Prioritize Life Choices

Exercise is one of the secret magical natural antidepressant’s pills.

(Some types of depression).

by Raquel Torres

This topic may sound complex, boring, or repetitive, but I think it’s very interesting and that this information can help us to prioritize our life choices better.

The title above reads “some types of depression” because there are many different diagnosis for depression, which can be categorized into at least 5 different types with certain contributing factors and symptoms characterizing each type: Major depression, Persistent Depression Disorder, Bipolar disorder, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and Post-partum Depression.

This is an article about reviewed research regarding how exercise plays a basic role in coping with some types of depression, even some can be totally cured, this information is a collection of data from recent scientific studies and investigations about this important topic.

Did you know?

  • People with NPD or narcissistic tendencies sometimes show a pattern of manipulative, controlling behavior that involves one or both verbal abuse and emotional manipulation, always a sense of entitlement, low empathy or fake empathy, an extreme need for admiration and attention, they envy others or they believe others envy them. This all falls under the umbrella of narcissistic abuse.
  • Malignant narcissists (over or covert / male or female) will often employ several tricks, including gaslighting, blackmailing, smear campaign, defamation, manipulating other’s into doing what they want. Gaslighting is a form of abuse where the narcissist undermines other’s reality by denying facts and other’s feelings.
  • People who face emotional and psychological abuse or narcissistic abuse during childhood or a relationship have a compromised CNS (Central Nervous System) has the abuse has profound effect on the CNS. The terrible impact of the emotional abuse is seriously detrimental to the person’s mental health, causing anxiety and depression.
  • However, many children recover from the early-life emotional abuse gradually, but the trauma does make them over sensitive and makes them helpless against narcissists. Even normal people who are emotional and good-natured undergo similar changes in their brains and psyche leading to anxiety and depression.
  • Narcissistic abuse leads to anxiety and depression as narcissists relentlessly target their victims till, they are unable to reason clearly, due to gradual adrenal fatigue and intense stress. Many victims are unable to escape from their abusers, as their anxious state resulting from the effects of being in an abusive relationship prevents them from taking steps away for their benefit. Some victims are not even aware that they are being systematically targeted and emotionally abused and manipulated and stay with their narcissistic abusers their whole lives.
  • More than 50% of anxieties and depression commonly develop in the world is because of narcissistic abuse.
  • That nearly 1 in 4 women have experience violence by narcissistic spouse or boyfriend.
  • 7 million children in United States live in families in which severe partner violence (physical or/and mental) occurred.
  • That on average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States.
  • Statistics shows that females are much more likely than males to be victimized by a current or former “partner”.
  • People who have experienced domestic violence are 90 % more likely to have PTSD, also 80% more likely to have stroke or heart disease than those who have not experienced partner mental/physical violence.

What is depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions Thoughts of death or suicide

There is no doubt that being in a toxic relationship with a narcissist is traumatic. Narcissistic abuse and gaslighting are particularly maddening and traumatizing forms of psychological abuse.

In basic terms ‘trauma’ is an experience, whether it’s a one-off event, series of events or an ongoing situation or relationship that fundamentally threatens your sense of safety or security. Experiencing a mixture of the two is known as complex PTSD or C-PTSD.

Symptoms of C-PTSD in Narcissistic Abuse include:

* Feeling stuck (and confused about why).
* Having nightmares or flashbacks.
* High level of hyperarousal; anxiety, nervousness, feeling jumpy, obsessive thinking, racing thoughts, feeling scared, agitated, stressed, overwhelmed, emotional, etc.
* Difficulties controlling emotions.
* Imagining ‘worse-case’ scenarios.
* Guilt / Shame.
* Feeling numb / zoning out / disconnected / dissociative.
* Fatigue & extreme tiredness.
* Physical manifestation of trauma and abuse, e.g., headaches, tummy aches, chest pains, dizziness, tingling limbs, nausea, IBS, unexplained physical or somatic ailments…
* Unhealthy coping strategies – self-harm, eating issues, alcohol, drug, prescription meds abuse.
* Suicidal thoughts/fantasies.

