Your happy chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin – are great at making you feel happy but only for a few minutes. Why is that? Wouldn’t it be great if they’d just keep working in your brain for a long time, maybe forever, so that you would always feel happy?
Maybe not. Maybe it’s a very good thing that these chemicals are quick to act, but also quick to leave. People victimized by depression need to understand why. They and their families have to realize what’s going on here, and why it’s so important when it comes to helping yourself and helping other people.
Remember that our happy chemicals aren’t new to humans. Actually, they’re not new to any animals. Reptiles have happy chemicals; they wouldn’t reproduce without oxytocin. The happy chemicals go right up the chain of brain complexity – reptiles, mammals, primates, humans – which plays into how our brains are organized. From a certain vantage point, humans have a reptilian brain covered by a mammalian brain, covered by a primate brain, covered by a human brain. Some of our brain functions are shared with all primates, more are shared with both primates and all mammals. Even more of our brain functions are shared with primates, mammals, and reptiles.
If you are interested in learning more about this a Google search – The Evolutionary Layers of the Human Brain – will help you. You’ll see, for example, that our reptilian brain, the oldest of our brain’s layers, controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and balance.
Think about one small example which shows that we wouldn’t want our happy chemicals to stick around too long. At least we wouldn’t want this if we want to survive as a species.
We leave our shelter. Within seconds we see a giant tiger. We know for an absolute fact that the tiger plans to eat us. We get a huge boost of a very unhappy chemical called cortisol, and we’re terrified, but the cortisol helps us run fast. We weave through the dense trees headed for a hiding place where we know we’ll be safe. Whee! We’ve made it. We’re okay. We got what we expected when we escaped from the tiger. It’s not going to eat us. Dopamine floods our brain because we won the race with the tiger, and because our expectations were met. We feel so good. We’re very happy.
After a few minutes our happy feeling begins to fade. Dopamine is short acting, and it is leaving us. Good thing, because about that time we begin to realize that the tiger is still out there, still hungry, and still a predator. We have to come up with another solution.
If dopamine lasted too long we’d be happy when we should be solving the real problems of human life.
For our lives to work we have to be able to deal with life’s challenges successfully, and we have to be rewarded for doing so with some measure of happiness. The serious brain disease which we call depression (MDD, major depression, clinical depression) interferes with this reward system. It’s not just that people with depression aren’t good at making themselves happy. That’s part of the story, sure, but depressed folks are also not good at dealing with life’s problems. Depression puts people into a state of immobilization when it comes to doing all the things which life requires of successful humans. The state of immobilization then leads depression’s victims to be unhappy.
At TMS Augusta we’re interested in all the ways we can help people remove depression’s stumbling blocks. Depressed people can recover. They can become mobile. They can remember how to get their happy chemicals to turn on, and how to be happy again.
There’s a lot more to this story, so stay tuned…
No one is likely to be happy all the time, but our Advanced TMS can help people in Georgia and South Carolina put their depression into remission.