Why Depression Strikes and How It Affects Your Brain?

If you are seeking treatment for depression with suicidal thoughts, please call your doctor immediately. We also have a number of hotlines below that will help you through the depression so you can avoid the ultimate act.

The depressed brain is a unique thing. Our brain chemistry changes with depression and sometimes we need medicine, and sometimes we need more help. But, depression is not a brain disease. Rather, for most people, depression is really more of a habitual pattern of misaligned brain chemicals, a chemical disorder.

how depression affects the brain

We have great news for you! You can change your brain chemistry, you can overcome depression, and you can live a normal life. And although you might not realize it right now, mild depression could be good for you. It is a very big sign that your body is telling you something is wrong. By changing now, you can head off further depression, diseases that rob you of years of your life, and debilitating pain.

Right now, we know it’s difficult to believe. If you have family that is depressed, they wouldn’t believe you if you told them. Trust us, and follow us through the rest of this article for tips on how depression works and what treatments are available, both allopathic and natural. And once you read through this article, we recommend you go read this other article we have on depression.

You may be wondering why depression happened to you. Well, a lot of it has to go into how depression affects your brain chemistry. The biggest control over depression, happiness, love, and all our other emotions are the hormones that are produced in our bodies.

Every moment of every day, we are producing hundreds and thousands of hormones. There are dozens of different varieties and they all need to be balanced in order to work well. We are truly miracles walking around every moment. Even when out of balance, we can still function to a degree. And we have the ability to recover and be healthy.

This complex mix of hormones is why depression is so hard to understand. Doctors simply do not understand how the neurotransmitters cause depression and how to fix them. Plus, as we discovered more and more of these hormones and neurotransmitters, the problem of balancing them became even harder.

For example, some of the top neurotransmitters and hormones that cause depression are dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and acetylcholine. Just having one of these out of a balance, can cause depression. Or, it could be all of them out of balance. Or, the hormone insulin (the one for sugar control and diabetes) could be out of balance and that could cause the rest of these to be out of balance. Do you see why this is so hard?

major depressive disorder among adults

Dopamine and serotonin are two of the biggest ones that become misaligned during the depression. These also play a huge part in our ability to feel the emotion and the pain and pleasure responses in our bodies. When dopamine is unbalanced, we could feel nothing or too much of everything. This is why depression can physically hurt.

If you are reading this for a loved one, or for yourself, we want you to take responsibility for your depression before it leads to major depression. Mild depression occurs quite often in people, and most people can change their diet, lifestyle, and use certain herbs and supplements to bring themselves out of it. But, if you allow mild depression to sink into major depression, you face serious, life-threatening health issues.

herbs and spices for depression infographic

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If you feel your depression is something you cannot control yourself or if you have a loved one that is sinking deeper into depression, please use one of the hotlines we have below or contact your doctor. Major depression is not something you want to happen or want to wait around on.

Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression is not something that occurs equally to every person. Some of the early signs of depression in one person can be completely overlooked or not occur at all. We want to also cover what feeling down, known as The Blues, and transient depression looks like before we cover the common symptoms of clinical depression.

Everyone experiences times when they feel down and mildly depressed. The biggest difference between feeling The Blues and true depression is the length of time. The Blues tend to last a few hours to a few days before a person returns to normal. True depression is pervasive and can last several days to the rest of a person’s life.

depression vs the blues infographic

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When a person loses a loved one, a pet, or faces a job loss, they can have what is known as The Blues. They appear sad, tired, distracted, and moody. They may cry often and just not want to do anything. After this period of time, this period of mourning, a person is able to pull themselves out of The Blues and resumed a normal life. This process normally takes a few days to a few weeks.

In this case, the neurotransmitters that cause depression have not been altered. The body has not changed, only the emotions.

Unfortunately, the beginning stages of depression look like The Blues. It occurs much longer and has the ability to adjust the neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain and can be accompanied by other problems. Literally, depression is changing the brain.

The first thing people say when they emerge from depression is they left the brain fog. This is a state where it’s difficult to think, you are easily distracted, and being aware of what’s going on greatly diminishes. Brain fog can be caused by a number of conditions including a poor diet, hormonal imbalance, a lack of vitamins and nutrients, a lack of sleep, and depression. We have an article here on brain fog and different natural ways to overcome it. Fortunately, many of the recommendations we have in this article help relieve depression as well as brain fog.

brain fog cure

Generally, depression does not cause physical pain until late stages, but physical pain can lead to depression. Endorphins are hormones that help relieve pain in our bodies. In the short-term, endorphins do not have much of an impact on the rest of our hormonal system. However, if we are exposed to natural endorphins, or chemical endorphins, for a long period of time, they can adjust the way the rest of our hormones react. Serotonin and dopamine are particularly susceptible to these endorphins, with both of them being suppressed while the endorphins are in our system at a high level.