I am not a certified psychologist and I’m not looking to be one, I did 4 years in business administration, then a master’s in business logistics and later an MBA, a total of 8 years of serious studying after my high school graduation. I am just genuinely interested in some psychological and mental health topics, since I had the experience like (some) empathic goodhearted humans of going through different types of abuse, I strongly believe that the misinformation about basics on psychology can cause a lot of damage for some type of humans, at different levels, different degrees of severity and the total time of the abuse.

I spent close to ten years learning from different doctors and authors like: Dr. Romani, Dr. Bruce Lipton, Sadhguru, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Seth Meyer, Jerry Wise, Dr. Antonio de Vicente, Rebecca Zung, Dr. Les Carter, Dr. Terri Cole, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Abraham Hicks, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Dr. Charles Raison and many others. I wish I knew about all of them and about all this 10 years ago; but it’s never too late.

I invested extensive hours researching and learning about personality disorders and psychological/mental abuse, plus I was diagnosed with a C-PTSD type of depression after several maligning narcissistic abuses, as well as other types of abuses and life circumstances. While I was competing for around 7 years (2012-2019) as elite professional triathlete internationally, during those years I was having many heavy toxic stressors at the same time, nobody is immune to emotional abuse and depression. It is worth to share that I never took any type prescribed medicine for that, I went to a good psychologist in one of my worst situations and she really helped me by giving me good advice, empowering myself, highlighting my good qualities like my strength and intelligence, she recommended me to adopt a dog, which was the best decision ever, my new dog would be one of my medicines, as well as educating myself on these topics, working on my basic priorities, a lot of endurance exercises at high level (high performance triathlon), some yoga and time.

Specifically, I dedicated a lot of time and energy learning about narcissistic abuse and many other personality disorders. Since I embodied the experience of improving my mental health with endurance sport after having the consequences of a long depression stage after being abused intermittent for several years, again by different stressors and life situations, I in the past didn’t have strong personal boundaries and many times I did choose to lower my values standards, trying to “be nice”, I was, now and then, “tolerating” and sacrificing my values, my positive energy, my capacity, my intelligence, my hard work and even my personality.

Mental health or mental diseases are an unlimited universe with many shades, shapes, and spectrums, some psychology discoveries are still very new or not popular, many people do not know this, others don’t want to learn or talk about this, many “not good psychologists” in the market re-victimize or judge in a passive aggressive way the “victims” of abuse making them feel like they are responsible, or they provoked the abuse. Studies show that many psychologists, like in any industry, are also narcissistic, or are covert psychopath or/and sociopath abusers themselves.

I am not a depressed person, I was depressed at some point, because I betrayed myself by putting others first or trusting too much, as a kid nobody told me or taught me that I have the right to say NO and that saying no and having strong boundaries is healthy, that quitting (a relationship or a job) sometimes is a positive step to do. When you put yourself-first, you are not being selfish, it is not about “not caring” or not thinking about others, but in many circumstances having strong boundaries and putting yourself-first is a self-protection or self-preservation mechanism.

