Taiwan doctors have found that depression can cause brain damage, so it is necessary for patients to take medication to repair the damage and cure their depression.
Doctors at the Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital carried out the study to find out if depression, which is on the rise in many countries, is a psychological problem or a physical disease.
Tzu Chi doctors studied 20 thesis from various countries on depression patients' brain structure as analysed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and concluded that depressed people not only feel sad, but also suffer from a brain disease.
The MRI analysis showed that the grey matter of the anterior cingulate cortex, which controls emotion and social cognition, is damaged, according to the study led by Dr Lai Chien-han.
The Tzu Chi hospital invited 15 people who suffered from clinical depression, but had never taken anti-depressants, to take anti-depressants for six weeks. As a result, their anterior cingulate cortex grey matter grew.
"This shows that anti-depressants can reduce or heal the damage to anterior cingulate grey matter, giving hope for relieving or curing depression," Dr Lai said.
"We urge depression patients to seek treatment. If they let their depression worsen, it will affect brain function and in the long term will cause their brain structure to shrink," he said.
However, Yang Tzung-tsai, a psychiatrist from the Cardinal Tien Hospital, said one should not see depression purely as a physical disease.
"Depression is caused by many factors, including hereditary factors, personal character and traumatic events. Medication is one part of the treatment, while psychological counselling is the other part and should not be neglected," he added.
(Sapa, May 2011)