Identifying the Signs & Symptoms of Clinical Depression

Clinical depression is a serious, debilitating mood disorder, and not simply feeling "down or blue" for a few days because of a stressful event. In fact, temporarily feeling depressed at times can be a normal reaction to stressful life events, disappointments, losses, etc.

Clinical depression is diagnosed when the depressive feelings become persistent for greater than 2 weeks, and begins to interfere with and compromise performing day to day activities and healthy functioning, then one may be in "the grips" of a clinical depression. Depression not only dominates one's mood and blocks joy or happiness, but it also can negatively affect your health, clear thinking, productivity, relationships, self-care, and self-esteem.

Depression symptoms may include feeling sad, pessimistic, irritable, hopeless or helpless, unmotivated, worthless, and/or loss of interests in formerly enjoyable activities. Depression literally can take over your life. It is not due to character flaws and cannot be overcome with just sheer willpower.

We are all susceptible to depression. Numerous elements are involved such as genetics, biology, past trauma, environmental, and psychological factors. The Drake Institute has been successfully treating depression, without drugs, since 1980. We have also seen repeatedly that depression is not just a psychological disorder but is psychophysiological, for example: impacting muscle tension, brain wave activity patterns, etc. In other words, there are physiologic changes and brain changes accompanying the feelings of depression.

For example, there are often elevated levels of muscle tension and/or an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system in depression patients which can be normalized through self-regulation training/treatment using biofeedback to reduce depression symptoms.


When does Depression Occur?

Depression often starts during teenage years or young adulthood, but can occur at any age. Depression occurs in 2% of children but increases to as much as 8% in adolescents and as many as 20% of children and adolescents have experienced at least 1 episode of depression by adulthood. Depression occurs about equally in boys and girls in childhood, but becomes much more frequent in girls than boys after puberty (3:1 , girls to boys).

Unfortunately, most pediatric patients with anxiety and depression go untreated. In fact, less than 20% of pediatric patients receive treatment for depression. It is unfortunate when a teenager is suffering with signs of depression and adults write it off as 'typical teenage behavior.” If an adolescent with depression is not treated, then they are at increased risk for a second episode of depression within 2 years.

Depression in Adolescents

Adolescents are particularly susceptible to depression due to additional factors such as hormonal changes, psychosocial pressures of adolescence, and school achievement issues related to increased school demands of middle school and high school. Sleep disturbances may also increase the adolescent risk for depression. 

Depression can lead to underachievement and academic failure which further reinforces the depression. From 2005 to 2014, depression rates have increased in both teenage boys and girls. It has been suggested that the more dramatic increase in teen girls could be due partly to cyberbullying and social media.

There is also extensive overlap between anxiety and depression. In other words, anxiety and depression often run together, but one may be more predominant than the other. If you suffer with depression, you are more susceptible to anxiety, and vice versa. Most kids with anxiety have suffered a depressive episode so clinicians should screen for both disorders if either disorder is present.

The overlap for anxiety and depression also applies to adults.


Screening for Depression

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends routine screening for anxiety and depression symptoms in children/adolescents as a minimum standard.

Depression symptoms for screening include:

  • Irritability (primary mood symptom in adolescents)
  • Anhedonia
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive guilt
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal ideation or crises
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Hopelessness/helplessness 

There is no single diagnostic test that could be labelled as a "depression test".  A screening tool is sometimes listed as a depression test but that is too great an oversimplification. Rather than undergoing a "test for depression", a patient at the Drake Institute undergoes a comprehensive evaluation that includes screening tools, clinical interview and history, quantitative EEG brain mapping, and biofeedback/psychophysiological stress testing (adult patients). We also want to rule out other physiological causes for symptoms of depression such as thyroid disease and medication side effects (i.e., antibiotics, beta blockers, anti-hypertensive medications). 

Signs & Symptoms of Depression in Adults

In adults, men and women experience depression differently. Signs of depression in women are more likely to include symptoms of sadness and worthlessness, whereas men suffering with depression are prone to being irritable, fatigued, with loss of interests or inability to enjoy activities that previously were pleasurable.

The depression rate is higher in women than men and this could be partly be due to biological, reproductive, hormonal and psychosocial factors that are distinctive to women.

It has been known for many years that depression is associated with a dysfunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the core endocrine system involved in stress linking the brain and body. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is involved in regulating the central nervous system, cardiovascular, metabolic, reproductive, and immune systems.

There can be physical symptoms associated with depression, and many organ systems can be involved in depression. Just one example is that depression increases the risk for coronary artery disease and mortality from heart disease.


Treating Depression at the Drake Institute

In addressing how to treat depression, we feel the Drake Institute's depression treatment has advantages over the more conventional treatments (that still have therapeutic value).

Our treatment process incorporates psychophysiologic testing with biofeedback instruments and quantitative EEG brain mapping findings that link to stress and clinical depression symptoms. We are utilizing the mind-brain-body connection by including data collected from brain mapping and biofeedback testing. This approach provides additional, invaluable information to utilize in the treatment process, expanding opportunities for improving symptoms.

Depression and Thought Patterns

When the brain is in a dysregulated state linked to depression, a patient can become locked into repetitive negative thinking that affects one's body and brain.

The brain's dysregulated state causes a misperception of reality and a false perceptual imbalance, whereby positive aspects of one's life and future are blocked out and negative aspects are over dominant in our perceptions and feelings. Consequently, feelings of pessimism and hopelessness can takeover.

The qEEG brain map can identify dysregulated networks (frontal gyrus and anterior cingulate) in the brain involved in depression. Through LORETA neurofeedback, these networks can be stabilized to more normalized functioning, reducing depressive symptoms.

A powerful, healing psychophysiologic shift occurs whereby you can see yourself and life more clearly and certainly more positively and hopeful. In other words, the half empty glass is now more likely to be perceived as half full, with the possibility of it filling up more.

Finally, some people misclassify our treatment as a natural remedy for depression because it does not involve medications. Our treatments with biofeedback and brain map guided neurofeedback are all scientifically based on the existing published research, and overseen by our medical director.

In addition, we feel that adjunctive psychotherapy can be helpful at times.

Contact the Drake Institute TodayContact the Drake Institute Today

Are you or someone you know currently suffering from clinical depression? Please don’t hesitate to call us today for a no charge screening and consultation. 

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To get the help you or a loved one needs, call now to schedule your no-cost screening consultation.

dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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