  • It is scientifically proven that endurance exercises can help the brain by creating new connections in cortical areas of the brain, which regulate your emotions, personality, and how you think and perceive the outside world.
  • Exercise can have other mental health benefits too. For example, focusing on your body’s movements during exercise may help distract you from upsetting thoughts.
  • Setting and meeting exercise-related goals may also boost your confidence and sense of control.
  • Exercise can speed the healing process of some types of depression by Increasing the number of neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Oxytocin, Dopamine, and Endorphins which can make you feel energized, happy, and motivated.
  • For example, regular exercise can positively impact Serotonin (mood hormone) levels in your brain. Raising your levels of serotonin boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve your appetite and sleep cycles, which are often negatively affected by depression.
  • Regular exercise also helps balance your body’s level of stress hormones, such as Cortisol and Adrenaline. Adrenaline plays a crucial role in your fight-or-flight response, but too much of it can damage your health.
  • While exercising outdoors, spending time in nature also helps your mind rest. The world is full of stressors, whether they be from work, personal relationships, financial, or society issues. Sometimes, you need to escape from these stressors to rest your mind.
  • Being outdoors allows your mind to decompress and normalize. Spending time in nature is also a great way to practice mindfulness, as it allows you to be present in the moment and clear your mind. The daily stress of life can weigh on you and lead to mental fatigue. Studies have found that restorative environments, like nature and sunlight have been useful in getting your mind back on track and energized.
  • Exercise increases the amount of oxygen in your body, it helps nerve cell growth in the hippocampus (a small organ of the brain that forms part of the limbic system that regulates emotions, learning and memory, is responsible for processing long term memory and emotional responses It is a plastic and vulnerable structure that gets damaged by a variety of stimuli. Studies have shown that it also gets affected in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders).
  • Exercises also reduce inflammation in the brain. The brain has an incredible amount of neuroplasticity, which means it can change how it’s wired, how it functions, and the thinking patterns it creates.
  • New scientific studies confirm that when you exercise, your brain rewires itself and changes how it operates.

Exercise can relieve some of the stress related depression causes in the brain by:

