Depression sufferers who can't take medication can use new technology that improves symptoms

mental health-depression-anxiety
Posted at 9:13 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 17:46:58-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Depression is often treated with medication, but a new technological advancement provides new hope for those who can't take antidepressants.

"It's an FDA-approved treatment for depression. It was approved in 2008. And essentially, it was designed to help people, who didn't get better with antidepressants," explained Dr. Faizi Ahmed is a psychiatrist at Tampa Neuropsychiatry.

He's now performing TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation after new research discovered a person who suffers from depression has a brain that looks different than a normal brain.

"There is a decrease in frontal lobe activity and an increase in the deeper brain structures that generate emotion," Ahmed explained.

The technology stimulates that frontal lobe activity with an electromagnetic pulse.

"We get dysfunction of the neural circuits that regulate emotion. So with TMS, we're correcting that problem. We're normalizing those abnormal circuits," Ahmed said.

The schedule can be intensive, with 20-minute sessions, five days a week, for seven weeks in a row. But the treatment is working.

"If you go through the protocol and you have success, the depression is gone. In the next one year, there was about a 30% chance of the depression will come back. 70% chance it won't. Those are good numbers for us," Ahmed explained.

If you're concerned because it sounds invasive, bringing back old memories of "Shock Therapy," Ahmed says it's nothing like that.

In fact, most patients don't feel much at all.

"When you send the magnetic pulse, you're stimulating everything from the skin down to the brain. And the muscles of the scalp can contract. And so people feel that. They can feel some tingling, but you don't necessarily feel what's going on in the brain," he said.

More recently, clinical trials have studied TMS use for other psychiatric disorders, including PTSD, Autism, OCD, ADHD, Nicotine addiction, and anxiety with varying stimulation, depending on the disorder.

"These newer protocols are looking at delivering more pulses with less amplitude so that the strength of the pulse is less, but you're delivering more treatment," he explained.

Like training a muscle, over time, the inactive signals begin firing and reconnecting properly again and eventually, restoring the emotional control center in your brain.

Despite the research still being in its infancy, the new technology gives Ahmed a great deal of optimism.

"In my experience, I've been able to get people off of antidepressants, which you know is preferable," he added.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation costs anywhere from $4,000 - $8,000, depending on your insurance coverage.

Medicare and Medicaid cover it as well as other commercial insurance companies. Most will even pay for treatment again if there's a relapse of depression.

For more information on Dr. Faizi Ahmed and TMS, click here.