Depression is a serious medical illness affecting millions of Americans each year. Often debilitating, depression results in a constant state of sadness or loss of interest or pleasure. Depression interferes with an individual’s thoughts, mood, behavior, and often with their physical health. If left untreated, depression can be a lethal disease. Each year in the United States, it is estimated that over 30,000 people die by suicide. It is believed that over half of those suffered from depression. Women are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, though many feel that depression in men goes unreported. Depression affects all races, and has no socioeconomic or ethnic boundaries. About two-thirds of those who experience depression will experience a second episode at some time during their life.
The exact cause of depression is unknown. The leading scientific theory is that it is caused by decreased activity in the neural networks of the brain that regulate motivation and emotion. Increasing the levels of neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells) in the brain has been found to reactivate these neural networks, or to create new networks. Depression is most commonly treated with anti-depressant medications. It is believed that these medications work by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters in the brain. However, millions of patients do not receive adequate benefits from these anti-depressant medications, and many cannot tolerate the side effects associated with taking medications. For these patients, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy offers an alternative treatment.
Depression causes a constant state of sadness or loss of ability to experience pleasure. Individuals experiencing depression often lose interest in everyday hobbies and activities that once were enjoyable. According to the standard diagnosis guide (DSM-IV-TR) published by the American Psychiatric Association, depression is diagnosed when a patient is experiencing either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure plus four or more of the following symptoms during the same two-week period:
- Significant weight loss (not associated with dieting) or weight gain (greater than 5% of body weight in one month)
- Significant decrease or increase in appetite
- Excessive insomnia or sleepiness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Loss of energy or fatigue occurring nearly every day
- Excessive and inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness every day
- Decreased ability to concentrate, think, or make decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death