Laughter therapy has actually been developed to counter this exact problem. Laughter increases both dopamine and serotonin in our brains. It does this independent of whether endorphins are in our system or not. Using laughter therapy, we can increase our happiness level, the dopamine, and serotonin in our brains, and mitigate some of the long-term endorphin damage. Interestingly, doctors and hospitals that use laughter therapy notice their patients heal faster and cleaner than those who do not use laughter therapy. The link to physical healing has not been discovered yet, but no one doubts it happens.

This therapy is extremely easy to implement at home. Read a funny book * or comics *, put in a funny movie, or watch comedians. Or, simply make yourself laugh. At the very least, smile. It may be hard and unnatural at first, but the physical changes it invokes are worth it.

Anxiety, stress, and depression often go together as well. Stress and anxiety are very closely related, and both can cause depression. It is actually difficult to separate stress and anxiety in a depressed person. Chronic stress and anxiety during depression can lead to brain damage through the excess hormones that are flooding the brain. If you feel you have anxiety or stress you cannot relieve, be sure to see a doctor. Medications are not always the best or first method of treatment, as often a psychologist, psychiatrist, or coach can be much more helpful in these instances.

One of the things loved ones need to worry about with depression is when depression turns to anger. In cases where the stress hormones are a leading cause of depression, that stress can manifest as anger and aggression.

In the body itself, depression actually changes your health. By lowering the amount of dopamine in the brain, depression makes you tired because dopamine helps control the melatonin * production in the brain. Without adequate melatonin, we do not sleep well. Without sleep, your blood pressure can go up, your heart rate can go up, fat storage increases (which can make you fat), and your muscle tone goes way down. That is why many people say depression causes sleepiness during the day. You will find many people who have depression want to sleep much more than normal, yet do have trouble sleeping.

Signs of Depression in Women

Women are anywhere from 20% to 50% more likely to experience depression. However, many studies will indicate that women are more likely to seek help and recognize the symptoms of depression than men are.

depression female vs male

While not conclusive, the medical community believes that women experience depression more because they experience more life-changing events. The onset of menses, childbirth, raising children, PMS and menstruation, and menopause are severe changes in hormones that men do not experience.

Women tend to have more sleepiness, fatigue, listlessness, and anxiety during their depression. Women tend not to display their depression through aggression.

Behaviorally, women tend to seek out the interaction of other people more than men do. Often times, friends and family of women will catch signs of depression faster and seek aid quicker.

Unfortunately, because women do go through monthly hormonal cycles and a lot of changes, many of the initial signs of depression are not discovered. It is only when depression becomes longer lasting and more severe is it addressed.

Signs of Depression in Men

suicide male vs female

Men do not experience depression as often as women, however, depression in men leads to suicide nearly twice as much as women. Men also experience depression symptoms faster and more severe than women.

Some of the normal displays of depression in men are paralysis, lack of emotion, and feelings of hopelessness. Because men tend towards the suppression of their emotions during the depression, they seek out activities that will bring out their emotions. Because of this, aggression and risk-taking tend to become more common.

As men are more emotionally stable and do not have hormonal fluctuations as women do, depression is noticed faster. Behavioral changes in men are easier to spot. Conversely, because men are not used to the hormonal fluctuations that occur normally in women, men can experience depression much faster and deeper than women.

Types of Depression

There are multiple types of severe, clinical depression.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

This is a type of depression that lasts two years or more. It is a combination of dysthymia (low-grade, persistent, mild depression) and chronic major depression.

This type of depression is generally treated with psychotherapy and medications. Alternatives work slower and have a thorough effect.

Bipolar Depression

bipolar disorder meaning

Known as manic depression, this type of disorder has people swinging between very happy moods and severe depression. Some of the symptoms of manic depression tend to have periods where people are very social and outgoing and other periods where the same people are withdrawn, moody, and aggressive.

This is generally treated with medications in order to stabilize the mood swings.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This is a biological condition that results from a lack of sunlight. The lack of sunlight typically reduces the amount of vitamin D produced by a person, which directly impacts the level of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. By and large, this disorder sets in during December through April in the northern hemisphere. People who work under fluorescent lights tend to be more susceptible to this condition.

This condition used to be treated with medication, however, doctors have found it much more effective to use vitamin D supplementation and multi-spectrum lighting.

