Depression is an issue for people of all ages and from all walks of life, affecting 300 million men, women and children worldwide, and more than 18 million Americans suffer from a major depressive disorder. It can severely disrupt a person’s home, work and social life and even lead to suicide. Treating depression generally moves slowly, beginning with a trial-and-error process with various medications. There is hope, however, for patients who don’t respond well to antidepressants.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008, affects nerve cells in the brain using short magnetic pulses. An electromagnetic coil is placed against a person’s scalp, generating pulses that stimulate the area of the brain that regulates mood.
There are five big benefits of TMS.
1. TMS Treats Various Disorders
In addition to depression, the procedure has been shown to help with other medical issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease and migraines. TMS might even be used to help people stop smoking, according to Dr. Erin Amato, adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist with the Montana Psychiatry & Brain Health Center. Currently, major depression and OCD are the only conditions for which TMS is an FDA-indicated treatment, but research into other applications is ongoing.
2. There Are Very Few Side Effects
According to Dr. Amato, headaches are the most common side effect of TMS, but she added that this problem generally goes away within a week. “Because TMS is focused on a small area of the brain, it doesn’t cause systemic side effects like many medications such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction and nausea,” she says.
3. Minimal Downtime from Daily Activities
“People are able to drive themselves to and from treatments and do not have to miss work or school, other than for the time it takes to get the 30-minute treatment,” Dr. Amato says, adding that many people can schedule their treatments before or after work, or during a lunch hour. “In contrast to ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), TMS does not require anesthesia , which means people are able to continue normal activity.”
4. TMS Is Recommended Treatment
Dr. Amato says the magnetic pulses stimulate electrical activity between neurons and activate brain structures, “leading to an antidepressant effect.” The American Psychiatric Association has, since 2010, recommended TMS as a treatment for adults with depression whose situation has not improved by taking antidepressants. Furthermore, many major insurance companies now cover this cutting-edge treatment.
5. Many People with Depression May Benefit from TMS
Depression doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, gender or socioeconomic status. The median age of the onset of depression is 32.5 years, while the prevalence of adults who suffer a major episode is highest among those between 18 and 25. 8.5 percent of women have depression, compared with 4.8 percent of men.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest in most activities;
- A decrease in energy;
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking clearly and making decisions;
- Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much;
- Thoughts of death or suicide, planning for suicide or attempting to take one’s life; and
- Changes in weight and appetite.
Though it has been approved for use by the FDA for only 10 years, brain stimulation has been utilized for decades to battle depression. TMS now offers hope for those who receive little or no benefit from or suffer due to the side effects of antidepressant medications.
To learn more about innovative ways to treat depression, visit the Montana Psychiatry & Brain Health Center at MTPsychiatry.com or call (406) 413-9342.
At Montana Psychiatry & Brain Health Center, we are dedicated to serving the mental health needs of children and adults in our region. We aim to provide compassionate, thoughtful, and comprehensive care by using an integrated approach that focuses on biological, psychological, and social factors that are unique to each patient. We strive for excellence in our delivery of care to restore hope and quality of life for patients and families.
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