It is estimated that one in every five adults will have at least one depressive episode in the course of their lifetime. But depression comes in many guises.
At the extreme end of the spectrum is severe clinical depression. Characteristics include profound despair, hopelessness, and the complete inability to take pleasure in anything (anhedonia). Severe depression may also cause confusion, memory loss, the inability to make simple decisions, and even forgetting your destination after starting up the car.
At the other end of the depression spectrum are people who are “mildly” depressed, or “dysthymic”, on a long-term, chronic level. They may function well in the world, but feel uninspired and unfulfilled; that they are not living up to their potential. Like severely depressed patients, dysthymics are prone to persistent negative thinking, endless recrimination, and repetitive rumination.
The primary and traditional treatment for depression has been medication and/or therapy, which can entail years of treatment. Clients may experience certain personal insights. But even “progress” and “insights” will not prevent the negative thinking.
But now we are learning that the model of negative thinking causing depression may not only be inaccurate and unhelpful, but it is completely backwards. And that, in actuality, 90% of the time, the physical brain (not the mind) is the origin of negative thoughts. A depressed brain will generate depressing thoughts, not the other way around. This new insight is exactly what the LENS Neurofeedback both elucidates and treats.
LENS neurofeedback offers an entirely new approach to depression. Mild forms of depression remit quickly, with substantial changes usually seen within the first five sessions. LENS patients report feeling better, having less negative thoughts, self-recrimination and blame.
Treatment with LENS for more severe depression is also generally successful; patients see improvement in their conditions in about 2/3 of my cases, usually over a somewhat longer course of treatment.
What makes LENS even more effective and remarkable is that the changes it induces are enduring and do not require any effort by the patient. And the lift of depression that we sometimes see is breathtaking, sometimes taking only a few seconds or a few minutes for initial results. And negative thinking, the recrimination and self-blame all dissolve by themselves. And it is clearly not a result of a change in neurotransmitter levels, because levels do not change so rapidly.
Finally, a relatively recent mode of therapy in psychiatry is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). A magnetic charge is applied to the brain for half hour at a time (about 3,000 pulses), 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks. Published results of TMS treatment have been modest. LENS, which applies a tiny signal whose strength is far less than a cell phone for a fraction of a second, up to about a dozen times. And the clinical results we see for treating depression are far more impressive. LENS may one day be the primary modality for the treatment of depression.