The teen depression rate is alarming. The teen suicide rate is terrifying. In fact, according to suicide.org a teen takes his or her own life every 100 minutes. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Approximately 20% of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between 10% to 15% suffer from depression symptoms at any one time.
Depression is a complex topic. The potential causes vary widely and include abuse, genetics, social pressures, and the list goes on. The external factors can certainly play a big role, and in fact, that’s really where most people’s attention goes. But let’s look at the internal system, specifically the brain and brain stem, because it’s often overlooked.
Multiple areas of the brain have been shown to decrease in size and/or activity in depressed individuals and other areas are more active. To discuss them all would require a blog longer and more complex than most of us would want to read.
First, let’s look at the difference in a teen brain vs an adult. One of the biggest differences is the development of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for rational thought. This area isn’t fully developed until around age 25. This area of the brain allows us to consider consequences, think before we act, and better control inappropriate behaviors. Studies suggest that teens make decisions that are more driven by the amygdala. This is important because the amygdala is the heart of our emotional system. So when a teen over-reacts or gets highly emotional at situations in a way that seems irrational, this difference is what is at play.
The amygdala (I know this is getting "sciency" but stick with me, and it will soon make sense) is important for the processing of emotions, especially negative emotions. This includes fear, anger, panic, and anxiety. The more the amygdala is stimulated, the greater these emotions will be felt. Much of the stimulus of the amygdala comes from our senses. All the information the body collects from our eyes, ears, and skin. This is part of our fight or flight response. If we are in a calm and safe environment, the amygdala and these emotions should, in theory, be calm and relaxed.
All of this sensory information is gathered, then sent to the brainstem. The brainstem is at the base of our brain, and extends down into the upper cervical part of our neck between the top two vertabra. The brainstem takes this information and sends it to the Thalamus, (which is basically a relay center that sends information to multiple parts of the brain) which then sends the sensory information to the Amygdala.
Now, let’s tie this all together. If the sensory information from the body reaches the amygdala properly, then we will have the appropriate emotions and feelings for the environment and situation we are currently experiencing. If, however, this information is distorted, it can overstimulate the amygdala, and now we have negative emotions that do not fit with our situation. If one of the top two bones in the neck is misaligned, it can place mechanical pressure on the brainstem. This pressure irritates the nerves , and has the ability to distort the information they carry. Our brain is then getting inaccurate information, and problems begin.
Not every case of teen depression or suicide can be explained by this being the problem, and as I said at the beginning, it is a multi-factor issue. Correcting the upper neck is not always the answer, but it certainly could be. Having this area evaluated is an important piece of the puzzle for teens that are struggling.
I had a concerned mom bring in her 14-year-old daughter. Let’s call her Anne. Anne had struggled from depression since she was 11. What was once a happy and socially-engaging girl had become a reclusive and angry young teen. She was on multiple medications, and had begun to cut herself on her worst days. She was no longer in school, because she had such severe anxiety she could barely leave the house. Anne was angry at the world, and had attempted to kill herself twice over the last six months. Many hours of therapy, and attempt after attempt with different medications had made almost no difference at all. I found a rather large misalignment of the top bone in her neck. Over the next two months we monitored her neck, and adjusted it when necessary. The transformation was readily apparent. She stopped cutting almost immediately. Anne started helping out around the house more, and began having fun with her family again. She told me she no longer felt like she didn’t want to live, and she had begun to think about her future in a positive light.
This was 7 years ago, and I am happy to say she returned to school, graduated, attended college, and is now in a career and doing great. Her depression and anxiety are a thing of the past, and she is thriving as all parents want for their children. Removing the pressure from her neck changed her entire life.
Not every case is this dramatic but she is far from the only one to have incredible results from an upper cervical correction. It is worth the time to have this area evaluated to see if it may be a contributing factor in a teens’ daily struggle. Isn’t it worth it to have us do a free evaluation to see if this may be the issue? Call us at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers for your free consultation today, 239-243-8810!
Dr. Lee Angle
Dr. Lee Angle is originally from southern West Virginia. After having his life changed through Upper Cervical Care he chose to pursue it as a career. He has been practicing Upper Cervical Chiropractic for over nine years. Dr. Angle previously worked as a certified personal trainer. This background allows him to educate his patients on proper movement and exercises to speed their recovery and enhance their Upper Cervical Care.