Roughly 16 million Americans struggle with major depressive disorder. More than a rare illness or just a temporary fit of sadness, depression exists on a large and growing scale. As the stigma surrounding mental illness slowly decreases, the hope is that more Americans will seek treatment for this devastating illness. But most people do not know where to start. What treatment to look for. Who to turn to for help. Depression impairs judgment, decision-making and thinking – and it can make rational thought difficult. However, the first step to beating the disease is realizing that there is no shame in bearing it, and that getting help overcoming your depression is important.
There are many ways to combat depression, all of them dependent on your sense of what works best, your specific circumstances, and your own personal experiences. Some people respond better to one type of treatment versus another, and some people are resistant to most treatments, responding only to a specific few. It is a good idea to try different treatment solutions based on what’s available to you.
Common forms of treatment include meeting a therapist, going to group therapy, trying self-help techniques including mindfulness and meditation, and getting a prescription for anti-depressants. However, when all else fails, a less-common yet highly effective approach for overcoming your depression is the use of Transcranial magnetic stimulation, especially when used in combination with other treatments.
How TMS Works
TMS involves using magnetic fields to stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain, penetrating just a few centimeters into the skull. Research shows that magnetic stimulation of the nerves stimulates electrical activity and blood flow, thus helping people with depression feel better.
The treatment involves multiple sessions, regularly and consecutively over a certain period, usually four to six weeks. The impact of treatment lasts longer for some people than others, making maintenance a matter of personal judgment and experience, dependent on each person’s response.
Not everyone reacts to TMS in the same way. While there are no significant risks associated with the treatment – it is non-invasive and requires no sedation or medication – it may be more effective on some people than others. Studies and some anecdotal evidence suggests that people who do not respond very well to medication benefit the most from TMS, making it a highly viable and recommended alternative to SSRIs, SNRIs and MAOIs,. Here’s what we know about TMS:
- Alleviates the symptoms of depression in people with major depressive disorder
- Has no adverse side effects
- Does not require the use of medication or surgery
- Each session except the first takes about half an hour to complete
It is not a miracle drug or a magical cure. TMS has been around for over four decades and is an effective form of neuromodulation. Most healthcare insurance providers cover it as a treatment option when medications fail.
The use of electrical stimulation and magnetic fields is not revolutionary, although the extent to which TMS is changing the brain has only recently been made possible with modern magnetic technology. When used in conjunction with other treatment methods deemed effective for an individual’s symptoms, TMS may help in overcoming your depression to live a much happier life.
TMS and the Long-Term
A, typical course of TMS treatment involves 20-30 sessions over 4-6 weeks. As the treatment goes on, the shift in mood becomes apparent, and patients begin to feel better. At treatment completion, 50% of patients report remission or no depressive symptoms while 70-75% report a significant (49% or greater) reduction in depressive symptoms as measured on depression rating scales.
Many insurance companies cover booster treatments if/when symptoms begin to return after the initial treatment is over. It is important to see TMS not as a single solution to depression, but as part of a greater treatment plan, with the goal of managing and/or overcoming your depression.
Overcoming Your Depression
Depression can be disabling, affecting performance by cutting into people’s motivation, drive, and self-confidence. Characterized by an overwhelming feeling of isolation and sadness, many people feel unable to go about their daily routines while struggling with depression. This further exacerbates the problem creating a vicious cycle.
Tough love or “sucking it up” doesn’t work. Effective depression treatment involves the use of psychotherapy, medication, TMS and other forms of treatment to address the factors and causes of the disorder.
Overcoming your depression takes time and patience. Feeling disappointed over slow progress can overshadow the fact that progress is being made. Small victories need to be cherished, not swallowed up by what feel like countless overwhelming failures.
Adopting structure in life can have a profound and favorable effect on depression. Exercise, a healthy diet, and healthy stress management can help stave off depressive thoughts. But getting there can seem like an overwhelmingly long road for many. Living a healthier life can take time, and many people struggle to grasp where to begin.
It all starts with seeking help. Medication, TMS and therapy can fundamentally change moods for the better. If depression is resistant to most types of treatment, then Transcranial magnetic stimulation may be the next step. However, it doesn’t end there. While TMS can help alleviate depressive symptoms, a mindful orientation to stress management tools is equally important to help keep the symptoms at bay, should they return.