Psychotic Depression

This type of severe depression generally needs hospitalization. During this type of depression, people will experience hallucinations or delusions. Extreme paranoia is also common. It is an acute form of depression that requires specialized treatment.

Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression

postpartum depression scale

Only women will experience this type of depression. During the few days to weeks after childbirth, the hormones in a woman’s body fluctuate greatly. This is a chemical imbalance depression.

Generally, it will dissipate on its own, but for women who do not recover, a short course of medications usually are enough to rebalance the women.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

This is a deep depression that is short-lived, just before the onset of the period. Unfortunately, it comes back month after month, often lasting longer each time. Women who experience this type of depression are often overwhelmed and it can cause a much more severe case of clinical depression.

There is two other types of mental depressions that are not normally recognized in psychiatry, but often used:

  • Situational depression – where only certain triggers cause depression, such as a death of a loved one
  • Atypical depression – where a person is generally depressed, but certain events and situations allow the person to be happy and normal.

Each of these types of depression can occur on their own or in combination.

Effects of Depression

Depression has many effects on your brain, your lifestyle, and everything about your life.

  • Depression affects all of your relationships

You may be feeling that people don’t care about you and are turning away from you, but they are truly worried about you and would like to help. It can drive some people away, but those who stay are true friends. Remember, you can reach out to them for help.

  • Depression can be hard in a marriage

Depression affects your marriage by closing off one partner to the other. The one who is experiencing depression can wonder why the other is turning away, is mean, or just doesn’t care. The one who is not experiencing depression can wonder what is wrong with the one who is, wonder why they are turning away, and can simply be confused. If the depression goes on long enough, it seriously hurts the chances of survival within the marriage. But, if the depression is caught and treatment is sought out, generally the marriage will survive and become stronger.

how to deal with depression in marriage infographic

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  • Depression can affect your ability to remember things

Your memory is directly connected with the way your hormones are able to function. Hormones are generally neurotransmitters, as well, so if the neurotransmitters are not working, memories simply do not form properly. Depression can affect your school performance, you’re learning, and any brain activity you choose to do. We have articles on helping to improve your memory here, and these techniques will also help reduce depression.

  • Depression seriously affects your ability to work

Paralysis, lack of caring, and fatigue generally are not well tolerated in the work environment. If your job depends on the ability to remember things and make decisions, your judgment can be impaired. In severe situations, your depression causing brain freeze can cause serious repercussions for other people. If you are on a job that others depend on you, it is imperative that you seek treatment for both your safety and everyone around you.

  • Depression can cause fatigue, tiredness, and depression directly affects your sleep

Because of the disruption in hormones, depression can suppress melatonin production, which can cause you not to sleep. On top of that, the fatigue and tiredness you feel all day can be caused by your inability to sleep and further cause a lack of sleep. Just like taking a nap during the day will cause you to stay up late, the fatigue and listlessness during the day are similar to taking a nap.

Other people sleep more during the depression. Since the brain is not working at optimal levels, it tends to shut down into sleep. This can make people sleep much more rather than being awake and aware.

  • Depression in the long term could cause damage to your brain

As memory centers are damaged, endocrine glands repressed, and neurotransmitters disrupted, the brain begins to adjust. Over time, the adjustments could lead to serious repercussions. While it is not brain damaged as we normally think of the term, it is damaged. The length of time and severity will determine whether the body can repair the damage or not.

  • And finally, depression can kill you

In itself, it is exceptionally rare for the depression to be the direct cause of death. What depression does is provide the thoughts that lead to suicide. It can also cause enough hormonal imbalance to create diseases that can kill you. In some cases, the depression can manifest itself into cancer, and that is what kills.

Some of the diseases that depression can cause include high blood pressure, heart rhythm irregularities, muscle atrophy, digestive problems, cancer, arthritis, inflammation, and many other problems. The fortunate thing as many of the remedies we talk about in other articles offer the same type of remedies that will help reduce and eliminate everything we just listed.

Depression Diagnosis

Diagnosis of depression should only be done under a doctor’s supervision. There is no official depression test, it is more of an evaluation of a person’s behavioral and emotional health. We want to warn you that those tests for depression that you find free online will not give you accurate answers.

When a doctor diagnoses you with depression, they will often recommend various tests to see if they can see the effects of the depression on a brain scan. While rare, depression can be a symptom of a brain tumor. Doctors want to rule out this possibility before prescribing medications.

Interestingly, a brain scan will also show if the various endocrine glands in the brain are functioning properly. In various scans, they are able to see the function of the glands when depression strikes and when depression ends. This can give doctors a huge warning that can help head off when depression returns.

