Depression can be a debilitating illness for millions of Americans. Sufferers often report crippling feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, chronic fatigue, erratic sleep patterns and disinterest in life in general. Although depression is very common in America and around the world, many people still ask: “Why Am I Depressed?” In this article, we will provide explanations for the cause of depression.
A report issued by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 8% of Americans over the age of 12 suffer from depression. The condition is so prevalent that the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force has recently called for all adults – especially pregnant women and new mothers – to be screened for depression.
What Causes Depression?
Depression can be caused by a myriad of factors, and can be different from person to person. For many, it’s how their brains are wired; for others, external factors such as seasonal changes are thought to play a role.
While there are many factors that can trigger bouts of depression (including abuse, life changes such as death of a loved one, other serious health issues and substance abuse), those who suffer from chronic depression may do so because of their brain’s circuitry.
For example, medical researchers have found that those with a history of depression often have a smaller hippocampus (an area dealing with memory) in their brain, resulting in inhibited communication from different parts of the brain.
Some people experience a noted increase in their feelings of depression during winter months. While medical researchers continue to search for reasons, many agree that people who do experience seasonal depression seem to be particularly sensitive to light. The decrease in exposure to sunlight during the shorter winter days is thought to trigger the moods of depression.
Genetics can play a pivotal role in depression. A British research team identified a gene (chromosome 3p25-26) among those surveyed that appeared in multiple family members with depression. In chromosome 3 alone, there are 214 genes, some of which were shown in the study to inhibit receptors in various brain signaling chemicals.
Even though they are often prescribed out of necessity for other conditions, there are medications that can trigger feelings of depression. The most common that do, include:
- Beta-blockers, which are normally used to treat high blood pressure by slowing the heart rate
- Hormone-altering drugs such as Estrogen that interact with the central nervous system
- Corticosteroids, often prescribed for inflammation but shown to lower serotonin levels
- Stimulants, such as Ritalin and Provigil, that are prescribed to treat conditions such as ADHD and sleep apnea but also contribute to prolonged exposure to dopamine, which can result in feelings of depression.
Deep TMS Therapy a Potential Cure for Depression
A relatively new approach that is generating much excitement in the medical world is Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS), a noninvasive technique that utilizes electromagnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain.
dTMS was launched by Brainsway as an innovative approach specifically for treating depression. After being tested in over 60 clinical trials, dTMS was approved by the FDA in 2008 and has proven to be effective in treating other conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, bipolar disorder, stroke rehabilitation, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Patient Experience During dTMS
Even though it targets nerve activity deep within the brain that cannot be affected directly– areas approximately five-seven cm beneath the scalp – dTMS is a completely noninvasive outpatient procedure.
As the patient relaxes in their chair, a specialized cap is fitted snugly to their scalp. The cap contains coils that indirectly manipulate regions of the brain by transmitting magnetic pulses at a low frequency of 1-10 kHz, which triggers an electric field in the underlying brain tissue.
No form of sedation is needed, and the only sensations patients may experience are a light tapping sound through the specialized cap.
While research into dTMS continues, it is offered at facilities throughout the U.S. Patients interested in seeking dTMS for treatment of their depression are encouraged to ask for a recommendation from their doctor. Westside Neurotherapeutics offers dTMS treatments in Los Angeles. For more information, contact them by phone at 310.946.0008 or visit us online at www.westsideneurotherapeutics.com.