General, Research, Technology

How do doctors diagnose depression, and is there a faster way?

According to the World Health Organization,today, depression affects about 264 million people worldwide. Symptoms of this common mental disorder include depressed mood, loss of interest in everything around you, and more. If depression is not diagnosed in a person in time, it can lead to serious problems in life and even cause the development of physiological diseases. Until then, let's put aside all these platitudes that we all know perfectly well for a long time. Scientists from Germany and Belgium recently developed a way to diagnose depression based on a person's heart rate. They wanted to develop such a technology for a long time, but several factors hindered them. So what was the problem and how did you solve it?

Shot from the series "The Sopranos"


  • 1 What is depression?
  • 2 How is depression diagnosed?
  • 3 Duration of treatment for depression
  • 4 A new way to diagnose depression

What is depression?

Sometimes people mistake ordinary depression for depression.mood swings that occur in every person. In fact, this is a serious mental disorder that can pretty much spoil a person's life and even cause more serious diseases. There is no one cause of depression - the development of the disorder is influenced by heredity, living conditions in early childhood and the characteristics of his adult life. Thus, the likelihood of depression increases significantly if a person is abused in childhood. Side effects from certain medications and even a lack of sunlight can also provoke depression.

Depression symptoms each person is different. Among them there are signs such as:

  • depressed mood, in which a person sees his future as something gloomy;
  • loss of pleasurewhen a person is not interested in activities that previously brought him joy;
  • fatiguewhen a person does not have enough strength even to perform simple tasks;
  • loss of confidencein which a person does not believe that he can achieve success in something;
  • inability to concentrate, because of which a person cannot complete tasks that were previously given to him easily;
  • sleep disorderswhen a person can constantly feel sleepy, but do not fall asleep for a long time at night;
  • change in appetitein which a person either eats too little or too much;
  • thoughts of death, which can lead to very sad consequences.

As you can see, there are many symptoms of depression. But no one can diagnose a mental disorder on their own. Only psychiatrists are capable of this. So if you think you are depressed, go to a specialist.

There are many subtleties in diagnosing depression, so only a specialist can do this.

How is depression diagnosed?

Typically, psychiatrists diagnose depression induring the conversation with patients. They usually ask people to complete several questionnaires. With the help of them, the specialist will find out whether a person has lost interest in life, whether he maintains good personal hygiene, and so on. In general, surveys help to quickly identify the symptoms of a mental disorder. Depression is only diagnosed if the patient has a large number of symptoms... At the same time, during the conversation, psychiatrists tryfind out how long symptoms last. If a person is sad for a couple of days, there is nothing to worry about, and if it continues for more than two weeks, the person's problems are clearly worth paying attention to.

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Duration of treatment for depression

The above method for identifying mentalfrustration sounds complicated and clearly takes a long time. Therefore, scientists have long been trying to find a faster and equally accurate method. Scientists from Germany and Belgium have long realized that the presence of depression in a person may be hinted at by their heartbeat. However, finding a link between heart rate and depression was difficult for at least two reasons. First, the heart rate depends on many factors, and for an accurate diagnosis, it is necessary to monitor the rhythm for at least 24 hours. Secondly, in order to develop a new diagnostic method, it is necessary to identify the difference in the heart rate of the same person before and after treatment. But the treatment of depression can last for several months or even years.

Even excessive smartphone addiction can lead to depression

The first problem was solved easily, becausealmost all modern fitness bracelets can monitor a person's heartbeat all day long. But scientists have recently learned how to quickly relieve people of symptoms of depression for a short time. In 2019, the US approved the use of an antidepressant drug called ketamine, which is banned in Russia... It quickly eliminates the symptoms of depression in a person, but the effect from it does not last long.

Ketamine is banned in Russia

A new way to diagnose depression

Having found a solution to both problems, scientists conductedexperiment. It was attended by 16 people with depression who were not helped by traditional methods of treatment. The control group consisted of 16 people without any mental disorders. Their heart rate was measured for four days and three nights. The study found that, before taking ketamine, the heart rate of depressed people on average was 15 beats per minute higherthan in healthy people. During sleep, the heartbeat of healthy people became calmer, but in volunteers with depression, the rhythm stayed the same fast... After taking ketamine, the heart rate of people with depression was similar to that of healthy people.

Depression affects a person's heart rate

With these results, the researchers createdan app that diagnoses depression based on their heart rate during the day and night. If there is no significant difference, the system gives an affirmative verdict, and if there is a difference, then the person is healthy. During testing, the application gave correct results in 14 out of 16 cases. But can we assume that a new way of diagnosing depression has already been created and we should wait for a new mobile application? Scientists say no.

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As part of the study, they provedthe effectiveness of ketamine and revealed a difference in heart rate between healthy people and patients with symptoms of depression. But in order to officially recognize the new method as trustworthy, more research is needed with more people. In addition, in the course of further work, they may identify other signs of depression, which will increase the accuracy of the results.

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