In the short-term, it is better to allow your body to recover from depression naturally. However, if the depression lasts more than a few weeks, you will want to be screened for depression. If your depression goes untreated, it can create any long-term health problems.

When you are depressed, the first thing you should do is seek the aid of a close loved one. They can help you determine if you need a doctor and how fast. From there, you will be able to go to your doctor to test for depression. If you are unsure of your doctor, or you need to seek out help you cannot get from your doctor, we have hotlines below that you can call and talk about your depression.

Once you are with a doctor, you will be screened for depression. Your doctor may do this in the office, or refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. From there, they will recommend counseling, coaching, medications, or natural treatments to help return you to a healthy and stable life.

Depression Treatment

There’s a lot of aid out there for people with depression. Online help for depression is everywhere.

A lot of people will avoid going to the doctor to treat depression because the medications for depression have so many side effects. Some depression medications are addictive. Plus, we’ve all heard stories about people who are put on with on medication and didn’t get better, got worse, or committed suicide. This is why we’re going to recommend getting treatment for your depression from your doctor and using natural therapies together.

The first step to treat depression is to know what is causing your depression. If it is truly a hormonal imbalance, you might be one of the people who need the medication for your depression. In some cases, depression medication is not bad.

Your doctor will most likely put you through emotional screenings with a psychologist or psychiatrist, do blood tests for your depression, and a CAT scan or an MRI. The reason for this is that you don’t want to treat an emotional imbalance when it’s caused by a brain tumor, blood problem, or other physical damage.

We truly do want you to visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. In the past, most people who were depressed were immediately sent to an asylum or mental institution. Today, when we hospitalize people for depression, it is in the most severe cases where people will hurt themselves. Doctors realize that hospitals increase depression symptoms rather than alleviate them in mild cases.

If you try some of the natural treatments we have below, and those treatments for depression don’t work, make sure you visit your doctor. Do not put off using the medication if the natural treatments do not work.

When it comes to natural treatments, you need to give them time. The natural treatments for depression without medication can take a few days to several weeks before you begin to feel the effect.

The first step is generally getting counseling for depression. This counseling helps people figure out what is the cause of the depression and steps that will alleviate the stress. In many cases, counseling is all that is needed for depression. If you feel the desire to talk to somebody, a psychologist or psychiatrist will be what your doctor recommends. In addition, there are many life coaches, health coaches, and religious leaders that have been trained to talk with you and help you uncover your problems. Generally, these people are not qualified to diagnose or treat depression, but sometimes having somebody listen is what matters.

Many counseling sessions will recommend you begin journaling your depression. Journaling is an amazing way to get your thoughts out of your head and on paper. Once you can see your thoughts externally, you will be able to organize them in a less passionate way. Sometimes, seeing your thoughts outside of your head can make small problems disappear and large problems small.

If you’re looking for help for your depression and you don’t have health insurance, there are also many support groups for depression. Most hospitals, clinics, and places of worship have the groups that will allow you to talk with other people about your depression. Be sure that your support group focuses on solving problems and finding a way out. There are some groups that have turned into gripe sessions that only encourage depression symptoms rather than alleviate them.

In the most extreme case, there are a few rehabs for depression out there. Generally, these rehabs are self-funded and deal with people who have more intense depression, but no suicidal thoughts.

And finally, throughout the world, there are many hotlines for depression and suicide. We recommend calling one of these numbers here - MentalHelp.net and PsychCentral.com if you feel things are just too much to deal with.

If You or Someone You Know is in Crisis CALL the the Toll-Free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Doctors are also treating depression using magnet therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) techniques. In cases where the brain is not producing enough hormone, the stimulation has been enough to trigger adequate and correct production of hormones. In the US, it is exceptionally uncommon. However, in Europe and Asia, it is becoming more popular to use these types of therapies.


No one is to blame for depression, not even you. It is something that happens and something that can be conquered.

If you are feeling suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor immediately. Or call one of the hotlines we have above.

Treatment for your depression does work and can have tremendous benefits. You don’t always need medication, as there are many alternative treatments out there.

You can live a normal life again and we’re hoping this is the first step on your journey to being happy and healthy.

If you liked our article, please share it and use the comment section below to tell us about your experiences or ask any questions. Thank You!


Christina Major

Christina Major is a holistic nutritionist, traditional naturopath, and herbalist. She has a Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition and an advanced degree in Traditional Naturopathy. Further certifications in herbalism and metabolic typing. She owns and operates Crystal Holistic Health Consulting based in PA, the USA since 2010.