Psychological Disorder & Neurological Structure


Psychological disorders have various implications on the neurological structure and processes. The disorders affect the normal functioning of the central nervous system. The disorders affect the normal functioning of the neurological processes. This paper evaluates the effects of depression on the functioning of the neurological structure. The paper examines the symptoms associated with depression, as well as the suspected genetic bases. In the subsequent section, the article looks at the brain structure, including the neurotransmitters that are associated with the normal functioning of the brain. These neurotransmitters are usually affected by the psychological disorders, such as depression. It is observed that stress and other environmental factors bring about depression. The way these factors bring about depression would be discussed. Finally, the suggested curative measures will be talked about in the end of the paper.

Symptoms of Depression

In human life, there are moments that an individual feels confused and sad. This is a normal feeling, but its persistence is considered a sign of depression. Depression occurs when an individual loses something that he or she values so much in his or her life. Sometimes, an employee could be depressed after going through a stressful week or event. At times, depression affects the normal life of an individual because he or she cannot execute his duties in a way that befits him or her. This may lead to a psychological disorder referred to as the major depressive disorder (MDD), also termed as clinical depression. Scholars have proved through research that depression has dire consequences, which are compared to those of diabetes. The symptoms of depression vary from one individual to the other, depending on the coping ability of an individual. However, the sense of hopelessness and sadness are some of the major symptoms of depression. Before discussing the signs and symptoms of depression, a difference between the two terms would be given briefly. A symptom is defined as something that can be felt by the patient such as pain while a sign is something that other people can easily detect such as a rush on the face.

The signs and symptoms of depression are divided into three major categories, including psychological, social, and physical. Social signs and symptoms include underperformance at the place of work, poor performance academically, avoidance of friends and relatives, keeping off from leisure activities, and being the cause of family problems. In other patients, the symptoms associated with psychosis are noticed. This implies that a patient suffers from delusions and hallucinations, even though these symptoms are rare. There are also physical signs and symptoms of depression. One of them includes the difficulty in movement meaning that an individual may start walking slowly as compared to when he or she used to walk before the disorder. Additionally, the sight of the patient might be affected, including his or her concentration. An individual can easily cause an accident in case he moves around unaccompanied. The speech is also affected significantly meaning that the patient might even prefer keeping quiet instead of talking to people. In terms of eating pattern, the patient reduces food intake, which would definitely affect his or her weight. For married individuals, low sex drive is experienced meaning that an individual might even lose interest in sex. At all times, the patient will complain of fatigue and tiredness. For women, their menstrual cycles might change completely. Patients with depression will complain of pains quite often. These pains include headaches, backaches, and the problems related to digestion. For others, they are affected to an extent of not having sleep for quite some days. An individual might wake up in the night and might not go back to sleep because of the disorder.

Psychological symptoms and signs of depression affect almost all patients. Patients with depression disorder tend to suffer from persistent sadness and low mood. They will always feel that they are worthless because they could not do anything to prevent the occurrence of the saddening event. In fact, others would hate themselves and those they believe contributed in the occurrence of the depressing event. Since they are unable to help themselves, patients feel that they are helpless and thus they do not see the need of living. For women, they feel like crying for not doing anything. Even though an individual might not have been involved directly in the occurrence of a saddening event, he or she would always feel guilty. In this regard, some individuals might become wild to an extent of not tolerating the views and ideas of others. At this moment, an individual cannot come up with a single decision to resolve the problem facing him but instead he or she will come up with a number of ideas. In this case, an individual becomes so doubtful to an extent of rejecting even an obvious fact. If depression persists, an individual starts talking of committing suicide.

Known or Suspected Genetic Bases

Even though no study shows that major depressive disorder is caused by defective genes, a relationship between genetic makeup and susceptibility to major depression disorder exists. This is based on the idea that some families are known to commit suicide while others have the ability of handling stress very well. In one of the studies performed on twins, a relationship between genetics and major depression disorder was eminent. It is anticipated that the genetic code will soon link substitutions of personal bases to an individual’s DNA. It is factual that genetic makeup might at times be silent in terms of phenotypes. In this case, no sign of major depressive disorder is shown. However, it might show the signs in people suspected to be operating under stressful environments. The genes passed from the parent to the child can only be exhibited when the child is also exposed to similar experiences. For instance, a child might be a good athlete if his or her parent was an athlete, but only if he practices. Similarly, an individual can experience major depressive disorder if he or she goes through the same experiences that his father or mother went through.

So far, at least five studies have proved that the etiology of major depressive disorder is genetic. The studies show that heritability is prevalent in women as compared to men. Moreover, heritability level is high for individuals who are exposed to similar conditions as their parents. Individuals who are exposed to diverse experiences have high chances of suffering from depression as compared to those who live under stable conditions. In the family system, the behavior of parents affect heritability of depression since one of the studies established that an approximated 38% of individuals suffered from depression inherited from their parents. The study further found out that the behavior of parents, as well as their genes could influence the rate at which an individual suffers from depression.

