In 2003, researchers began to notice a frightening correlation between antidepressant usage and suicidal ideation. Further investigation revealed that there was indeed a correlation and it was concluded that while antidepressants did relieve most symptoms of depression such as excessive sleepiness, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, lethargy, and lack of concentration, most depression medications did not remove suicidal thoughts and ideation. Coupled with the antidepressant's benefits of more energy, these individuals are more mobile and functional, and this can sometimes lead to higher rates of suicides.
As these insights have been brought to light, the scientific community has sought better long-term treatments for depression. One of the most promising treatments is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS. Approved by the FDA for the first time in 2008, TMS has become more and more popular as a treatment of depression, especially anti-depressant resistant depression, and clinical studies are showing promising results for other mental illnesses such as anxiety, PTSD, and even OCD.
How TMS Works
Most antidepressants work by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Unfortunately this acts as a bandaid, covering up the problem, but not actually fixing it. TMS, however, trains the neurons to fire more, teaching them to increase activity and neurotransmitter levels on their own. Instead of acting as a crutch for less active areas of the brain, TMS helps those parts become more active again so they can function properly on their own.
During treatment, a magnetic coil is placed over a specific, mapped-out part of the brain, and as an electrical current travels through the coil, it creates a highly focused magnetic field at the determined location in the brain. This magnetic field causes those neurons to fire. When done properly, this repetitive firing of the neurons essentially teaches them to be more active on their own. Just as a piano student will practice playing a song for 15 minutes a day until their fingers just "learn" how to play the song, the neurons eventually learn how to function and fire properly. After several weeks of TMS treatment, the neurons have developed proper activity and functionality. By going straight to the source of the problem, we're able to fix the root cause, instead of just trying to treat symptoms.
Not only is it very effective, but TMS has only minor, temporary and easily avoidable side effects. On the other hand, medications tend to have systemic effects on the entire body, leading to various undesirable side effects. Antidepressants and medications still play an important role in the healing process. They still save lives and help countless individuals avoid unnecessary pain. That being said, it is important to see them as a temporary solution as the root of the problem is addressed and resolved.
During this season of giving, give the gift of knowledge to someone. Share this post with someone you know who is struggling with depression whether directly or indirectly. We're extremely excited about this new technology and know that it will bless the lives of thousands of people. Don't know someone in particular? Share this post to Facebook or other social media and it's bound to reach the person who needs it.
To read more about TMS therapy, visit our informational page.
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Anti Depressants and Suicide Risk in Depression
Antidepressants Triggering Suicidal Ideation: An Area of Concern
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Depression