Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation For Depression
Articles / Blog
11-06-13 Category: Mental Health

Depression affects millions of people every day. We all feel sad, down, and lonely every now and then, but people with a depression disorder feel endlessly hopeless and full of despair. Treatment for depression is difficult because every sufferer’s causes vary, and are deeply rooted.

Mental illnesses, like depression, are said to be diseases of the brain, so in an effort to heal parts of the brain that have been altered, the latest treatment for depression is transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.

What is TMS?

A large magnetic coil is placed against the scalp, near the forehead hairline, and electric currents are conducted to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. The specific region of the brain targeted is the area responsible for mood control, which determines depression levels.

TMS was approved for use on people in 2008, but the practice is still very new.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental illness that affects how you feel. Your mood then dictates how you think about yourself, about life, and about your relationships, and how you behave out in the world.

Depression is characterized by the following symptoms:

  •  Feeling sad and unhappy
  •  Changes in eating, sleeping (including insomnia), and behavioral patterns
  •  Irritability, agitation, and restless
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and enjoyable activities
  • Loss of energy, fatigue, and chronic tiredness without much activity
  • Feeling worthless and hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating, recalling information, or making decisions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Unexplained physical pain
  • Suicidal thoughts, ideations, or attempts

Depression can create other symptoms too. Medical and mental health professionals should be consulted if a few of these symptoms persist for more days than not over a six month time period. If suicidal thoughts are happening, seek professional help immediately.

How Does TMS Treat Depression?

The true mechanics of how TMS changes the brain is really unknown, but the idea behind the creation of the procedure was to see if changing the area of the brain responsible for depression would alter the symptoms, and in fact, TMS does reduce the amount of depression a person experienced prior to TMS.

While people in the initial studies showed an improvement in mood, there are potential risks with transcranial magnetic stimulation, and anything that seeks to alter the brain. The procedure does not require surgery, so there are not the same dangers as undergoing invasive internal work, but the Mayo Clinic reports that the side effects of TMS are:

  •  Headache
  •  Scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation
  •  Tingling, spasms, or twitching of facial muscles
  • Lightheadedness
  •  Residual discomfort from the noise of the TMS procedure
  •  Possible seizures
  •  Possible mania, especially in people who have already been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
  •  Possible hearing loss from the procedure itself

TMS has so far proven to help reduce the symptoms of depression more in women than in men, and is shown to have less effectiveness when an individual’s depression has been consistent for several years, when depression or another mental illness has caused a detachment from reality (psychosis) at any point, or when electro-convulsive therapy, or ECT, has been tried without successfully reducing the symptoms of depression.

Current Treatment for Depression

When a person seeks treatment for depression, a thorough assessment is conducted to find out all about the symptoms being experienced, the causes of depression, and what has been attempted already. An individualized treatment plan is then created to begin treating all necessary component of the client’s mental illness.

A combination of therapeutic approaches, holistic forms of healing, and medication management are used to treat depression. A new part of treatment may be transcranial magnetic stimulation if a person is deemed appropriate for the procedure. Medications may not target the proper chemicals that need altering in a person’s brain, so TMS could be helpful.

Another aspect of treating depression is to determine if another disorder is at play. If a person began to drink alcohol in an effort to self-medicate the painful symptoms of depression, for example, chemical dependency may need to be diagnosed in addition to depression and included in the treatment plan. To adequately treat depression in this person, substance abuse must also be treated, at the same time. For a lot of people with depression, another disorder is present, making the individual eligible for dual diagnosis treatment.

If you, or someone you know, is depressed, seek help now. The sooner an appropriate diagnosis, or dual diagnosis, is made, the sooner a sufferer can seek help and begin to heal. Depression is progressive and will eventually take over all aspects of a person’s life.

The treatment team at Sovereign Health Group of California is ready to help. Call now!

Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado

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