Treatment For Depression Offers Relief For Some
Every year roughly 7 percent of all U.S. adults experiences major depressive disorder. The main treatment for depression prescribed by psychiatrists is medication and counseling, but what are patients to do when they find that their medication doesn’t work? Martha Rhodes had been on just about every antidepressant in production since the age of 13, but she never found a permanent solution for her bouts of depression.
After a suicide attempt in 2009, Rhodes was able to undergo an experimental treatment approved specifically for patients who have not responded to antidepressants or cannot tolerate the side of effects of the medication. The treatment is called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, involving magnetic pulses being used to stimulate parts of the brain involved in mood regulation.
For Rhodes, the treatment worked wonders. The New York Times says she spent a half hour every day in a chair with a magnet attached to the front left side of her head. Four weeks later, she woke up suddenly “different.” In the book she has written since the event, “3,000 Pulses Later”, Rhodes described the experience saying, “I felt lighter. I didn’t wake up in the morning and wish I were dead.”
The catch on the treatment is that it has a success rate worse than many of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. The American Psychiatric Association’s practice guidelines say that TMS offers “relatively small to moderate benefits” while Dr. Steven J. Zalcman, head of the clinical neuroscience research branch of the National Institute of Mental Health said “While it’s fairly clear that TMS is effective in some percentage of patients with major depressive disorder, it’s still not very easy to know in advance who those patients are.”