According to the World Health Organization, today about 264 million people around the world suffer from depression. Symptoms of this common mental disorder include depressed mood, loss of interest in everything going on around and much more. If depression is not diagnosed in time, it can lead to serious problems in life and even lead to the development of physiological diseases. Let’s put aside all these platitudes, of which we all have long been well aware. Recently, scientists from Germany and Belgium have developed a method of diagnosing depression based on the human heart rhythm. They have long wanted to develop such a technology, but they were hampered by some factors. So, what was the problem and how was it solved?
What is depression?
Sometimes, people take for depression ordinary mood swings that occur in every person. In fact, it is a serious mental disorder, which can significantly affect a person’s life and even cause more serious diseases. The cause of depression is not the only one – the development of the disorder is influenced by heredity, living conditions in early childhood and features of adult life. Thus, the probability of depression is significantly increased if a person is exposed to violence in childhood. Side effects of some medications and even lack of sunlight can also provoke depression.
The symptoms of depression are different for each person. Among them there are such signs as:
- depressed mood, in which the person sees his future as something dark;
- loss of pleasure, when a person is not interested in activities that used to bring him joy;
- fatigue, when a person does not have enough strength even to perform simple tasks;
- loss of confidence, when a person does not believe that he or she can succeed in something;
- inability to concentrate, which prevents a person from performing tasks that used to be easy for him/her;
- sleep disturbances, when a person can constantly feel sleepy, but not fall asleep for a long time at night;
- a change of appetite, in which the person either eats too little or too much;
- thoughts about death, which can lead to very sad consequences.
As you can see, the symptoms of depression are very numerous. But no one can diagnose a mental disorder on their own. Only psychiatrists can diagnose it. So, if you think that you have a depression – run to a specialist.
How do you diagnose depression?
As a rule, psychiatrists diagnose depression during a conversation with patients. Usually, they offer people to fill out several questionnaires. With the help of these questionnaires, the specialist will find out if the person has lost interest in life, if he is good at personal hygiene, and so on. In general, the questionnaires help to quickly identify symptoms of mental disorder. A diagnosis of “depression” is made only if the patient is found to have a large number of symptoms. In this case, during the conversation, psychiatrists try to find out how long the symptoms take place. If a person is sad for a couple of days, there is nothing wrong with it, and if it lasts more than two weeks – the person’s problems are clearly worth paying attention.
A new way to diagnose depression
Scientists conducted an experiment. It involved 16 people with depression who were not helped by traditional methods of treatment. The control group consisted of 16 people without any mental disorders. They were measured for four days and three nights with a heartbeat. The study found that before ketamine, depressed people’s heart rate was on average 15 beats per minute higher than that of healthy people. During sleep, healthy people’s heartbeat became calmer, but in volunteers with depression the rhythm remained as fast. After taking ketamine, the heart rate in depressed people became the same as in healthy people. With these results, the researchers created an application that diagnoses depression based on their heart rate during the day and night. If there is no particular difference, the system puts an affirmative verdict, and if there is a difference, then the person is healthy. During the testing, the application gave the correct results in 14 out of 16 cases. But can we consider that a new way of diagnosing depression has already been created and we should wait for the new mobile application? Scientists say that we do not. In the conducted research they proved the effectiveness of ketamine and revealed the difference with the heart rate of healthy people and patients with symptoms of depression. But in order to officially recognize the new method as credible, it is necessary to conduct additional research involving more people. In addition, further research may reveal other signs of depression that will improve the accuracy of the results.