What came first the chemical chicken or the emotional egg?

It is a sad fact that in today’s world, depression has become a very common condition. Around 15% of the population will have a bout of depression at some point in their lives, so if you are suffering remember you are not alone …The exact number is hard to estimate though and could be even higher because so many people are never diagnosed or seek professional help.

It is amazing though if you do open up and start talking about the ‘black dog’ of depression how many people around you might reveal they have secretly been there too. And this can only be a good thing. The more openly we can start talking about the issue the better, because there are now very effective treatments readily available and there is no need for people to suffer in silence.

People who are depressed may have feelings of extreme sadness that can last for a long time. And these feelings can be severe enough to interfere with their appetite, sleep patterns and general every day functioning which can have a really negative impact on someone’s life.

The question that always seems to raise its head around the subject is whether depression is caused by a chemical or biological imbalance and should, therefore, be treated by prescribed medication or whether it’s caused by a psychological or emotional imbalance and should, therefore, be treated by psychotherapy, hypnotherapy or some other form of counselling.

The answer is not clear cut.

There is no doubt that depressed people have higher concentrations of stress hormones in their body such as cortisol and noradrenaline etc which can cause lethargy and low moods (as the body tries to cope with too much arousal). But the question is how did it get there in the first place? What came first the chemical chicken or the emotional egg?

The way we respond to situations especially when we are feeling down with thoughts of hopelessness, worry and anxiety all affect the emotions we feel which, in turn, affect the chemicals which are released into the body. However, the emotionally aroused brain and the presence of stress hormones in turn can also affect how we think and feel – so it is most definitely a ‘two way street’.

To sum up. If thoughts and emotions can affect chemical composition and chemical composition can affect thoughts and emotions both prescribed medication and therapy are often both needed to varying degrees and it cannot be considered that one course is right for all.

Until recently and partly because the marketing of large pharmaceutical companies, the widespread belief has largely focused on the idea that depression was a biological illness. It’s even been called a ‘disease.’ And in this way the sufferer could distance themselves from emotional responsibility for the symptoms. However, while thyroid problems, food intolerances and other physical illness can all lead to feelings of depression. It’s now thought that less than 10% of clinical depression actually has a chemical basis.

So if this is the case and by far the majority of depressions are learned phenomena not chemical ones – it seems a clear indicator that it is imperative to concentrate on the more holistic approach of treating the mind as well as the body, and this is where integrated mind therapy can help.

Appropriate therapy has constantly been shown to be more effective than drug treatment alone in the treatment of chemically based depression and far more effective in preventing relapse. When you are finding it difficult to consciously rationalise your thoughts or calm down a spiral of negative thinking this is where treatments such as CBT and Hypnotherapy can be extremely affective.