We want to believe in silver bullets when it comes to our health, but these simply don’t exist. This is very much true in the field of mental health, where medications routinely miss the mark, especially when it comes to depression.
In fact, this problem might be much larger than you would think — about 30% of people with depression don’t respond to medications and have what we call treatment-resistant (or refractory) depression.
Dr. Diana Ghelber and the team here at Institute for Advanced Psychiatry disagree with this assessment — we believe that what we call treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is, in fact, highly treatable. Just maybe not with medications, which is only one approach, after all.
At our practice, we’ve had a good deal of success treating depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Let’s take a look at how this innovative and drug-free therapy works.
When medications fail to make a dent in depression
For the past half century, the frontline treatment for depression has been antidepressants. These medications are designed to restore a healthier chemical balance in your brain that can sustain better mood regulation.
Antidepressants typically target serotonin, and sometimes norepinephrine, too. More specifically, they inhibit reuptake, leaving more of these neurotransmitters available in your brain.
In most cases, people need to take these medications for many weeks before they can have an impact and doctors often have to tweak the dosing to get the right amount. In other words, these medications don’t work overnight and some patience is required.
If, however, you go months without results, it likely means that these medications simply aren't working to create a healthier chemical balance in your brain and it’s time to explore other options.
Behind the success of TMS
With TMS, we take a different approach to improving brain function and mood regulation. Using specialized equipment, we target certain areas of your brain with magnetic impulses to stimulate neurons to form neural pathways. These impulses are quite harmless — they’re the same ones that are used when you have an MRI.
The region of your brain that we target is your prefrontal cortex, which houses the areas of your brain that regulate mood, among other things.
Not only can TMS work to influence neural activity in your brain in a positive way, you can avoid the side effects of antidepressant medications, such as constipation, dry mouth, and erectile dysfunction.
While we’ve had our own successes in helping patients with refractory depression using TMS, ongoing studies back up our findings. For example, one meta-analysis concluded that, “TMS is an innovative and promising treatment modality for patients with TRD.”
The bottom line is that most patients have everything to gain and nothing to lose in trying TMS to treat depression.
If you’d like to learn more about TMS and whether you’re a good candidate, please contact us at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry in Granbury or Fort Worth, Texas, to schedule a consultation.