TMS: AN ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

Depression is a common medical illness that negatively effects how you feel, changes the way you think, and can influence the way you act. Its severity ranges from mild to life threatening. It is estimated that one in 15 adults (6.7%) suffers from a form of depression and that one in six (16.6%) will experience depression at some point in their lives. It is a serious matter that if left unattended, can create highly-undesirable consequences for the individual and their loved ones.

However, there are plenty of potential treatments for depression which may help mitigate its negative effects. These treatment options range from holistic and natural depression treatments, to alternative depression treatments (options that may not be as common), to the mainstream options.

Holistic Alternatives to Antidepressants

While you may question the direct contribution to helping treat depression, there’s no arguing that some of the options for “treatments” in this section can do no harm (and can only help). Furthermore, holistic treatments can even help the prevention of (the worsening) of depression and even help reduce the symptoms of depression. These holistic treatments for depression include exercise, sleep, healthy diet, and mindfulness and yoga.

Exercising

Exercising is an all-natural treatment for fighting depression. It kickstarts a biological cascade of events with a host of health benefits and releases the body’s natural chemical called endorphins which makes your feel good. The trick is to get started and stay consistent – you’re better off exercising consistently every day for short periods of time (for example, go for a light 10-20 minute walk each day) than beating up your body to exhaustion once a month. Whether you have depression or not, exercising is a no-brainer.

Sleeping

Much like exercising, sleep is also one of the simplest and most cost-effective methods of staving off depression. Too many folks simply aren’t getting sufficient good quality sleep (adults should aim for 7+ hours per night). Not only has sleep deficiency been linked to a higher risk for certain diseases and medical conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, it has also been linked to poor mental health. As such, sleep is of paramount importance to helping contain depression.

Healthy Eating

Eating healthy as a lifestyle choice is another must-do because it can only help with depression and can’t hurt. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy foods, and lean meats, poultry, and fish can go a long way toward not just lowering your risk of physical health problems but can also benefit your mental wellness. “A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.” In a nutshell, to help get a handle on depression, be sure to get your diet in line.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mental state you can aim to achieve by focusing your awareness on solely the present moment and setting aside everything else. In this moment, you will attempt to calmly acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, accepting yourself as you are – without judgement. You are to give yourself kindness and compassion. This is easier said than done as many of us will find ourselves swamped with (negative) thoughts and emotions. But just like how you train muscles, you can also help train your mind to perhaps find peace. Of course, just like anything else, if you find this causing you more grief, you may benefit from consulting with a professional.

Yoga

And sitting somewhere between exercising and mindfulness is yoga as a potential holistic approach to treating depression. A growing number of studies indicate that yoga may be a beneficial treatment for mental health issues including depression. By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems and help people manage the symptoms. It is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving your health – both physical and mental and may be worth looking into as something to aid you in your battle with depression.

Natural Depression Treatments

Depending on who you are and your condition, you may consider some natural forms of depression remedies that may help your mood disorder. Studies have shown that specific vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other compounds may be particularly effective at improving depressive symptoms. These include but are not limited to Omega-3, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), St. John’s Wort, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), DHEA, among others. You can find many of these herbs and supplements in pill form.

Omega-3 Fatty-Acids

While there are mixed results with exactly how effective Omega-3, an essential oil, may be in directly alleviating depression symptoms, the upsides to taking it outweighs the downside. Per this mood disorder article by Harvard Medical School, “omega-3s can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain [and they] also have anti-inflammatory actions that may help relieve depression.”

