HOW TMS WORKS
U.S. Adults are Depressed
People Worldwide are Depressed
U.S. Depressed People Commit Suicide each Year
What is depression?
AN OVERVIEW OF DEPRESSION—Before learning more about TMS, I want to illustrate the severity of clinical depression in the United States. 1 in 4 women (& 1 in 8 men) will experience an episode of major depression during their lifetime.
Think about that. Let’s put it in perspective. This means if you were to see 4 random women in a day, hypothetically, one of them will suffer from an episode of Depression in their lifetime.
Depression is a lot more widespread than we think. Many people suffering from Depression live with it for YEARS. Many never find a cure.
Some of the reasons: they don’t recognize they are depressed so never seek treatment. Others DO recognize they are depressed, they seek treatment, but are undertreated or misdiagnosed (maybe with an anxiety disorder) by their doctor. Some people are too apprehensive about seeking help.
At any one time, 7% of US adults (16 million people!) are battling Depression. This next statistic is staggering. If you have depression, you have a 30% chance of attempting suicide. Each year in the US, Depression will cause 25,000 COMPLETED suicides. Suicide is in the top ten leading causes of death in the US.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
As you can see, Depression is a dark picture to paint. The symptoms include at least five of the following symptoms present for at least two weeks:
Loss of joy and Desire for pleasurable things
Sleep and Appetite disruption
Negativity & Suicidal thoughts
greatly impair functional areas of your life at home, at work and in social activities. For example:
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
The frequency of depression can vary greatly from individual to individual—it may only be a one-time episode, or happen as repeating episodes, or it may be a chronic, never-ending episode of depression.
There are four categorical causes of depression:
First, you may have inherited a genetic predisposition for depression where it occurs in places of your family tree, like your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and/or siblings
Second, depression could be triggered by very high levels of stress in your environment, such as being laid off and your finances are in ruin
Third, you may have maladaptive coping skills where you habitually make bad decisions, such as choosing romances which make your life miserable
Fourth, medical problems may cause depression, such as thyroid disease causing a “hormonal” depression, or the stress of chronic daily pain from a back injury causing disability and therefore depression.
Where in the Brain Depression Occurs
Next, I want to give some context on what depression looks like in the brain from a neurological perspective. Depression occurs in the prefrontal cortex (upper left hand side of your brain). More specifically, it occurs in the mood circuit – the part of the brain that regulates (you guessed it) your mood.
So what exactly happens?
When depression occurs – either from elevated environmental stress, bad genes, poor coping skills, bad life decisions, or medical conditions that cause depression – the mood circuit of the brain becomes underactive. It falls asleep. In other words, some of the neurons (a.k.a brain cells) located in the mood circuit give off below average neurochemicals (dopamine, norepinephrine & serotonin) – the chemicals most commonly associated with happiness.
So what exactly is the purpose of TMS & antidepressant medication?
antidepressant medication & TMS
The key difference between antidepressant medication & TMS is that one uses chemical stimulation & the other uses electromagnetic stimulation, respectively. Before diving further into that difference, I want to explain why TMS is such an exciting clinical breakthrough for depression.
Why is TMS such an exciting clinical breakthrough for depression?
TMS is an FDA-approved treatment catered to those experiencing episodes of depression that haven’t had a satisfying response to medication or who suffer from unbearable side effects TMS, a relatively new treatment, offers several unique advantages over medication.
Firstly, TMS is an intervention that uses electro-magnetic stimulation rather than chemical stimulation of brain cells. Which means…
Secondly, TMS has little to no side effects at all when compared to drug therapy.
Thirdly, unlike antidepressants, TMS has unprecedented accuracy when targeting depression because it targets only the area of the brain where depression occurs.
Let’s look closer
First, let me explain how antidepressants work. Antidepressant medications provide chemical stimulation to wake up the mood circuit. The mood circuit is a tiny area in your brain that is difficult to specifically target through chemical stimulation.
Why? antidepressants don’t know ‘what’ to target per se, but rather, they are absorbed through your gut and carried everywhere by your bloodstream and distributed all throughout your body – from head to toe – and hopefully they reach & treat the relatively tiny mood circuit in your brain (where depression resides). Your blood vessels feed your entire body – meaning that the chemicals absorbed go to all parts of your body & can potentially cause side effects on virtually every organ system in the body.
For instance, too much serotonin in the gut causes nausea and loose stools. Too much in the spinal cord causes sexual side effects. Too much norepinephrine and dopamine can elevate blood pressure and heart rate. Antidepressants are not as accurate at treating depression as TMS Therapy. For this reason, antidepressants cause more side effects.
Other common side effects of antidepressants include:
Due to the side effects…
…caused by these antidepressants, sometimes, “the cure is worse than the disease.” As you can see, this internal, widespread antidepressant distribution makes it extremely difficult to target the depression effectively & side-effect free.
This is important to understand because it illustrates the little control we have over where the antidepressants are distributed. While antidepressants may work wonders for some, others are left with subpar results and unbearable, negative side effects.
Comparatively, TMS provides
An electromagnetic stimulation to ‘wake’ up the mood circuit. Unlike antidepressants, TMS has the technology to accurately & efficiently target the mood circuit with minimal side effects (slight head discomfort that dissipates within a week of treatment).
Aren’t the only form of defense against the debilitating Major Depression disease. If you have tried antidepressants and have had unsatisfactory results, seriously consider TMS.