Tanya Ruckstuhl Valenti, LICSW

What is Depression?

“What is Depression?”
Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti

Mood disorders, including depression, dysthymia and bi-polar disorder are the most common form of mental illness. The prevailing theory about the root cause of depression involves chemical imbalances in the dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Many things temporarily change the chemistry in the brain: laughing at a good joke, falling in love, praying all appear to have uplifting, “antidepressant” effects.

Depression, and the reinforcing thoughts that accompany it, appear to be a “learned response” much like riding a bicycle or driving a car. So it follows that if depression is a learned response it can also be unlearned with new skills and practice of those skills.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 21 million American adults experience depression in any given year. While this statistic is a bit—well--depressing, the good news is that if you or someone you love is suffering from depression, you are not alone and there are many avenues of help and support available.

“It’s no use. I’ve tried everything and it just hasn’t helped.”

Feel like you’ve tried everything and it just hasn’t helped? Imagine yourself as a small child learning how to use a fork. The first, second, and even hundredth time you tried to spear your food and bring it to your mouth were a challenge. The food fell off the fork, was pushed off the plate, dropped in your lap, bounced off your nose. But occasionally, almost miraculously, the food landed exactly where you wanted it: in your mouth. You got the wonderful experience of feeding yourself, even though it was difficult and took a lot of work and a lot of mistakes to learn.

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