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)

SAM-e is a compound found naturally in the body and it helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes. The way SAM-e may help with depression is through helping increase a chemical in the brain called serotonin and there’s a popular conjecture that low serotonin and depression are correlated. However, a word of caution: since some medications used for depression also increase serotonin, it is ill-advised to use SAM-e and prescription antidepressants together.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is a type of plant that grows in the wild and has been used for centuries to help treat mental health conditions. There have been conflicting studies on the efficacy of using St. John’s Wort as a supplement to help address depression – some has shown success in helping treat mild depression while others seem to point to it being no more effective than placebos. And just like SAM-e, it is not advisable to take St. John’s Worts with certain antidepressants as doing so may lead to a potentially life-threatening increase in your body’s levels of serotonin.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan and it is also produced from the seeds Griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant. It’s been demonstrated to increase the synthesis of serotonin (which some believe can help treat those suffering from depression which is directly linked to low levels of serotonin). However, one study concluded that 5-HTP shouldn’t be given by itself because it’s not very effective. Instead, 5-HTP should be given with dopamine or serotonin amino acid precursors in order to minimize side effects, prevent neurotransmitter depletion, and improve on its efficacy.

Other Depression Supplements

There are several other supplements and herbs that may be beneficial to helping remedy depression such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), Saffron, Vitamin D, Rhodiola, B vitamins, and Zinc. Unfortunately, conclusive research is lacking and the benefits touted by many of these natural depression treatments are oftentimes more anecdotal than rooted in deep research. However, considering how some of these supplements may have other benefits (outside the realm of depression), they may be worth considering – it is a matter of limited downside with the potential for a nontrivial upside.

Unconventional Means for Depression Relief

If you do some research online, you’ll come across anecdotal stories various folks may have had with non-mainstream methods of treating their depressions – these stories are met with both disbelief but also with hope. The three that seem most common in this category are acupuncture, reflexology, and hypnotherapy.

Acupuncture for Treating Depression

Acupuncture is popularized by traditional chinese medicine and has become widely accepted as a treatment for aches and pains. It involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. It has now made its way into Western medicine and has been touted by some as a potential method of depression relief. However, very few rigorous or reliable studies have truly verified the actual benefits of this form of treatment. While studies’ results have been unclear, some studies have shown potential mental wellness benefits and potential relief for various depression ailments.

Reflexology as an Alternative Depression Treatment

Reflexology is similar to acupuncture in that they both theorize an influence on the body’s vital energy through the stimulation of points on the body. Reflexology focuses on reflex maps of points and areas of the body in the feet, hands, and ears using unique micromovement techniques, such as thumb or finger walking, with the goal of creating a response throughout the body. Believers of reflexology contends that there are pressure points along the hand and feet that, when properly stimulated via reflexology treatment, may relieve symptoms of depression.

Hypnotherapy for Depression Relief

Hypnotherapy is a type of therapy that puts people into a trance-like state where they are conscious and aware but are very relaxed. During this state, patients feel comfortable enough to discuss their circumstances with less obstructive inhibitions and they are more receptive to suggestions. Proponents of this unconventional method of treating depression argue that, “Depression often has a cause, and when the cause is found and released and transformed, the depression lifts. Hypnosis uses the ability of the brain to create new neural pathways and connect to the new experiences, imagined vividly in hypnosis. We ask the person to go back to a time when they felt the same emotions while in a trance.”

Premier Alternative Depression Treatment That’s Becoming Mainstream

Perhaps the most notable depression treatment that’s gained popularity is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). It is also known as rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and is an alternative treatment for depression and anxiety. It is not to be confused with Electric shock treatment or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT uses an electric current and is usually administered in a hospital setting and can cause various nasty serious side effects such as memory loss. TMS, on the other hand, is a non-invasive therapy and is generally administered in a doctor’s office or out-patient setting and commonly has no side effects.

TMS therapy is one of the few depression treatments without medications or drugs. Cleared for use by the FDA in October 2008, TMS is a non-invasive, non-systemic treatment that utilizes MRI strength magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain known to be underactive in depression.

TMS is a powerfully effective and safe depression treatment without medication for all types of depression. TMS is non-systemic (not through the whole body like medication) and non-invasive (not entering the body). It is non-invasive and requires no medications (which helps patients avoid nasty side-effects they tend to experience with antidepressants and other depression medication). As a result, patients’ lives continue as normal during treatment.

