that both play a part in health, both physical and mental.
Of course, a pre-disposition to any illness is no guarantee that one will contract the dis-ease but it has recently been discovered that the structure of DNA can be altered by thoughts and actions.
As an example, I will write about my own genetic make-up.
My father was a WWII veteran. He lied about his age to join the Royal Marines to serve his country, so as not to be drafted later on, and have no choice as to where he served. By 17 he had seen many of his friends injured or killed. He was a good, brave man but lived with depression, mood swings, and anger.
My Mother’s father died of cancer, in great pain, 3 months before I was born. Her own mother was not available for emotional support at the time of my birth, and she experienced what we would now recognise as post-natal depression, and never maternally bonded with me.
The cycle had begun, I was born into a genetic mix of PTSD and post-natal depression, being nurtured by this mix of anxiety, fear of death, anger and insecurity.
A child growing up in an unsupportive environment will not necessarily have the emotional tools to feel secure and could suffer anxiety and low self-esteem as a result. When challenging or de-stabilising events occur, such as moving house or school, or the death or divorce of a family member then the individual may not have the emotional balance to cope.
This in turn might lead to behavioural problems, either to seek attention, or to try to make sense of their predicament. If the child then is criticised or reprimanded for such behaviour, they then are likely to think of themselves as
hatever they had been called i.e. naughty, stupid, irresponsible, ‘never amount’ to anything etc. They are probably just trying to find their way, if things so far had not been making sense. The cycle has begun.
We learn to be what we tell ourselves we are, and initially we learn this from our parents and teachers. Without any, or enough positive input, a child could grow up feeling and living as ‘less than worthy’.
The behaviour then reflects that, causing a loop of negativity into adulthood.
Many clients I see with depression will report that they have always felt like that. Their behaviour may not necessarily be that of a naughty child but as life and the need to be independent kicks in and things such as jobs and their own family take priority, what is expected of an adult in a civilised society takes the place of their own feelings of insecurity or whatever their discontent is.
These thoughts of having to play a part keep many adults seemingly ‘normal’, but this is often where depression lies.
Sometimes as adults, events happen that depress us. The breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job or home, the death of a loved one.
Those who do not have a genetic predisposition to depression, and have had a nurturing home environment as a child tend to cope better.
Depression is said to be ‘anger turned inward’, and without its release can lead to very harmful consequences. The consequences can be wholly internal, culminating in skin disorders, respiratory difficulties or even cancers, although that has not been proven. Logically, if an emotion that is experienced via chemical signals crossing synapses in the brain and triggering epinephrine and other hormones to be released, the regular release of such chemicals if unwanted must have an eventual effect on the recipient part of the body.
For example, if one regularly buys cat food but does not have a cat to eat it, the cupboard where it is kept will eventually become full or break, and will no longer be able to function as a cupboard.
This internal anger may also result in an external response, in unreasonable behaviour such as verbal or physical violence.
If this becomes a habit, the habit needs to be broken, by dismantling the reason the habit formed in the first place.
Thoughts keep habits alive, so help is needed to break the pattern.
And, no, it isn’t quite so simple. Recognising the pattern and an awareness of what needs to change can be the most difficult step for some.
Nutrition plays a part too. There are many chemicals added to our food these days, which interrupt the natural processes of the brain.
Food plays a significant part in depression too, many individuals eat for comfort, and comfort food is often amongst the worst for these added chemicals. Even if someone’s depression leads them to a lack of appetite, these modern foods are manufactured to taste good by adding salt, sugar and E numbers etc. So, if one doesn’t have much of an appetite, they might be drawn to something simple like a bag of crisps or a pot noodle that doesn’t take much effort to prepare.
One such additive aspartame, used as a sweetener is known to undermine chemical balance in the brain and can lead to depression, migraines, fatigue and much more.
If an individual is comfort eating, and putting on weight, it is likely that they will opt for a ‘diet’ option in their food choice, and take in these sweeteners, giving momentum to the depression cycle I speak of.
Being overweight can be a factor in depression too. Not just the outward appearance, not liking the way one looks, but feeling the waistband or collar a little tight leads to discomfort and eventually walking or sporting activities become more difficult, and in more extreme cases can lead to medical problems with joints or the circulatory system, causing pain, anxiety and depression. That cycle again.
Movement is paramount, we were designed to move, we have muscles and flexible joints. If we are not moving, we are stuck. We are in the same place mentally and physically. We need to change our environment, scenery, and outlook, literally. Often depression sufferers really do not feel motivated to do anything.
Many with depression have routines, they are crucial. The most severely depressed often have very little, or no routine. Those who do ought to look at their routine and ensure that part of it includes some self-love. Either a walk, a warm bubble bath whilst reading a book or listening to music. Or getting a haircut, or watching a favourite movie.
Those with no routine are advised to plan one. Even starting as simply as getting up at a certain time, washing, dressing and making a healthy breakfast. I am aware that even those few things can take hours in the beginning, but it is a beginning, more tasks can be added as one feels able.
One of the key elements to any routine is sleep.
Those going without good sleep for a period of time do have difficulty functioning. If one is prone to depression, then sleep needs to be a priority. Lack of sleep does lead to low mood, leading to difficulty sleeping, and difficulty waking. That cycle again.
Within this, as life happens and events and situations occur, depression can worsen significantly if one is already on this cycle.
Emotional pain is experienced in the same part of the brain as physical (nociceptive and neuropathic) pain. When our feelings are hurt, we hurt in a similar way to having had an accident or an illness. This can be more difficult to deal with for some and some individuals as there is no obvious wound to take care of and nurture. Some in this instance are drawn to self-harm to have a tangible injury to nurse.
Early antidepressant medication was in fact no more than pain suppression medication but has now evolved and become more sophisticated, incorporating with in it substances to regulate the balance of hormones.
Imagine chronic pain with no clear solution, and potentially being a life time burden. Physical pain without hope of an end can and often does lead to depression. Conversely, depression without hope of an end, and the cycle of potential habitual behaviours such as poor diet, lack of movement, obesity, and toxic relationships coming from low self-esteem can easily lead to pain from physical illness, therefore completing the cycle of depression.
Every person’s depression is an individual experience. One aspect of the depression cycle that most people share is that there are several elements to each’s experience.
Getting out of the cycle usually means tackling more than one element. One can change one’s diet, but if there is no routine in place then that alone is unlikely to break the cycle.
Think Healing Hypnotherapy
Leeds Depression Specialist.
07582 0800 05
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