Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression

Greg has dealt with depression so debilitating that he remained in bed for five years. He recalls his wife sitting on the edge of the bed before she left for work one day and saying, “I understand how much you are suffering. If you are not here when I get back this evening, I will completely understand.”

“I looked at my wife straight in the face and said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but this battle ends today.’”

Greg handed his wife his keys and asked her to admit him to a facility. Doctors prescribed him medication, but it did not work, and Greg remained severely depressed.

Then, his doctor suggested a new treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. Greg says that after three or four days of TMS treatments, he experienced moments of wellness.

“It was like a light switch coming on,” he said. “I’d be well for 15 hours and then somebody would turn it off, and I’d plummet back into depression.”

But, Greg says, those glimpses of wellness gave him something to keep fighting for.

Physician and TMS expert Dr. Todd Hutton explains that magnetic stimulation delivers pulses to mood centers of the brain that are underactive in people with depression.

“Those magnetic pulses actually make the brain fire and wakes up those underactive areas of the brain,” he says.

Patients usually need a 40-to-60 minute TMS treatment five days a week for about six weeks. Now, more than a year later, Greg says he is continuing to get better.

“As the months go by, things are getting brighter; things are getting clearer,” he says.

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork notes that the American Psychiatric Association has found that the procedure has “relatively small to moderate benefits,” and he warns that TMS is not a miracle for everyone, but it can provide another option for treating depression, especially in cases where medications aren’t effective.

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