Music and Depression

this is your brain on music

Music can be used as an effective treatment for depression. There are millions of people that are suffering from depression in the United States alone (The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America). Just take a look at the numbers for yourself [here]. Now, there are many conventional treatments for depression available, but they are not always reliable. For example, antidepressant medications are probably the most common way to treat depression. However, studies have shown that these medications can do more harm than good. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the Food and Drug Administration did a study of 4,400 adolescents who were prescribed antidepressant medications, and it showed that 4% of them attempted or thought about committing suicide while they were on the medications (Depression). There has to be a better and safer way to treat depression, and this is where music comes in. Music has the capability to treat people with depression in the same ways that antidepressants do, plus more. Antidepressants are mainly made to regulate the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain (Depression). These three things are chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Below is a picture of a neurotransmitter (the blue lines) being passed between two neurons.


Just as antidepressants work to regulate these neurotransmitters, music can have similar effects. Music has been shown to boost dopamine levels in the brain (Fowler). Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that causes a person to feel pleasure. So, when a person listens to music and the dopamine is released it brings them pleasure. This is why people enjoy listening to music so much. This release of dopamine can be successful in treating a person’s depression just because it will make them feel pleasure just as it does other people. The tweet you see [here] is an example of a normal person expressing how much pleasure they get from music, and this is because of the release of dopamine.

The interview in this podcast also shows how much of an impact music has on a person’s life.

The YouTube video below does a very good job showing how the dopamine works in the brain.

Music can also be used to treat depression in other ways. For example, music can help distract a person from what is bothering them (Fowler). If a person becomes depressed after a traumatic event such as losing a loved one, their brain is constantly thinking about that person. No matter how hard they try they can’t stop the thoughts on their own. However, when a person listens to music it can stop the cycle of thoughts and get their mind off of what’s bothering them. Another way music can help treat depression is that it can help a person feel understood. When a person is depressed they experience feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, and many more (Depression). So, when they are having these feelings they feel like they are all alone and have no one there with them, or they feel like there is no one else going through the same thing as them. However, if that person listens to music, a sad song in specific, it can make them feel understood, and like they aren’t alone. The lyrics in a sad song might talk about feeling the same way they do now, and it can help them feel like there is someone else out there going through the same things they are (Fowler).


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