Following a Long Family History of Mental Illness, Multiple Failed Medication Treatments, and The Recent Loss of His Beloved Brother, Is Anthony a Good Candidate For TMS?
Anthony tells us more about his background and his experiences with Depression:
“My family on my mother’s side has a history of mental illness that includes severe depression with hospitalizations and traumatic shock therapies, among other things. My Mother also experienced serious mental health issues. Looking back, we would now likely call it Bipolar Disorder. As I recall, she masked it every day with medication and alcohol. She used and abused these substances during her very restricted lifestyle and through the end of her life, so although she was never officially diagnosed, I certainly believe that she was addicted.
“Growing up, I was very close to my brother Rod, two years younger. He always just left my Mother alone when she stayed in bed all day in the dark. It’s as if Rod understood her, although we never talked about it except to say, “Mother’s not feeling well.” That meant finding our own food, getting ourselves to school and not mentioning it to Dad. Almost a year ago, at age thirty eight and with absolutely no forewarning, Rod committed suicide. I was, and still am, devastated.
“My own depression has now become this heavy, lost, immovable grief that haunts me even in my dreams. I feel as though I’m trapped in some deep, dark well, unable to make it to the surface. I’ve tried just about every depression med out there. Some work for a while, then soon stop working and I try another one. I think about Rod every single day (all day) and wonder if he’s happier. He must be.
“I want these dark feelings to be gone. My psychiatrist strongly urges me to try TMS. I’ve watched the videos and read the patient stories, but this voice inside me says, “Yeah, it worked for THEM, but not for me. I’m too far gone. Like Rod.”
Anthony’s Story Elicits Questions about TMS Treatment
I have many patients whose stories are different, but certainly as serious as Anthony’s complex family history and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
- How do we determine if a patient is qualified for, and may be a good candidate for TMS treatment?
- Is success with TMS somehow dependent upon the patients’ past experiences or genetics?
- Do their failed attempts at recovery through medications correlate in any way with TMS treatment success?
How Does TMS Work in the Brain?
Basically, TMS treatment stimulates neurons in the brain’s prefrontal cortex to restore normal function and lift the symptoms of depression.
- TMS Therapy precisely targets a key area of the brain thought to control mood. This area, called the prefrontal cortex, is known to be underactive in depression sufferers.
- TMS uses highly focused magnetic pulses to stimulate neurons in this area, causing them to become active and release neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the brain’s chemical messengers.
TMS therapy is a non-invasive, non-drug treatment that is effective with fewer, less serious side effects – if any.
Who is the Ideal TMS Candidate?
In short, it’s helpful if a patient BELIEVES that they will recover through TMS treatment, but that belief is not a criteria for treatment, nor for recovery. Your BELIEF in its effectiveness is NOT a criteria for success.
Next, we’ll discuss three simple guidelines we use to determine who is an Ideal TMS Patient.
- Major Depressive Disorder
To date, the U.S. FDA has cleared TMS only for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have MDD, it interferes with your daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you.
Clinical Depression is a common but serious illness. If you are suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, TMS may be the right option for you.
- Medication Resistance
Consider TMS therapy if you have failed to get satisfactory positive results after taking one or more courses of antidepressant medications at or above the commonly effective dose and duration. Resistance to the drug may be caused by several variables, most of which you cannot control. While TMS may work best on patients who are less resistant to medication, it also helps those who are having treatment resistant depression despite taking the correct medication.
If you have tried antidepressants and found that the side effects were so strong that they further complicated your functioning in daily life, then TMS may be an attractive option for you. Just a few of the many overwhelming side effects of antidepressants include:
- lack of sleep
- sleeping too much
- rapid weight loss or gain
- sexual dysfunction
TMS therapy does not work ‘systemically’ in the body, meaning that TMS is isolated to one region of the brain and does not circulate throughout your body (systemically) like drugs do. Thus, TMS patients do not have the inadvertent physical issues of antidepressant medications.
Although TMS is safe for patients at any age, it is generally accepted for patients who are 18 years of age and above.
Clinical research has been done to determine the effects of TMS Therapy on young adults and children. While the responses have been positive, it is still unknown what if any long-term effects there may be on a developing brain.
Ability to Follow Prescription Guidelines
If a patient takes antidepressants irregularly, it is quite likely to worsen the symptoms of depression. The patient often becomes inordinately moody, with increasing memory problems and other cognitive disorders.
In such situations, TMS is a good alternative to medication treatment. For TMS to be effective, it is essential that the patient be able to arrive regularly to appointed office visits to be administered TMS daily, usually at the same time each day.
TMS is considered to be a safe procedure and is generally agreeable with patients.
Do you have friends or family who have experienced emotional swings as a result of antidepressant medications? Do they know about TMS?