Depression, Genetics, and Biofeedback

Depression is a common mental health disorder that impacts daily functions and quality of life and can lead to a variety of physical, mental, and emotional problems that can disrupt your daily routine and ability to function at work and home.

Depression approximately affects one in fifteen adults in any given year, and one in six adults will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can happen to anyone regardless of culture, socioeconomic status, or background, and can occur at any time. There is a high degree of heritability (approximately 40%) when first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) have depression which can significantly impact and individuals’ life. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other twin has a 70% chance of suffering from it as well at some point in their life. Additionally, children, parents, and siblings of people with severe depression are more likely to have depression than the general population due to the genetic link. There is no single gene that causes depression, but rather, it is the accumulation of small effects from a variety of genes.

Symptoms of depression include changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, too little or too much sleep, increase in purposeless activities, thoughts of death or suicide, and a loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities. These depressive symptoms must last at least two weeks and elicit a change in the level of functioning for a diagnosis. Medical conditions such as vitamin deficiency, brain tumor, or thyroid problems may also mimic symptoms of depression and need to be ruled out.

Genetic predispositions, early childhood trauma, subsequent traumatic events, head injuries, substance abuse, stroke, chemotherapy, and other medical conditions are pathways and factors that can lead to depression. Neurofeedback is an effective treatment for depression regardless of the pathway by which an individual has become depressed.

Biofeedback is a therapeutic modality that helps patients obtain greater control over their physiological functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature, muscle tension, and sweat gland activity. It is also used to help treat depression, as well as a large range of other conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, and more. During a biofeedback session, various instruments are used to feed information back to individuals about their involuntary physiological state. They are trained to adjust and make changes to improve regulation in efforts to alleviate or reduce any symptoms they are experiencing. Biofeedback is extremely effective for those whose goal is to improve mood, reduce anxiety, regulate pain, and increase focus.

Common treatment for people with depression include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and pharmacotherapy. Recent research has shown that medications for depression are only slightly more effective than placebo treatments, and not everyone responds well to these treatments as negative side effects often occur, especially in the beginning of pharmaceutical intervention. Many studies have also shown that patients on medication experience adverse effects when the medication is stopped, emphasizing the importance of notifying a health care professional prior to making this decision.

Without getting treatment for depression, symptoms may become worse and increase the chance of other health conditions such as dementia. Untreated depression can also lead to self-harm or suicide, and depressive symptoms can even return, even after you start to feel better.

Overall, there have been multiple studies showing how neurofeedback and biofeedback are viable treatment options for depression as it helps balance dysregulation in the brain. At BiofeedbackWORKS, we offer a variety of neurofeedback treatment choices as well as biofeedback to help alleviate depression. Although genetic predisposition plays a role in the phenotypic expression of depression, there are several naturopathic resources available to help combat depressive symptoms and an array of modalities available at our office.


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