The mental health condition known as depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), is not a new one. For millennia human beings have been plagued with this psychiatric disorder, and since the Bronze Age have been treating depression in varying ways. In the history of treating Depression opium was the go-to treatment for thousands of years, extracted from the opium poppy, known as the “plant of joy.” Other herbal remedies were used to treat depression in ancient times, including atropa belladonna, hashish, St. John’s Wort, and thorn apple, along with alcohol. In addition to these interventions to treat “rain of the mind,” the Greeks and Romans included psychological therapies such as massage, gymnastics, music, work, and general distraction.
Modern Era Treatment for Depression
The twentieth century introduced treatments for depression that remain in effect to this day and has forever changed the history of treating Depression. Electroconvulsive therapy (also referred to as “shock treatment”), or ECT, was developed in the 1930s in Italy. ECT was an extreme measure that was intended for treating depression, as well as schizophrenia, catatonia, and what was then called manic-depression (bipolar disorder). The treatment induces seizures and convulsions in the patient, and in the early days could actually cause the patient to experience bone fractures during the procedure. ECT continues to suffer from a negative stigma that has lingered since it was depicted in the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Although the modern version of the treatment is much more humane—muscle relaxants are used to help reduce fractures from occurring—ECT will remain controversial throughout the history of treating Depression.
In the 1950s the first antidepressant medication, imipramine, was discovered by accident while scientists were searching for new antipsychotics. By the 1970s the safer version of antidepressants, called serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), were being developed specifically for treating depression. This class of drugs targets a specific neural site in the brain called the uptake pumps, while it avoids effecting the receptors, producing drugs that are more selective and better tolerated that the older medications. In the 1980s Prozac was introduced for the treatment of depression, and in the ensuing decades this has grown to about 40 different SSRIs on the market.
Side Effects of ECT and SSRIs
Although clinical studies have shown ECT to be effective for treating severe depression, the treatment carries with it some serious side effects. ECT machines have been categorized as Class III (high risk) by the FDA since 1976. Because general anesthesia is required for ECT treatments, the risks associated with it must be considered. In addition, patients report memory loss and confusion following an ECT treatment session.
SSRIs are effective in treating the symptoms of MDD in only approximately 50% of patients. Whether or not relief of symptoms is achieved, a variety of unpleasant side effects accompany these medications. Most commonly reported are weight gain, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, and digestive issues.
TMS the Depression Treatment of Today… and the Future
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) represents the future of depression treatment. In over 60 clinical trials TMS has been shown to be both safe and effective in treating the stubborn symptoms of MDD in patients who are medication-resistant. These patients have typically tried 3-5 different SSRIs with no success, but TMS offers them hope.
TMS is a safe, noninvasive treatment that uses magnetic fields targeted to the prefrontal cortex, the mood center of the brain. The resulting electric currents zero in on the neuropathways that have been underactive—common in depression patients—and stimulates the cells. This process eventually helps to reset and rebalance brain chemistry, and patients report improvements in sleep, concentration, and mood over the 4-6 week span of TMS treatment sessions.
Because TMS requires no anesthesia, patients are not exposed to the risks associated with a general anesthesia. Instead, the patient is alert during the session and is able to return to their normal daily activities following the 20-minute therapy session. TMS offers promise for thousands of people who suffer from the crippling effects of depression, with few, if any, side effects.
Achieve TMS Centers: America’s largest dTMS Provider for Depression Treatment
Achieve TMS Centers is the premier provider of deep TMS for treating depression in the U.S. with several locations in Southern California, Oregon and Massachusetts. Deep TMS is shown to produce even better results in shorter treatment sessions than standard TMS. The magnetic pulses penetrate deeper into the brain, up to 6 cm, delivering the electrical currents to a larger region in the brain. For more information on dTMS, call us today at (877) 447-6503.