What Are Some Signs Of Depression, Exercise Increases Serotonin?
Q: Something I saw on the news last night really got me pissed. It was
a feature that focused on the benefits of exercise for people with
A:Before I go on, I just want to express how dismayed I was to see all the truly venomous posts in response to the well-intentioned contributor who made but a few constructive suggestions regarding non-drug ways to help deal with depression. I thought they were pretty good. One of them involved exercise. Although my depressive state is usually too vegetative for them to be relevant, they sounded like some worthwhile things to try for when things improve a bit. I imagine there are some people for whom the character and magnitude of their depression would allow them to find some of his/her suggestions useful. Getting back to what irritated me about the news story... There were several "facts" that I took exception to. 1. Depression is caused by low levels of serotonin. 2. 1 in 4 people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. 3. Exercise is an effective antidepressant because it raises levels of serotonin. I am going to make a few statements that I invite constructive and thoughtful response to. But I'm not going make a research project out of this, and I'm not looking to begin a sophisticated discussion of the neurobiology of affective-disorders. My only two agenda are to get well and offer what little I have to help others along the way. I do not consider myself a reliable source of the compendium of medical literature published this decade, so please help me out. Citations of literature are greatly appreciated. 1. There is no convincing evidence that depression is caused by a lack of sufficient levels of serotonin. While the alteration of function in serotonergic pathways may be important, I haven't seen a deluge of studies saying, "We measured the amount of serotonin in the neurons of the brain and found that it was too low." That a drug affecting serotonergic neurons works for depression doesn't mean that those neurons are where the disorder "starts". 2. There are plenty of effective antidepressant drugs that selectively inhibit the reuptake of norepinephrine without any apparent direct action on serotonergic neurons. I would hate to see anyone hesitate to try desipramine or viloxazine just because they are not considered "serotonergic" drugs. 3. I have trouble with the claim that 1 in 4 people suffer from depression at some time in their lives. They used to say it was 1 in 10. Are we becoming a more popular club? Is it simply a difference in reporting that has occurred because of increased awareness? What did they mean by depressed? "I got depressed when my boss said he liked John's idea more than mine." All those people in the gym who were exercising their blues away looked pretty vital to me. If 1 in 4 suffer from depression, perhaps people are justified in regarding those of us who participate in this newsgroup as being weak and lacking in character. If most of the 1 in 4 can successfully "pull themselves up by their bootstraps", that leaves the rest of us as being failures. 4. For some people suffering from depression, exercise provides little or no benefit. (If anyone comes across any of the stuff regarding exercise and its influence on serotonin, please post it or e-mail me.) I thought this stuff was important to post. Maybe it is all wrong, but I try to contribute with a sense of responsibility to those who might read anything I have to say. If what we as individuals or a group thing or believe is wrong, let us try to correct it - for our own sake. Let us also be tolerant and considerate of our differences in opinion and belief. Debate is constructive. This is just sloppy talk. Lay people can be forgiven for sloppy talk. Scientists cannot. NOBODY knows what "causes" depression. Here is the example I use in teaching about depression and schizophrenia versus Parkinson's disease. The SYMPTOMS of Parkinson's desease are caused by alterations in dopamine neurotransmission. The SYMPTOMS of Parkinson's disease can be helped with drugs that replace lost dopamine. The CAUSE of Parkinson's symptoms *IS* a degeneration of neurons that contain dopamine. The CAUSE of this degeneration is not known. So is the CAUSE of Parkinson's disease known?? Well to some extent it is, in that it results from a loss of dopamine neurons. But what causes this loss of dopamine neuorns is NOT know, so what causes Parkinson's disease is also then not known. The SYMPTOMS of depression and schizophrenia can be helped with drugs that affect adrenergic/serotonergic or dopamine neurotransmission, respectively. The CAUSE of what fucks up neurotransmission in depression and schizophrenia is not at all known. So for these mental illnesses, we have effective treatments of SYMPTOMS, but we don't really know jack shit about causes.