Depression is one of the most common conditions suffered by Australians, with an estimated one million people dealing with it each year. The treatment process can be difficult for those who have been battling the illness long term. Many people who have tried medications and experience no improved symptoms or adverse reactions may not be aware that other therapies are available in Australia. This new non-invasive approach is known as transcranial magnetic stimulation. This drug-free method of treating depression is effective, scientifically proven, safe and TGA approved.
It is a non-invasive procedure that improves the symptoms of depression through the use of magnetic fields that stimulate nerve cells. It is particularly effective for people who have experienced little or no success with common treatments e.g., medication, psycho-therapy. It is a relatively pain-free procedure that is drug-free and offers fewer side effects to the alternatives.
During the therapy session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against the patient’s scalp near the forehead. A magnetic pulse is then painlessly delivered into the part of the brain that is responsible for mood control. The biology of TMS (or rTMS) is not yet completely understood by scientists, but its results have been well documented. The indications are that it stimulates that area of the brain, improving the mood of the patient and reducing the symptoms. It provides a similar result to ECT (electroconvulsive shock therapy) but without the hassle of going to hospital, the stress of anaesthetic and impact of side effects.
For some people, standard treatments are not effective. In many cases, medications and psychotherapy (speaking with counsellors and other professionals) simply don’t work. That’s when it is often a good idea to try something new.
Typically, a good time to consider this is when two or more anti-depressants have failed to reduce the symptoms or if side effects are so significant they become intolerable.
There are many benefits in choosing TMS as a treatment for depression, beginning with the fact that it is drug-free and non-invasive. Many people are concerned about the side effects of consuming anti-depressant medications and for good reason. Anti-depressants can have a number of documented side effects on the human body, ranging from nausea and weight gain through to insomnia and loss of sexual desire. TMS has been used on patients for more than three decades and there have been no long-term risks associated with the procedure.
Another benefit is that is a very easy process, with patients staying awake and alert throughout. You can have a cup of tea, listen to some relaxing music and read a magazine while it is being performed.
And of course, the greatest benefit is that it works. Patients report a great improvement in their symptoms, even when other treatments have failed. The improvement is not limited to the period when the treatment is being carried out – generally between four and eight weeks – but also continues well afterwards. A number of studies have shown that this treatment method has significant long-term effects for patients.
Channel 10’s Studio 10 discussed Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a treatment option for those with ongoing depression. This segment also features Sydney TMS founder, Dr Jason Pace.