  • Raising your energy levels, by Increasing your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen into the brain.
  • By Increasing, and calibrating the “happy hormones”, that promote positive feelings like pleasure, happiness and even love. Hormones and neurotransmitters are involved in lots of essential processes, like heart rate and digestion, but also mood and feelings. Endorphins is an important hormone that works as pain relief, Dopamine works as a motivational brain rewards system, Oxytocin with the role of trust and love hormone, Serotonin is the mood stabilizer, promotes happiness and wellbeing.
  • Exercises helps decreasing the number of stress hormones in your body that feed anxiety and depression like Cortisol and Adrenaline (epinephrine), these two are responsible of giving the body the “extra energy” for fight or fligh t in life threatening situations, for immediate short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health, it can cope with potentially serious situations.
  • Your body responds to stress by releasing these hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond fast. Yet, if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and the stress level stays elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health, causing Irritability, anxiety, depression and other psychological, personality and physiological disorders.
  • Another side effect of accumulated stress hormones (adrenaline/ cortisol) is that as these hormones demand a lot of energy to respond, the immune system stops working to give priority to putting the most energy into the emergency, danger, or “threat” (fight or flight).
  • The BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and strengthens and protects them against the natural process of death, serves as a neurotransmitter modulator, and participates in neuronal plasticity , which is essential for learning, memory, neuronal adaptation which is disrupted in depression.
  • The changes in neural plasticity induced by stress and other negative stimuli play a significant role in the onset and development of depression.
  • Regular Exercise can help stimulate parts of your brain that aren’t as responsive when you’re feeling depressed. It may also help distract you from worries and improve your confidence, by focusing on your body’s movements during exercise help you create new mental habits or new brain connections pathways by changing negative thoughts to positives thoughts, then over the time this practice becomes a natural mental habit. Also setting and meeting exercise-related goals may also boost your confidence and sense of control.
  • Scientific Studies shows that moderate to Intense aerobic exercises (70-80% of maximum HR) for more than 40 minutes give such a strong benefit. The Kynurenine, a Neurotoxic compound product during the conversion of Tryptophan an essential Aminoacidic to produce Melatonin & Serotonin (happy hormones) but, when there is more presence of stress than exercises it converts to Niacin that is associated with depression when it accumulates in the brain. (Dr. Rhonda Patrick studies).
  • Endurance exercises might make us more resilient against stress-induced depression, enzymes produced in muscle to endurance exercises by boosting the conversion of kynurenine to Protective Kynurenic acid , preventing the formation of Neurotoxic Quinolinic Acid (associated with depression).
  • The accumulation of Kynurenine Acid in the brain is associated with depression, exercises can transform this to Neuroprotective Kynurenic .
  • Endurance athletes show greater concentration of the Protective Enzymes in their muscles.
  • Studies shows that vigorous aerobic exercises beneficially increase the secretion of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor)
  • The BDNF is a protein produced in the brain and in the body, in the brain it encourages the creation and growth of new neurons from stem cells, also the survival of neurons and cells, and differentiation of new neurons and Synapses. (A neuronal junction the site of transmission of electric nerve impulses between two nerve cells (neurons) or between a neuron and a gland or muscle).
  • The BDNF plays an important role in Neuroplasticity which is the ability of the brain to re-model and to re-organized itself, based on experience, behavior, and genes by forming new neuro connections.
  • Decreased levels of BDNF, as well as other neurotrophic factors, could contribute to the atrophy of certain limbic structures, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex that has been observed in depressed individuals.
  • Moderate to vigorous intensity, longer duration exercise (>40 minutes) at 70-80% of Max. Heart Rate offers the greatest possibility of a significant elevation of BDNF.
  • There are many possible mechanisms that may explain why exercises is good for mental health including Endocannabinoids, (lipid molecules produced in the nervous system) which is responsible for some the positive feeling of wellbeing and reduction of anxiety, endocannabinoids regulate many physiological processes, including movement control, pain processing, brain development and maturation, mood, learning and memory. Some of the well knowing cannabinoids are THC and CBD found on cannabis, which humans naturally produce them, called endocannabinoids.
  • Some Endocannabinoids like Anandamide which is produce upon exercise, above all, the data suggest that the plasma Anandamide increment during exercise might be one of the factors involved in the exercise induced increase in peripheral BDNF, a factor promoting antidepressant effects of exercise.
  • Considering the important role of Endocannabinoid system in analysis of depression it is reasonable to think that the intense-induced increase in circulating anandamide levels observed in the present study might promote antidepressant- like effects.
  • Exercise activates the endocannabinoid system, in a resent studio by Sparling, P.B. showed that people of engage in moderate exercise, running or cycling increased their endocannabinoid levels more when they reach 70%-80% of MHR.
  • Beta- Endorphins are the “feel good hormone” is an endogenous (created by the body) opioid hormones that s produce in certain areas of the nervous system, B-endorphins is released in response to exercise, more common after long (>40 min) endurance exercise.
  • Studies shows that Resistance exercise (weights) training also significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of resistance exercise training, or any significant improvement in strength

In summary, these are some mechanisms by which exercise may ameliorate depression:

  1. Improving tryptophan (protect and growth of neurons) availability in the brain.
  2. Enhancing quinolinic (toxic) to Kynurenic (protective) acid ratio.
  3. Enhancing neurotrophic support through the stimulation of Microglia by immune molecules. (10-15% of Brain cells that regulate brain development, maintenance of network and injury repairs. They act as the first and main form of active immune defense in the central nervous system-CNS)
  4. Increasing the circulation of natural Cannabinoids and opioids.

Recent Statistics.

How common is depression?

  • More than 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide. (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. with major depressive disorder being the most common. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2013)

Depression in the United States of America:

  • Affects over 18 million adults (one in ten) in any given year.
  • Is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44.
  • Is the primary reason why someone dies of suicide about every 12 minutes. – over 41,000 people a year.
  • In comparison: homicide claims less than 16,000 lives each year, according to 2013 CDC statistics.
  • 17.3 million adults (7.1% of the adult population) have had at least one major depressive episode. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017).
  • Of those with major depressive episodes, 63.8% of adults and 70.77% of adolescents had severe impairment. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017).
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression. (Centers for Disease Control, 2017)
  • Major depressive episodes were most prevalent among adults (11.3%) and adolescents (16.9%) reporting two or more races. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017).

