Anyone who has ever experienced depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) knows the feelings of sadness, fear, and hopelessness that accompany those conditions.
What most people don’t know, however, is that suffering from mental health issues such as these can actually cause physical damage to the brain. This damage can even result in the brain becoming permanently trapped in a state of depression, anxiety, etc.
Oftentimes when this happens, not even medications can correct the problem. Fortunately, in most cases when help is sought from those who know how to heal the brain, much of the damage can be reversed.
Life can become normal, sometimes for the first time ever. Learning to change thinking patterns can heal the brain and prevent serious damage.
How Depression And PTSD Affect The Brain
When the human brain suffers from prolonged trauma such as PTSD or depression, not only does the individual suffer from the psychological effects, there are areas of the brain that can actually become damaged.
Neuroscientists have discovered that the constant stress of these mental illnesses can actually impair the functioning in the areas of the brain that are responsible for the regulation of emotions and the detection of, and response to, threats. PTSD occurs as a result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
This can include victims of domestic violence, war veterans, people who have been involved in robberies, auto accidents, and other types of harmful situations.
An area of the brain called the mid-anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) monitors conflict and conflict response. It also deals with emotional awareness (empathy in particular), regulating some of the body’s autonomic functioning including blood pressure and heart rate.
Damage to this area of the brain from these conditions can cause extremely severe, even life-threatening issues.
Depression can have damaging physiological effects on the brain as well. Research has shown that long-term depression can actually cause several areas of the brain to shrink.
These include the following brain regions:
- prefrontal cortex;
- frontal cortex;
Studies have shown that the longer and more severe the depressive state, the greater the amount of brain shrinkage.
How PTSD And Depression Affect Daily Life
Everyday life can be seriously affected by the symptoms of PTSD and depression. Every aspect of life from work, school, family relationships, friendships, and social interactions and activities of all kinds can be negatively impacted.
Depression can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.
PTSD can cause feelings of extreme fear, paranoia, disorientation, etc. Both conditions can lead tot he sufferer becoming isolated, completely avoiding interaction with others. Work situations can become impossible to deal with.
Even simple daily activities like grocery shopping or going to the post office can feel like a nightmare. Often the person will turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope.
This, of course, can lead to further problems and can cause the individual to become even more isolated and withdrawn. Issues involving substance abuse or addiction have been shown to affect as many as 80% of people who suffer from PTSD and/or depression.
Effective Treatments For PTSD And Depression
There are a number of treatments that have been proven to be effective in the treatment of PTSD and depression. Several types of psychotherapy provide results for those who deal with PTSD.
Some of the most effective include:
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive Processing Therapy generally consists of weekly 60-90 minute sessions over a period of 12 weeks. The patient will discuss with the therapist traumatic events that have happened throughout their life and their thoughts regarding them.
They will then discuss how the patient’s thoughts about these event(s) have affected them and their life. The patient will write in a private journal, detailing the events and their related thoughts, feelings, and reactions.
In this way, the patient is able to review for themselves the effects the trauma has had on their lives and find new, healthy ways to deal with them.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged Exposure Therapy involves 8 to 15 90-minute sessions during which the patient will learn to confront and deal with triggers that remind them of a traumatic event in their lives.
The patient will learn anxiety-relieving breathing techniques to use whenever troubling thoughts or memories arise.
They will progress to writing a list of the triggers that they avoid and discovering ways to face each one and deal with it in a constructive manner.
Another part of the process will involve speaking with the therapist in detail about the trauma.
An audio recording will be made of the session and the patient will then listen to it at home in order to work on processing and dealing with the effects that are still negatively impacting their lives.
Treatment for depression can include a variety of psychotherapies, medication, exercise, regulation of sleep patterns, changes in diet, or any combination of these.
How Cognitive Training Classes Are Good For The Brain
Cognitive brain training converts inactive brain cells into active, useful, healthy ones. Cognitive training classes stimulate less active brain cells by constantly switching things up so the brain does not become accustomed to a “routine.”
Thought patterns stay fresh rather than becoming repetitive. The brain requires exercise in order to stay healthy just like the body does.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s dynamic ability to adapt and change. Training the brain enhances neuroplasticity via constant mental stimulation.
Keeping the mind healthy is necessary in order to avoid a number of mental health issues, and knowing how to heal the brain can make all the difference. Both the body and the mind must be treated well and kept in top form to work together for a happy, healthy life.