Depression FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Depression is a serious medical illness that lasts two or more weeks and interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and enjoyed activities that previously brought pleasure.

The exact cause of depression is not known, but the leading scientific theory is that depression is caused by an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells. A person’s genetic make-up and life history may also determine a person’s tendency to become depressed.
From 2001-2003, a study conducted by the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School reported that Major Depressive Disorder will affect approximately over 14 million American adults (about 6.7 percent of the US population) in a given year.10


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) maintains that “Depressive illness can often interfere with normal functioning and cause pain and suffering not only to those who have the disorder but to those who care about them. Serious depression can destroy family life as well as the life of the ill person.”

In 2000, the economic burden of depression was estimated at $83.1 billion in the US and researchers estimate that by the year 2020, depression will be the second-leading cause of disability worldwide.24,25 Depression can also be a lethal disease. Each year in the US, over 30,000 people die by suicide, 60% of whom suffer from depression.26


Depression is known to be hereditary so depression may occur in some individuals who have a particular genetic makeup that makes them more likely to develop depression. However, the exact nature of these genetic characteristics is not known. Other factors may contribute to an individual’s likelihood of experiencing depression. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Individuals suffering severe personal losses, difficult relationships, financial problems, or any stressful changes in life pattern
  • Individuals taking certain medications that may increase their vulnerability to depression

Depression is often initially treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy) and antidepressant medications administered together. Although antidepressants can be effective for some patients, they do not work for everybody. Additionally, antidepressants often result in unwanted side effects.

More than 4 million patients do not receive adequate benefit from antidepressant medications and/or cannot tolerate the side effects caused by them.10 For these patients, new depression treatments that involve the use of a medical device are available. These treatments include Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).

There is no known cure for depression. However, with effective treatment, many patients can remain symptom-free and can lead healthy lives.

According to the standard diagnosis guide (DSM-IV-TR) published by the American Psychiatric Association, depression is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure plus four or more of the following depression symptoms during the same two-week period:

  • Significant weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain (a change of more than five percent of body weight in a month)
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Excessive sleepiness or insomnia
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If you feel you are experiencing any of these depression symptoms, contact your doctor and ask about your depression treatment options.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses short pulses of a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain thought to control mood. The pulsed magnetic field may have a positive effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters levels. Treating depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation, also referred to as TMS Therapy with this new therapy, provides a breakthrough depression treatment for those who have not benefited from initial antidepressant medication.16,17

Content References: 16. Neuronetics, Inc. Data on file; 17. Demitrack MA, Thase, ME. (2009).; 10. Kessler, RC et al. (2005).; 24. Greenberg, PE, et al. (2003).; 25. Murray CJ, Lopez AD. (1996).; 26. Heron, Melonie, et al. (2009).