Depression – Is it a chemical or spiritual imbalance?

By Monica Snowball

Wednesday 13 July 2016

I have noticed recent discussion among friends and family regarding the cause of depression. Most of us know someone who has gone through it, or know a friend of a friend who has.

There are many misconceptions out there as to what really causes depression. Some people believe that in a mid life crises for example, you can suddenly become depressed, and it’s easy just to exit that state of mind. The cure is to eat healthy, exercise, be around positive people and you will be better.

Is that really the case? Surely making such lifestyle changes can’t be detrimental, but can you escape depression just by making such changes?

I thought it would be useful to investigate the understanding of the cause of depression, both from a scientific view and from a holistic view, and compare the two.

Scientific view –


According to Harvard Medical School, genes play a role in causing depression. Every part of your body, including your brain is controlled by your genes. If someone is genetically prone to depression, any stress for example a medical illness or missed deadline at work can push can amplify your chances of depression.

The brain

depression 3Harvard have also found that different areas of the brain are affected by depression – the amygdala, the thalamus and the hippocampus. It’s known that activity is higher in the amygdala (the emotional centre), the thalamus (the sensory centre of the brain) is functionally impaired, and hippocampus (the centre for processing long term memory and recollection) is smaller in those with depression.

Other causes

It was also found that factors such as temperament, stress, early childhood loss and trauma, medical problems, disturbed sleeping patterns, medication and even the cold season can trigger depression.

Holistic view –

According to Mind Body Green, depression is a chronic physical pain that has no end. It makes people feel powerless and hopeless. Mind Body Green says that society is the reason for depression – society doesn’t allow one to be able to speak of the pain being a human. Other reasons are that depression stems from the shame in being human, the body is trying to get you out of a negative environment, the loss of love or the body reacting to pain.

A study was conducted at Duke Universitydepression 4 in 2000 looking at the link between spirituality and health. It was found that typically there was a link between religious practice and a reduced chance of developing a mental illness. The reason was the development of purpose and a sense of meaning in the lives of their subjects.

A study was also conducted in 2008 looking at the role of spirituality and meaning in the lives of individuals with severe depression. It was found that the sample group felt disconnected to God, others and themselves. At the same time, the group recognised that spirituality played a significant role in helping them cope with depression. Although the participants did not receive a renewal in their spirit, they became harmonious with the idea of having depression, and accepted it much more freely.

The cause of depression from a holistic approach seems to stem from inner turmoil and feelings which then in turn generate illness, where as the scientific approach is that depression stems from genetic flaws and flaws in brain receptors and neurotransmitters.

To me, it seems as though the scientific approach is still not delving into the route cause, and the list of causes are several and far between.

If the holistic approach were followed, then I can imagine that a re-connection with one’s purpose and spirituality would do wonders for someone going through this melancholic roller-coaster ride.

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