Psychology, biology, lifestyle, diet… bananas?

After reading this article, the first thought that came to my mind was the analogy of “which came first – the chicken or the egg?” It appears that both the biological and psychological aspects of depression are both trying to figure out how depression is brought on, be it “mood changes to activity in specific brain regions” or “brain activity to changes in mood” (Deldin, Keller, Gergen, & Miller 2000). I found myself wondering if trying to figure out the cause if the cause for depression would be very helpful in terms of preventing it, as I know that both experiences shape the formation of neural connections in your brain, but that the neural connections in your brain can also shape the way in which you experience things. What I want to know is, can depression really be prevented? I feel like there are so many uncontrollable aspects in life that it would be impossible to prevent depression due to life-changing experiences, because instances that happen to other people by no fault of your own are uncontrollable, and it’s the way you react to these situations and deal with them that can determine whether or not someone slips into depression. Is it really possible to change the way someone reacts to situations, even if they are consciously telling themselves the way they should be reacting, they could subconsciously be doing the exact opposite. I don’t know if I’m making any sense here, but if you have never been diagnosed with depression, then how would one necessarily know how to prevent it? Perhaps it is not something that can be prevented, but only minimized once already knowing the symptoms or situations that can trigger depression.

I also agreed with Miller and Keller that depending on the severity of depression – or any psychological disorder – and the patient, either a psychological or chemical intervention could work best, or a combination of both. In this sense, I would suggest that both medical and clinical psychology fields need to know both biological and psychological points of view, though sometimes they cannot be used to explain the other (as Miller and Keller pointed out), but the information and point of view is still relevant in terms of the other, and could lead to looking at a disease or psychological disorder in a new and inventive way. There really does need to be a “conceptual and methodological collaboration”. Whilst we question the link between biology and psychology fields in terms of depression and other illnesses, why not question other fields, such as lifestyle and diet? I found this youtube video very interesting, as it gives sight to the cliché saying “you are what you eat.”

So…. Should we be eating more bananas?

On a completely different note, if depression is seen as a problem, is there such a problem as being OVERLY happy and upbeat? Are there people that are generally optimistic all the time, and should that be considered a disorder? Food for thought… if there is such a thing, would it be possible to learn from this “disorder” in terms of trying to understand depression?

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5 thoughts on “Psychology, biology, lifestyle, diet… bananas?

  1. This is a really great post, Natasha. I do wonder if there is a way to prevent depression. I know Professor Glenn does her personal research on choline and memory. I believe she has also done some work on choline supplementation in utero and the onset of stress-induced depression later in a rat’s life.

    Right Professor Glenn? Sorry for my lack of knowledge.

    Anyway, is it even sufficent to say that choline (or even melatonin) supplementation early in life can prevent stress related disorders later on? Here I go again! I mean, I am assuming that depression is a biological problem. Forget the environmental factors/stressful life events that play a major role.

    As for your question on whether people can be overly happy. I love this idea. We have neurotransmitters that are antagonistic (e.g. Glutamate/GABA)– With respect to bipolar disorder, why can’t we geninuely have contrasting cognitive states? I cannot help but to think of a House episode called “No more Mr. Nice guy.” In this episode, a guy faints on a side walk and he is taken to House’s hospital. Eventually they realize he has a tumor in his brain that causes him to be “overly nice.” I think? I don’t know. Anyway, check out the link.

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  2. Excellent thoughts, Natasha. Perhaps prevention is out of reach (or is it?) but maybe reducing the risk is possible? That’s what I typically focus on. I thought the bananas thing was pretty interesting but I’d bet it’s a pretty ineffective solution for most adults. Like Sharonda points out I think the biggest impact is in changing how the machinery (eek biology) works/interacts/gives rise to/reacts to our life experiences. Then you don’t need extra bananas… but most certainly there will be something else to contend with. Was it worth it? Maybe. And maybe chick peas did change the world! 🙂

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  3. Natasha–I love the question you raise at the end of your post. I think it is a completely valid assumption that if we have people who are overly sad, we must have people who are overly happy. What’s the difference? We stigmatize sadness as a bad thing, and want to fix it. But what about the people who are laughing at a funeral? Well…maybe they should be looked into as well. I think the only reason that we don’t hear about this kind of thing is because it is not seen as ‘negative’ to have a ‘happiness disorder’. As Duy mentioned today, it’s all about semantics!

    Sharonda–I am SO SO glad you posted this House clip. The first thing I thought when I saw Natasha’s questions was, hey–I’m pretty sure they talked about this in House or Grey’s and they were too happy because of a tumor. Of course, maybe this can exist without a tumor…now I’m wondering if anyone has looked into this…perhaps I will look around online and see if I can find a paper…

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  4. I also love that last question you posted. It ties back into what we were talking about in class about having cultural thresholds for sadness (how sad is too sad?), as well as cultural norms for the public display/discussion of such emotions. It’s funny how that effects reported levels of depression- I’d guess that countries with a high sadness threshold report much lower levels of depression, as opposed to in the US where depression rates are startling high. We view those countries as ignorant to and invalidating towards human emotion, but they probably think we’re equally ridiculous!

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  5. In response to Hannah I also find it interesting to see how different cultures deal with depression and sadness and even emotion. I remember reading in one of my psych classes, maybe it was Adult and Adolescent Development, that some cultures are much more comfortable with sadness than we are. I feel like in the U.S. many people find it abnormal to be sad for long periods of time. I think they were discussing grief and loss and how cultures view sadness. Either way it is interesting to see how different psychological illnesses manifest in different cultures.

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