Are depression and hormonal problems linked?

How does depression develop?

Neurobiological side

Aside from psychosocial triggers, there are also physical causes for the development of depression, i.e. changes in the body and in particular neurobiological changes in the brain. These include, for example, genetically determined factors that influence the risk of falling ill. Current changes in stress hormones or imbalances in other messenger substances in the brain can act as triggers.

Drug treatment with antidepressants can act directly on these neurobiological imbalances.

Neurobiology and Heredity

How does our brain work?

Our brain is made up of over 100 billion Neurons.

Each of our feelings, each of our moods, each thought, each perception and each behavior go with a special one Activity patterns of the nerve cells in our brain. Thinking, feeling and acting therefore depend on the function of our nerve cells in the brain.

The activity that arises within a nerve cell is passed on to other nerve cells via extensions of the nerve cell, like a cable. However, there is no direct connection between the nerve cells. In order to pass the stimulus on to the next nerve cell, so-called Messenger substances (Neurotransmitters) are released into the synaptic gap (the space between two nerve cells). The upstream cell forwards the activity to the downstream cell.

The messenger substances released by the upstream cell activate contact points (Receptors) on the downstream cell. This creates a new stimulus, for example, which travels to the end of the cell and releases messenger substances into the next synaptic gap.

  • The activities within the nerve cells lead to Release of messenger substancesthrough which the individual nerve cells in the brain interact with each other "communicate".
  • The messenger substances serve to transmit stimuli from nerve cell to nerve cell.
  • This process is fundamental to various functions in the brain that in turn underlie our actions, moods and perceptions.
What happens in the brain when I have depression?

During depression, many different processes in the brain and also in the whole body are changed. One of the difficulties is understanding what is the cause and what is the result of depression. There are numerous brain processesMessenger substances involved, with particular attention paid to norepinephrine and serotonin as antidepressants act on these and therefore may play a role in causing depression. To describe depression as a condition with a lack of serotonin or norepinephrine would be simplistic and misleading, however.

Antidepressant drugs influence these biochemical processes in the nerve cells, so that the messenger substances required for the transmission and processing of stimuli are brought back into balance. Because of complicated interactions and feedback loops, a detailed understanding of the dysfunction of the messenger substances in depression and the exact effect of antidepressants is difficult. The idea that there is simply a lack of serotonin is too simplistic.

Studies have also shown that non-drug treatments such as psychotherapy, Therapeutic sleep deprivation (waking therapy) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) affect these messenger substances.

Can depression be inherited?

In connection with the question of the causes of depression, the question of the hereditary nature of the disease often arises. What role do genetics play in one's own disease? How high is the risk that your own children will be affected by the disease?

  • It is well documented that when depression develops, a genetic predisposition plays a role.
  • However, there is no single gene that is primarily responsible for the disease. It can be assumed that there are numerous genetic changes that only increase the risk of the disease in an unfavorable constellation.
  • A large number of studies (for example, twin and adoption research) show that a person's chances of developing depression in the course of their life are three times higher if their parents or siblings are depressed.
  • In identical twins, i.e. people with the same genetic makeup, both twins suffer from a depressive illness in around 50% of cases. But that also means that the Genes can't explain everything. There must also be external influences.