Brain Structure and Neurotransmitters Known or Suspected To Be Involved

The brain seems to react to stress in a complicated and orchestrated manner, with both general and specified elements of stress response (Lopez, Akil, & Watson, 1999). It should be noted that knowledge regarding the structure and the functional elements of the stress system is still developing. In this subject, scholars appreciate the role of cortical inputs. These inputs include medial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, and orbital cortex. The elements are known to play a critical role as far as transfer of information from the primary sensory and associated cortices to subcortical structures is concerned. The subcortical structures are in charge of stress response. Studies show that medial element and orbital PFC element are closely related. Furthermore, each of the elements has a connection to the hypothalamus and amygdala. The connections go through certain inputs, which connect to the periaqueductal gray and the parabrachial nucleus (An, Bandler, & Ongur, 1998). The medial and orbital prefrontal cortices offer direct inputs to the hypothalamus and are jointly linked to the amygdala (An, Bandler, & Ongur, 1998). These prefrontal sections seem to be important in preventing the acute stress response and offering depressing feedback reserve of the system (Herman, & Cullinan, 1997). The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is jointly attached to the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (Groenewegen, 1988). It has wide links with the ventral tegmental area, substantia nigra, nucleus accumbens, raphe, locus coeruleus, and brainstem autonomic nuclei (Drevets, 1998).

The Role of Stress or Environmental Factors in Bringing About the Symptoms

Scholars observe that a strong relationship between stressful situations and the body’s reaction exists. After a stressful event, somebody might suffer from depression. Stress might cause depression indirectly, especially when the individual’s family has a history of suffering from depression. Stressful events change an individual’s body behavior, which may definitely lead to depression. Environment factors are also known to bring about the symptoms of depression. A depressed person could be living in a family that does not care about its members. The family could be lacking a unifying factor, such as the mother figure or the father figure. In such a family, a depressed person could not get necessary assistance. In this case, he or she will definitely show the symptoms and signs of depression. The environment helps an individual to rediscover his or her position in society.

Known Treatments or Treatments Currently Being Researched

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

One of the major measures that can be employed in reducing depression is the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Murrell (2011) carried out research to establish the effectiveness of the mode of treatment. The current ACT interventions have been tailored to address several disorders and risk behaviors that are costly to the life of youth. He used published articles in reputable databases such as the PsychINFO database search engine provided by EBSCO and the contextual Psychology website. ACT holds that for effective elimination of depression, one has to deal with the private events and thoughts that lower his/her self esteem. ACT interventions target personal life events and thoughts to facilitate functioning and living a worthwhile life. It aims to eliminate the constructive nature brought about by private events in order to allow for a better quality of life. Such an approach is essential in the intervention of depression, which has shown an increasing trend in the recent past. For instance, according to Murrell (2011), approximately 11% of individuals in the United States admit to be depressed.

Family Based therapies

Family therapy is another effective treatment approach for depression. Pruitt (2007) posits that healthy parent-child relationships have a positive impact on adolescent development. Research has shown that interpersonal factors, specifically family relations play a pivotal role not only in the development but also in the maintenance of depression. Additionally, parental involvement in the treatment of adolescent depression reduces attrition. The study also considered the fact that parental depression can contribute to adolescent depression and that several family factors and adverse life experiences increase the risk of adolescent depression. Families with a depressed adolescent child, irrespective of their gender, report family dysfunction as well as negative life events, which include family conflicts. Some of the conflicts include parent-child conflict and marital conflict especially about parenting. In extreme cases, the conflicts result to parental death, separation/divorce, physical child abuse, and maltreatment. Pruitt also found that depressed teens have less secure attachment to their parents.

Several studies have been done to establish the relationship between family, depression, and peer pressure. Dorius, Bahr, Hoffmann, and Harmon (2004) identified family and peer relations as the two most important socializing forces that affect adolescent behavior. Through intensified research work, they found out that parents who monitor their children closely and develop significantly close relations with them have a significant influence on their children’s decision on poly-substance use. Scheer and Unger also had similar findings after carrying out a research involving 159 Russian adolescents in Moscow (1992).


An, X., Bandler, R., Ongur, D., Price, J. (1998): Prefrontal cortical projections to longitudinal columns in the midbrain periaqueductal gray in macaque monkeys. J Comp Neurol 401(2), 455–479.

Dorius, C.J., Bahr, J.S., Hoffmann, J.P., & Harmon, E.L. (2004).Parenting Practices As Moderators of the Relationship between Peers and Adolescent Marijuana Use. Journal of Family and Marriage, 66(1), 163-178.

Drevets, W., Ongur, D., Price, J. (1998). Neuroimaging abnormalities in the subgenual prefrontal cortex: Implications for the pathophysiology of familial mood disorders. Mol Psychiatry, 3(4), 220 –226.

Groenewegen, H. (1988). Organization of the afferent connections of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus in the rat, related to the mediodorsal-prefrontal topography. Neuroscience, 24(3), 379–431.

Herman, J., & Cullinan, W. (1997). Neurocircuitry of stress: Central control of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Trends Neurosci, 20(1),78–84.

Lopez J., Akil, H., Watson, S. (1999). Neural circuits mediating stress. Biol Psychiatry 46(1), 1461–1471.

Murrell, R.A. (2011). State of Research & Literature Address: ACT with Children, Adolescents and Parents. The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(1), 15-22.

Pruitt, I.T. (2007). Family Treatment Approaches for Depression in Adolescent Males. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35, 69-81.

Scheer, S.D., & Unger, D.G. (1998). Russian Adolescents in the Era of Emergent Democracy: The Role of Family Environment in Substance Use and Depression. Family Relations, 47(3), 297-303.


Behavioral Neuroscience and Depression: Analysis of the Relationship