Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Making matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, with one-third of the population in the United States showing signs of clinical anxiety and/or depression.

Understanding the significant impact that depression can have on your life and on the lives of those around you, the team here at BrainStim Centers offers a non-invasive, drug-free approach to treating depression using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Here’s a look at how TMS is helping our patients lead happy and productive lives.

A closer look at depression
Major depression is one of the most common mood disorders, and it can affect people to varying degrees. Some experience only mild symptoms, while others are trapped in seemingly endless cycles of depression, which is called a recurrent depressive disorder.

While everyone experiences sadness from time to time, depression is entirely different as the neural activity and chemical imbalances in certain areas of the brain, namely the amygdala, thalamus, and hippocampus, make it difficult to regulate mood. Many feel the following signs of depression:

  • Hopeless
  • Helpless
  • Disinterested
  • Lethargic
  • Self-loathing
  • Guilty

Depression can also affect your appetite and sleep and is often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as body aches, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset.

Traditionally, depression is treated using pharmapsychology, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), with mixed success. Many find the side effects of medications or ECT to be too cumbersome, not to mention that finding the right combination of therapies can be difficult and time-consuming.

Frustratingly, the more combinations of medications you try, the less likely you’ll respond.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to explore TMS, which has garnered impressive results among those with major depression and treatment-resistant depression.

How TMS works
Depression starts in the areas of your brain that regulate a person’s mood. While this statement may seem simple enough, depression is incredibly complex. To begin with, you may have an imbalance in brain chemicals that creates a malfunction in your ability to regulate your moods, leaving certain areas of your brain underactive or inactive. Depression is also tied to genetics, trauma, stress, certain medications, and medical issues.

To get to the bottom of your depression, we start with an MRI to get a closer look at the inner workings of your brain, which we upload into our state-of-the-art Nexstim SmartFocus®. The SmartFocus technology then creates a 3D map of your brain, which allows us to identify underactive areas.

From there, we know where to target the magnetic stimulation, which we deliver through a device that we place over your head. This stimulation is designed to reactivate the dormant areas in your brain, which are typically located in your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, creating new neural connections that better control your moods.

Your TMS timeline depends on the severity of your symptoms and how well you respond to the therapy, but you should count on five sessions a week for several weeks to start. The sessions themselves generally last less than an hour and there’s no downtime afterward.

As far as efficacy, studies show that TMS therapy greatly improves the symptoms of depression so much so that our patients begin to live healthy, happy, and productive lives again.

If you want to explore how you can break free of your depression with TMS therapy, contact one of our two offices in Encino or Valencia, California at 310-895-7122 or email us at info@brainstimcenters.com.

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