When left untreated, depression – and other mental illnesses – can take a toll on the brain’s structure and function, placing a person’s mental (and sometimes physical) health at risk. If you have depression and haven’t sought treatment yet, there could be some major implications. Latest research has confirmed that depression does have the ability to change the brain over time, making it even more distressing for those who experience it.
A 2018 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry involved the analysis of 80 participants total – 25 people had untreated depression for more than 10 years, 25 for less than 10 years, and 30 had never been diagnosed. After studying the brain structures of these individuals, the research team found that long-term depression led to increased inflammation in the brain. In general, a bit of inflammation is good – it protects us from diseases and helps us to heal when we’ve been injured. However, too much inflammation – such as with the participants who had untreated depression for longer than 10 years – could result in the development of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Previous research has shown that there are differences in the hippocampus, cingulate, and prefrontal cortex between those with and without depression. The brain maintains plasticity over the period of one’s life, and mental illnesses such as depression can decrease plasticity. This is often because the symptoms of depression do more harm than good – a common characteristic of depression includes rumination, which is when a person spends an extended period dwelling on negative events and causes in relation to their sadness. While many people with depression view rumination as trying to “figure things out” or to “solve their problems”, rumination decreases problem solving and does not lead to increased happiness.
As you can see, continuous recurrences of depressive symptoms can lessen the functioning of the brain over time. This is what makes seeking treatment early on so incredibly important. If you haven’t done so already, seek out the help of a reputable treatment center. In doing this, you may prevent yourself from worsening your symptoms or developing other health conditions. It’s never too late.
Therapy is a primary component of treatment for rehabilitation from a substance use disorder and/or mental health disorder. Attending treatment with certified clinicians and counselors is critical for a full recovery. At one of New Vista Behavioral Health’s treatment providers, you are receiving exceptional care, held to a higher standard. Our programs result in better outcomes, ensuring a better recovery. For information call us today: 888-316-3665.