Administered in our depression centers without anesthesia, rTMS treatments last about 30 minutes and are typically given five days a week for six to eight weeks. Side effects are minimal and usually only involve discomfort at the site of treatment. Patients are able to work, go to school, or continue any of their daily activities.

TMS treatment is an FDA approved, outpatient procedure performed in our TMS depression treatment centers or clinics and is covered by many insurances as it gets wider adoption and acceptance.

TMS is a unique platform for delivering energy to the brain and stimulating various specific anatomical locations. TMS magnets can be placed over different brain regions, and pulse sequences can be designed to be either excitatory or inhibitory. This allows for a vast potential of other conditions that could be treated, and research is being pursued on many fronts. These are all considered to be off-label uses for TMS currently.

OCD

Status: FDA Approved

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is known to live in a deeper part of the brain that is not treated with currently available TMS magnets. Research is being done on magnets specifically designed to reach the OCD regions of the brain, the Orbital Frontal Cortex and the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Current technology allows us to reach a region of the brain that connects to these areas that has shown modest clinical benefit.

PTSD

Status: Clinical Trials

There are many studies that show efficacy of the use of TMS in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. VA medical centers have been one of the leaders of research in this area. TMS is known to reduce anxiety symptoms in patients with depression, and has efficacy in the anxiety symptoms of PTSD as well. We can also use special protocols to enhance the treatment of various anxiety symptoms.

CHRONIC PAIN

Status: Clinical Trials
Use in clinical practice at SoCal TMS has shown positive results.

Chronic pain has aspects that are both physical and mental, and it comes in many forms. Sometimes when somatic approaches have failed, a top down approach that attacks the brain’s perception of pain can be useful. Of course depression is highly co-morbid with pain, treating mood areas with TMS also seems to affect the pain threshold. In one study, a single TMS treatment was given post-operatively to patients while they were in the recovery room, and TMS treated patients used 50% less self administered pain medicine than those given a sham treatment.

We also use TMS targeted at pain pathways themselves in the motor and sensory cortex of the brain. This technique has been very useful in treating phantom limb pain where there is no bodily target to treat. We have also had great success treating Fibromyalgia, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS, also known as RSD) and other types of neuropathic pain.

BIPOLAR DISORDER

Status: Clinical Trials
Use in clinical practice at SoCal TMS has shown positive results.

Beyond Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder is an obvious target for TMS treatment. We use the same treatment protocols targeting the Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex in treating the depressed phase of Bipolar Disorder and have had excellent clinical success with many patients. Insurance coverage is currently lacking however as the strict FDA indication for TMS is Major Depression. TMS can cause a switch into mania in Bipolar Disorder, just as with antidepressants.

There are several protocols being investigated for treatment of the manic phase of Bipolar Disorder, but consensus is lacking on what the optimum treatment is.

TMS IS THE NEWEST ANTIDEPRESSANT FOR TREATING MAJOR DEPRESSION THAT’S NOT A PILL

If you are like our other patients in Los Angeles County or Orange County, you or someone you know is suffering from major depression disorder (MDD) and are looking for treatment. You probably have already tried all sorts of antidepressant drugs such as Rexulti, Trintellix, Vraylar, Abilify, and Cymbalta. You may have even attempted a list of natural antidepressants such as SAM-e, St John’s Wort, or 5-HTP. Perhaps you have even tried holistic and natural depression therapy touted by some such as acupuncture, specific diets, exercising, getting sunlight, and talking to therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrist to help you overcome depression. You may have become even desperate enough to try invasive, painful, and costly surgeries that leave you bedridden or even contemplated using electroshock therapy (ECT) to heal your depression. Well don’t lose hope, because we are an Internationally Recognized TMS Treatment Provider in Los Angeles County.

But nothing seems to be working… These depression cures you’ve tried leave you feeling plagued by miserable side effects such as weight gain, headaches, massive and uncontrollable mood swings. Or perhaps they simply don’t work and leave you feeling down and hopeless. We are here to tell you that you are not alone and we are here to help. Check out any of our service areas below to try a TMS Treatment Center in Los Angeles and Orange County.

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