You want to know what my favorite thing is? Neuroplasticity- the ability our brain has to learn, grow, to change its physical structure and how it functions, based on how we use it.
People often have the misconception that if they experience anxiety or depression that there’s something permanently wrong with them, or with their brain. And while mental illness does show up in our biology, we can also treat mental illness through a variety of approaches. But when you change how you think, you physically change your brain.
So I want to make a series of short videos highlighting Neuroplasticity using research and stories- here is the first one.
Here’s a fascinating study from Northwestern University. They were able to find markers in the blood that indicated that a person was depressed. Now it’s believed that depression is a combination of psychological and biological factors, but the way that it’s diagnosed is through asking about symptoms-Do you feel sad or hopeless most? Do you have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much? Etc. But in this study they were able to find nine RNA markers in people with depression that were different from the average population.
So here’s the coolest part of this, the people with depression did 18 weeks of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and the ones who benefitted from talk therapy, the ones who saw their depression symptoms resolve- they also saw those blood markers change. Simply talking about things in therapy and learning new skills and working through your problems can create physical changes in your Blood. How cool is that?
Now this was a limited study, and researchers are still working to develop an accurate physical test of depression, for now we still rely on a symptom interview to diagnose depression. But my takeaway is:
Even when mental illness is having biological effects, we can treat mental illness and those biological effects from multiple approaches- medication, exercise, diet, and talk therapy. How we think and how we talk physically changes our brain and body.
Alright folks, that’s it. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more stories like this, thanks for watching and take care.
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Redei, Eva & Andrus, Brian & Kwasny, Mary & Seok, J & Cai, X & Ho, Joyce & Mohr, David. (2014). Blood transcriptomic biomarkers in adult primary care patients with major depressive disorder undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy. Translational psychiatry. 4. e442. 10.1038/tp.2014.66.