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Depression

AboutSymptomsCausesRisks
Major depression is defined as an episode of sadness or apathy, accompanied by other symptoms, which lasts for two or more consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. It’s unknown exactly what causes depression in a person, but the leading theory in the medical community is that it is caused by an imbalance of the chemical messengers within the brain, or the neurotransmitters, altering the signals sent between the cells. Approximately 16.1 million Americans struggle with this serious medical illness; it can cause ongoing sadness and apathy that changes how a person thinks, feels, and acts every day, indefinitely interrupting their life for the worse. Many people do find their symptoms manageable with traditional medication and talk therapy, however it’s estimated approximately 4 million patients still struggle despite these efforts.
Depression comes with both emotional and physical symptoms that many people often don’t consider. Overwhelming feelings of sadness, grief, and a sense of emptiness or hopelessness are commonly associated, however persistent aches and pains, digestive problems, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions are symptoms that are less public but also consistent. People with depression often feel perpetually tired, yet still have trouble sleeping; or excessively sleep but still suffer from decreased energy. There is a loss of interest in life and things that had once been appealing, including relationships, and irritability and anger can become common.
It is believed that genetics play a large role in who is affected by this illness; those who have a parent or sibling affected have an increased risk, with women reportedly twice as affected as men (although there are theories that this is because men are less likely to make a report). Doctors believe there are multiple possible causes behind what could cause the altered brain structure and imbalanced neurotransmitters seen in those suffering from depression. Experiencing a trauma or abuse, whether physical, sexual, or emotional, is considered to be a common trigger; as well as long-term difficulties, such as family conflict, or being raised in a home where there was addiction or a physical or mental illness present, or if the patient suffered neglect. Other common causes of depression are:
  • Life-changing Events (new job, moving, marriage, having children, retirement)
  • Chronic Illness
  • Certain Medications
  • Hormone changes and Reproduction (women)
  • Age (focused on children, teenagers, and seniors)
Recent studies have uncovered the dangers behind untreated depression; it has physical risks on top of the mental and emotional ones already known. It’s been found that depression can have the same effects on your body as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure, which then increases your risk of dying from a heart attack or a stroke. Depression can also affect your appetite, leading to weight gain or malnutrition respectively; as well as compromises your immune system allowing for the possibility of a myriad of infections and diseases. Untreated depression can increase the risk of possible suicide. Around 15% of those who are clinically depressed die from suicide. If you are having thoughts of suicide we highly encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

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If you or someone you know is in crisis, call your health professional, 911, or the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); For hearing and speech impared: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
This is the most commonly found form of depression and is otherwise referred to as clinical depression. With MDD, the episodes can last anywhere from two weeks, to months, to sometimes years; and there is often some form of anxiety accompanying it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD typically occurs during the winter months when there is less sunlight, however there is a less common form which starts in the late spring/early summer and then dissipates in the late fall. People affected by this disorder experience the same episodic cycle at the same time of year every year, and the root cause is largely unknown. UV full spectrum lamps have become a popular tool in supplementing and simulating the missing environment during these months.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
This is sometimes referred to as Chronic Depression or Dysthymia. Here there are not episodes, but a continuous depressive state that is usually less severe than and episode of MDD, although not always. The two disorders are sometimes difficult to distinguish, and some people who are initially diagnosed with PDD are later diagnosed with MDD.
Bipolar Disorder
For many years this was referred to as manic depression or manic depressive illness, however recent DSMs have found it to be on the schizophrenic scale as well. In Bipolar Disorder there are two mood states; mania and depression, and the symptoms are severe in both. The depressive states come with extreme lows, or "crashes" that are often disabling; paired with extreme highs that are accompanied with racing thoughts, high risks behaviors, and on occasion paranoia.
Bipolar I
Includes manic or mixed states (both mania and depression together) lasting for at least 7 days, and an extreme depressive episode that occurs for 2 or more weeks, often with hospitalization.
Bipolar II
Consists of hypomania, which are episodes that are not as extreme as full-blown mania along with a depressive episode, usually does not require hospitalization.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PB-NOS)
Here there are symptoms of both mania and depression, but they are not as extreme or do not meet the clinical criteria for Bipolar I or II
Cyclothymic Disorder
This includes milder episodes of hypomania and depression that last for at least two years, and the symptoms are milder.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Depression
This is typically seen in people who experience and earlier onset of Bipolar Disorder, sometimes in the mid to late teen years, with episodes that quickly switch between mania and depression, or even both at the same time.
Postpartum Depression
This affects between 10-15% of new mothers after birth, and can be severe. Sometimes, this can be compounded by the fact that they were on antidepressants before and had to stop taking them for the pregnancy. The combination of prior depression, changing hormones, stress, and lack of sleep can create a disabling environment. TMS Therapy can be used before, during, and after pregnancy, including throughout breastfeeding, which is a time when medication is not safe and could be passed to the newborn.
Psychotic Depression
Often called depressive psychosis, this is a combination of a major depressive episode (MDD of Bipolar) with psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and /or hallucinations. Delusions often include themes of guilt, shame, punishment, and low self-esteem. Hallucinations are typically auditory, visual, olfactory, or tactile in nature.
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