TMS Therapy: Hope for Those With Treatment-Resistant Depression

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Depression is a common mental health disorder. It’s a leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall burden of disease, according to the World Health Organization. And while there are many ways to treat depression, between 76% and 85% of people in low- to middle-income countries receive no treatment for their disorder.

Here in the United States, major depressive disorder affects roughly 17.3 million Americans. While treatment is more accessible, many people are still left untreated and may self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or other harmful behaviors. Depression also co-occurs with other illnesses, including cancer, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, eating disorders and substance use disorders.

Antidepressants: The Gold Standard Treatment for Depression. But They Don’t Work for Everyone.

The most common way to treat depression is with medication. While medication is a safe and effective option, it fails to work in some people. In fact, this 2009 study reports that more than half of people who take antidepressants for depression never get relief. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is the case, but it’s believed that it may have something to do with stress.

Most animal models used by scientists to test antidepressants are based on the theory that stress causes depression. In these studies, the animals are stressed and their behavior is analyzed. The animals are then given drugs, and if the drugs work, they are considered to be good treatments for depression. However, it’s not always stress causing depression.

Furthermore, antidepressants aim to boost neurotransmitters in the brain based on the popular molecular explanation of depression. But, it’s possible that depression actually begins further in the brain and this is what causes a depletion of certain neurotransmitters. Simply increasing neurotransmitters doesn’t necessarily “fix” the problem.

Even for those who do benefit from medication, they may experience side effects like weight gain, fatigue and restlessness. Antidepressants are systemic and affect the entire body. Some people also don’t like that they feel numb or emotionless when taking these medications. Thankfully, there are emerging alternatives to treating depression.

NeuroStar TMS Therapy: A Safe, Effective Alternative to Antidepressants.

NeuroStar TMS Therapy is a safe, non-drug, FDA-cleared approach to treating depression. Compassion Behavioral Health is proud to offer this therapy to clients suffering from depression. It’s not for everyone, so you will need to speak with our medical team to determine if this therapy can be included in your treatment plan.

NeuroStar uses transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to target key areas in the brain that tend to be underactive in people with depression. It is NOT the same as electroconvulsive therapy. Instead, a magnet produces mild electrical signals to stimulate targeted areas in the brain. This therapy is generally used when other depression treatments have been ineffective.

The goal of TMS therapy is to increase neurotransmitters in the brain to restore their balance and alleviate symptoms of depression. It also goes deep into the brain to stimulate nerve cells responsible for mood control. Because this type of therapy is targeted, it does not affect any other part of the body. Most people experience no side effects and are able to go about their routine as normal.

What are the Benefits of NeuroStar TMS Therapy?

NeuroStar is a safe and effective way to treat depression. Most people notice an improvement after four to six weeks. So far, over four million treatments have been delivered. TMS was also included in the 2010 American Psychiatric Association (APA) Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression.

The benefits to using NeuroStar TMS Therapy to treat depression are:

  • Cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Drug free, with no systemic side effects as there are with antidepressants.
  • Safe, effective and non-invasive. TMS is done in a medical office while you’re awake. You can resume normal activities right away.
  • Long lasting symptom relief. Clinical trials show NeuroStar as having durability over 12 months.
  • Covered by most health insurance plans, including Tricare and Medicare.

Is NeuroStar TMS Therapy Right for You?

NeuroStar TMS Therapy is not for everyone. It’s important to discuss this treatment team with your medical team. At Compassion Behavioral Health, we generally recommend TMS therapy to the following individuals:

  • Those struggling with depression or a co-occurring disorder involving substance use and depression.
  • Those who are not seeing results from their antidepressant medications or other therapies.
  • Those who are experiencing negative side effects from their medications, such as weight gain or fatigue.
  • Those who want a non-invasive, drug-free approach to treating depression.

What Can I Expect During My Treatment Sessions?

If our medical team feels that TMS therapy can improve your depression symptoms, we will move forward with a treatment plan that includes this therapy. Even though TMS therapy is safe and effective, we do prefer to use it in people who have already tried conventional treatment methods like behavioral therapy and medication.

For your sessions, you will sit in a comfortable chair wearing ear plugs. Compassion Behavioral Health has rented the NeuroStar device, so one of our trained technicians will place the magnetic coil against your head. When the machine is turned on, you may hear some clicking sounds and feel tapping on your forehead.

You’ll be awake the entire time, and aside from some mild scalp discomfort, you shouldn’t feel any pain during or after the procedure. While some people do report headaches, tingling or lightheadedness, these symptoms are rare and usually subside after a few hours. They also decrease over time with repeated sessions.

Most sessions last up to 40 minutes, and after this time, you are free to go about your normal routine. Depending on when your sessions are scheduled, you may engage in therapy following your TMS treatment. Generally, sessions are done every day, five times a week for four to six weeks.

TMS Therapy: Could This Be Your Key to Healing?

Compassion Behavioral Health is a rehabilitation center in Hollywood FL that treats men and women with substance use and mental health disorders. We offer cutting-edge care, including neurofeedback, rapid resolution therapy (RRT) and TMS therapy. Our goal is to offer as many tools as possible so that clients can find a safe and effective regimen that works for them.

To learn more about NeuroStar TMS Therapy and how it can support your recovery, contact Compassion Behavioral Health today.