Depression Internationally:

  • Affects over 300 million people worldwide, regardless of culture, age, gender, religion, race, or economic status.
  • Is one of the most debilitating conditions on the world, with severe depression rated in the same disability category as terminal stage cancer.
  • Depression Is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of health issues.

Depression in the Workplace:

  • Causes 490 million disability days from work each year in the U.S.
  • Accounts for $23 billion in lost workdays each year.
  • Takes an economic toll over $100 billion each year from U.S. business.

Depression statistics by age and postpartum:

  • Adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old had the highest rate of major depressive episodes (14.4%) followed by young adults 18 to 25 years old (13.8%). (Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • Severe depression among college students rose from 9.4% to 21.1% from 2013 to 2018. ( Journal of Adolescent Health , 2019).
  • The rate of moderate to severe depression rose from 23.2% to 41.1% from 2007 to 2018. ( Journal of Adolescent Health , 2019).
  • About 70% to 80% of women will experience the “baby blues” characterized by negative feelings or mood swings after childbirth. (American Pregnancy Association, 2015).
  • 10% to 20% of new mothers experience clinical postpartum depression. (Arizona Behavioral Health Associates, P.C, Flagstaff Psychologists & Counselors)
  • 1 in 7 women may experience PPD within a year of giving birth. ( JAMA Psychiatry , 2013).

Holiday depression statistics:

Although the “holiday season” during the months of November and December are typically thought of as joyful, this is not the reality for everyone. Some develop depressive symptoms during these months.

  • Stress levels reportedly increase during the holiday season for 38% of people. (American Psychological Association, 2006)
  • Of people with mental illness, 64% report holidays make their symptoms worse. (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2014)
  • Of those who reported feeling sad or dissatisfied during the holidays, more than two-thirds of them felt financially stressed and/or lonely. (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2014)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

  • Affects more 8 million adults each year in the US.
  • Frequently occurs after violent personal assaults such as rape, mugging, domestic violence (mental or physical); terrorism; natural or human-caused disasters; and accidents.

In conclusion, the most recent scientific studies confirm an elevation of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor-neuroplasticity) was observed in response of moderate to vigorous intensity exercises, as expected, other reported research found elevations in human serum BDNF levels after physical exercise, on average, individuals in the exercise conditions experienced 30% increase in serum BDNF levels compared to the baseline.

In other words, it is scientifically proved that exercise helps tremendously in the healing process of many types of mental traumas or depression.

We always need to keep in mind that every case is special, there are different grades from mild to severe in every single type of depression.

If you suspect you have depression, speak to your doctor. They may recommend a variety of lifestyle changes, including changes to your exercise routine. They may also prescribe other treatments, such as medications, therapy, or a combination of both.

*References & statistics:

https://drprem.com/globalhealthcare/studies-say-narcissistic-abuse-leads-to-anxiety-and-depression

https://www.drsarahdavies.com/post/trauma-narcissistic-abuse-and-why-you-might-feel-stuck

https://cptsdfoundation.org/2020/06/15/narcissistic-abuse-and-complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/depression-statistic/

www.futurewithoutviolence.org

https://www.healthline.com/health/narcissistic-victim-syndrome#smear-campaigns

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/exercise#Other-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise

Kessler RC et al. Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of Twelve-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62:617-627.

Information, statistics, terms and definitions: YouTube Video by “Found my fitness”. Video name: “exercise as a treatment for depression {Scientific Review}”

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Raquel Torres is a Triathlon Coach and Professional Triathlete. Raquel also writes blogs for several magazines and her team Athletic Mentors. Since May 2021 she contributes as a columnist with CNY Latino Newspaper. She shares true life stories with her experiences, also tips and tactics that helps anyone to be their best version. To read about her, head over to cnylatinonewspaper.com and search for her by her name. You can also send questions or comments about her column to the following email: raquel@athleticmentors.com.

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