Everyone goes through ups and downs. Grief-inducing life events such as loss of work, loss of a loved one, or conflicts with others can manifest in long-lasting adverse mental states. People can recover from these events, but negative feelings will often persist for long enough to influence regular day-to-day living, social relationships, or work performance, leading to a cycle of depression. Depression is a disease that affects people in both physiological and psychological ways. The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled criteria for the diagnosis of clinical depression, with the broad definition characterized by certain depressive symptoms prevailing for at least two weeks. The three main symptoms are: • Gloomy or depressed mood • Loss of interest and joylessness in activities that were previously enjoyed • Lack of drive and increased fatigue Other symptoms include: • Decreased concentration and attention • Decreased self-esteem and self-confidence • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness • Negative and pessimistic future perspectives • Suicidal thoughts and attempts • Sleep disorders • Loss of appetite and weight loss • Loss of libido The more numerous and prevalent the symptoms, the more severe depression can become. Treatment must be specifically targeted for each individual case as symptoms and severity can vary greatly from person to person. How common is depression? Depressive diseases are among the most common mental illnesses. It is estimated that 17% of the population will experience at least one depressive disorder over the course of their lifetimes. A greater proportion of women are affected by depression, with approximately 20% lifetime prevalence versus about 13% in men. The WHO estimates that by 2030 depression will become the most common condition next to cardiovascular disease. How long does depression last? Depression usually occurs in episodes, followed by depression-free periods with partial or complete absence of symptoms. A depressive episode lasts on average between half a year and one year, until the mood returns to normal spontaneously. Resultant anti-depressant treatment may last for up to one year even after symptoms improve. Most people experience multiple depressive episodes that can occur at different intervals. The more depressive episodes someone has already experienced, the greater the risk of experiencing another episode. Despite this episodic course depression is referred to as a chronic disease. Some of the more common forms of depression include unipolar and bipolar episodes, seasonal depression, late-life depression, postpartum depression, and dysthymia. RISK FACTORS Genetic Gene variants associated with an increased risk of responding to prolonged stress can constitute an increased hereditary risk of depression. For example, some gene variants play a role in controlling the rate at which drugs are metabolized in the liver, which can lead to reduced effectiveness of pharmacotherapeutic interventions. Early childhood experiences It has been shown that stress experiences, especially in early childhood, increase the risk of mental illness, especially in relation to depression and anxiety disorders. History of depressive episodes The risk of developing new depression increases with each relapsed episode, especially if residual symptoms of an earlier stage persist, such as sleep disorders, lack of concentration, or lack of energy. STRESS AND NEUROBIOLOGY OF DEPRESSION Stress hormones and depression Research has shown that depressive patients have altered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood stream. Long-lasting situations that are stressful can cause the brain to lose control of the stress hormone system, leading to hormonal imbalance and overactivity of the amygdala. Neurology and depression Research has likewise shown that depression disrupts the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This disruption can inhibit the natural regenerative ability of important brain regions responsible for feelings, stress-management, and learning ability. TREATMENT AND THERAPY The latest findings on depression show that this complex disease must be treated holistically with all available interventions, and on a highly-individualized, case-by-case basis. Treatment must consist of an optimized combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, as well as well as other adjunct treatments that may be appropriate depending on the individual case. Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy for Depression PEMF therapy is a safe, drug-free, non-invasive solution that uses low-intensity pulsing electromagnetic fields to activate and support various physiological process by improving cell membrane potential through increased ion transfer. PEMF therapy has been shown to have beneficial effects on anxiety and depression in both chronic and acute forms. While it is not clear exactly how low-intensity PEMF stimulation works to relieve mood disorders, these systems are believed to cause neurons to vibrate at the frequency of the applied PEMF, regulating the electrical activity of neurons and altering the neural network to affect areas of mood control in the brain. PEMF therapy also appears to affect glucose metabolism in regions of the brain associated with depression and anxiety, as well as helping to regulate the release of important neurotransmitters such as BDNF. Low-intensity transcranial PEMF has even been shown to reduce symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant depression, when used in combination with anti-depressants. PEMF therapy has repeatedly shown promising results in peer-reviewed literature as an adjunct solution to treating depression and anxiety.
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