Health

The Breakthrough Depression Treatment You’ve Been Waiting For Is Magnetic — Literally

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Got a stubborn case of the blues? Consider asking your doctor about a non-invasive treatment — transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) — which uses powerful magnets to reboot your mood! Not sure about the depression treatment just yet? No problem, we’ve got answers to all your questions right here!

What is transcranial magnetic stimulation?

The FDA-approved procedure uses low-frequency magnetic fields, similar to those used in an MRI, to reset brain chemistry and improve symptoms of depression.

“The magnetic pulse makes the underactive brain cells typical in depression fire thousands of times, which exercises them so that they learn to start firing on their own,” explains psychiatrist Todd Hutton, MD, medical director of the Southern California TMS Center in Pasadena, California.

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How does the transcranial magnetic stimulation device work?

Seated, you’re fitted with a helmet that contains a coil. During the treatment, you’ll feel repetitive tapping sensations (but no pain!) on your scalp as the targeted magnetic pulses are delivered. The 20- to 40-minute sessions occur five times per week for four to six weeks. After each session, you can immediately resume normal activities.

How successful is transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression?

One study, conducted at 22 medical centers, found that TMS therapy resulted in a total remission of symptoms for more than 32 percent of patients with chronic depression. Another study, involving 42 TMS clinics, found that 37 percent of patients experienced full remission, significantly reduced symptoms.

“People say, ‘You’ve given me my life back, and it’s back better than it’s ever been before,’” says psychiatrist Kimberly Cress, MD, founder of the Serenity TMS Center in Sugarland, Texas.

Does transcranial magnetic stimulation have any side effects?

Possible side effects are few and mild, including headache, scalp discomfort, and lightheadedness. “Because TMS precisely targets the brain, people don’t have to deal with the effects of anti-depression meds, such as sexual dysfunction,” says Dr. Cress.

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Is transcranial magnetic stimulation covered by insurance?

Many insurance companies now cover TMS fully or in part, including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, United Healthcare, and Tricare. Check with your provider.

Who are the best candidates for transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy?

If you’ve had ongoing bouts of the blues and no luck with antidepressants, the American Psychiatric Association suggests trying TMS. It’s also very effective for treating anxiety. In fact, a small University of California at Los Angeles study showed a 60 percent rate of remission for anxiety disorders.

This story originally appeared in the August 7, 2017 issue of Woman’s World magazine.

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