Stimulation to Ease Depression

December 16, 2018
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Depression is everything that the word implies: a long-lasting sense of unhappiness and hopelessness. Descriptive terms for the problem include despair, despondency, and sadness. Anger and a sense of loss might be involved, too. The overall miserable mindset is not a matter of willpower. Telling someone to “Snap out of it,” or to “Get over it,” is a signal that the person issuing those orders does not understand the chemical, emotional, and other troubling realities involved. Self-control and a sense of happiness can’t be summoned on command. It pretty much ceases to exist during depression.

Data from a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, National Health and Nutrition Examination study plus supportive data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that the number of American adults, and the numbers of children aged 3-17 who are using antidepressants and counseling services to address depression have been rising for the past twenty years. In brief, that means that approximately 1.5 per cent of American adults aged 18 and over, plus 15 million US children are so miserable that they’ve been diagnosed with depression.

Millions of Americans need help to feel happy. Mental health professionals have many tools to choose from when they try to help people past depression and into a mindset plus a life that they enjoy. Anti-depressive drugs and different forms of counseling and therapy are used according to their appropriateness for a specific person and their situation. One of the complicating factors in the treatment plans for someone’s depression, though, is the increasingly common use of opioids as a form of self-medication.

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People sometimes use and abuse various substances to soothe themselves as they strive to overcome or to forget emotional agony. That has made some doctors uneasy about prescribing drugs at all. While the opioid crisis was developing, however, an innovative and effective form of therapy was receiving significant attention in the medical world. It’s called electrical stimulation of the orbitofrontal cortex.

A New Cure?

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) addressed the matter in 2017. By 2018, the technology and information regarding it improved. Before we explore that, let’s define some medical terms.

The orbitofrontal cortex part of the brain is a reality filter. It helps a person to know what is real versus what is not, and it helps us to categorize things such as living and non-living things. It helps us to make decisions based on the information that we’ve gathered and experiences that we’ve had. Read books and articles about that interesting piece of anatomy if you want to understand it better.

The next medical term that we’ll address is transcranial electrical stimulation. It’s a mouthful which means that doctors attach electrodes to someone’s head and use low voltage, alternating currents of electricity to cause desired activity in a brain that needs help to work better

Now you’re ready to understand the improved technology and information for helping depression that was recently announced in 2018. It’s called Direct Intracranial Electrical Stimulation (tDES) of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

Medical professionals who used the method to evaluate epilepsy patients (they tend to suffer from depression) for surgery found that their patients’ moods improved within minutes after the test. The bonus to learning if the patient was a suitable candidate for surgical help to ease their epilepsy was that their level of moderate to severe depression decreased. The electrical stimulation doesn’t affect people, including epilepsy patients, who are not depressed.

The findings were published in the medical journal Current Biology on November 29, 2018. They indicate that the stimulation normalizes mood-related brain activity. Mental health professionals are now investigating the wisdom of helping depressed people with that form of stimulation. They need to know how much is necessary, how often it needs to be repeated, if it needs to be repeated, and why. You can read more about that by clicking on Can New Stimulation Approach Ease Depression?

Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts a healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.