New Magnetic Stimulation Treatment May Help Curb Depression

(MADISON, AL) - Amanda Moore has suffered from depression for most of her life. She’d tried more than half a dozen anti-depressant medications, but nothing eased her symptoms. She describes the same symptoms millions of Americans are dealing with every day: sadness, tearfulness, a heavy feeling, and not wanting to get out of bed.

Moore says, “If you can imagine the feeling of, ‘I’ve tried everything and nothing has worked. What is left for me to do? Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?’”

This past year was a particularly rough year, with a number of unexpected deaths in her family. A therapist recommended a new treatment called TMS therapy, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

Charles Hayden, a psychiatrist at Asbury Child and Family Counseling Center in Madison describes TMS as, “using a very strong magnet to wake up the front part of the brain that is dysfunctional in patients that have depression.”

The pulsed magnetic field is similar to an MRI. The targeted electrical currents cause brain cells, called neurons, to become active, leading to the release of neurotransmitters. The increased brain activity is believed to relieve depression symptoms.

Patients and doctors say the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

According to Dr. Hayden, “We’re having more than half the patients going into remission, meaning they are all the way better. Close to 90% responding in some way, and these are patients who have been unresponsive to medications.”

That is significant considering about one in ten Americans over the age of 12 takes antidepressant medication, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. These medications don’t work for everyone and can have a variety of side effects.

With TMS therapy, Dr. Hayden says there are few side effects besides an occasional headache and a very rare chance of a seizure. There are fewer side effects than medications, since this is targeted and doesn’t go through your whole body.

Hayden says, “It’s been really exciting to see patients that this has made a huge difference in the quality of their life. They are now telling me they haven’t felt like this in 20 years.”

Studies show the results last. Patients who went into remission were still better a year later.

The FDA approved TMS therapy about five years ago for patients who had not responded to anti-depressants first. Each treatment lasts a little under 40 minutes and can be done on a lunch hour.

Moore started her first treatment in April. She felt better after just five treatments.

Moore says, “There’s a huge difference between getting up every day and going through the motions versus getting up and actually living and experiencing life.”

After 30 treatments, she’s off all medications and feeling better than ever.

There are only three places in north Alabama offering TMS therapy. They’re in Madison, Decatur, and Florence. There are just under 500 offices offering TMS across the country. Nationally, 30 treatments will cost you 9 to 12 thousand dollars, although many insurance companies are now covering this treatment.