Is Depression Caused by Sun spots?

The atmospheric/electromagnetic convulsions caused by sunspots are as good an explanation as any for why we get depressed. For the why “the black dog” (as Churchill referred to it) visits one from time to time.

This was the hypothesis I proposed to a nurse/friend/fellow congregant over coffee at the Unitarian Fellowship the other Sunday.

The experts tell us depression can be caused by life events, grief, chronic illness (especially chronic pain), medicines, and substance abuse. And is more likely if it runs in your family.

It is of course manifest through a derangement of your neurotransmitters, where the serotonin receptors in your brain are under stimulated – a finding that has been a bonanza for drug companies, producing selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s, like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft) that effectively increase the amount of serotonin available at the receptors (though doubting Thomas's like psychotherapist Gary Greenberg, author of Manufacturing Depression tell us clinical trials of SSRI’s show them to be insignificantly superior to placebo).

And it is interesting that people find it much more acceptable to be diagnosed with depression if you tell them “you’ve got a chemical imbalance” – the implication being “it’s not your fault/you’re not a wimp” I guess.

Another interesting fact is depressed people tend to secrete more cortisol – and cortisol has a toxic or shrinking effect on the development of the hippocampus (the center of our emotions) leading to less serotonin receptors.

But my experience is that my mood goes up and down for absolutely no discernible reason. Everything seems right with the world, but I’m having “another shitty day in paradise.”

Depression has this pernicious way of coloring the way you see things: Making you feel powerless and that things will never change – even though you know from past experience it comes and then it goes. But a lot of people beat their brains out trying to figure out “why.”

So my advice is don’t worry about why. Just concentrate on trying to find things to do that are relaxing and pleasurable, and keep reminding yourself the dog is liable to depart in the same mysterious way it came.

And just keep an eye on SOHO ( NASA’s Solar and Heliosperic Observatory).

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