Living With Treatment-Resistant Depression? This Treatment Could Finally Work

By: Barry Jones, M.D.

Have you been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder? If so, you’re not alone. If first-line treatments like medication and therapy haven’t worked for you, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) may be able to help. This safe and effective therapy has been proven to relieve symptoms in people with treatment-resistant depression.

How Common is Depression?

It is widely accepted that depression is one of the most common mental disorders and a leading cause of disability in the world. According to the World Health Organization, this mental disorder affects over 300 million people worldwide and is on the rise. Individuals of all ages experience moments or days of feeling down, sad, fearful, overwhelmed, or unmotivated to engage in activities that at one time brought joy and excitement.

Struggling with depression? Our providers can help.

Everyone experiences these feelings and they normally pass in time. However, in a clinically depressed person, they persist for an extended period of time. Depression symptoms last for at least two weeks but can persist for months or even years. Furthermore, a person cannot complete everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, and working. In severe cases, people with depression may have thoughts of suicide.

What Causes Depression?

The causes of depression are vast and vary from person to person. It is well established through scientific research and clinical trials that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors play a role in depression. People who have experienced difficult and traumatic life events, have serious illnesses, or take medications with side effects that contribute to depressive symptoms are more likely to develop depression.

Types of Depression and Treatment Options

Depending upon the symptoms and how long the symptoms last, a person may be diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe depression. The good news is that there are effective treatments for all forms of depression. Many people find relief from their symptoms of depression through widely accepted treatments by antidepressants or psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

Sometimes, though, medication is not enough.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in 2017 there were 17.3 million adults who experienced an episode of major depression in the United States. For those suffering a major depressive disorder (MDD), traditional treatments such as antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can help to relieve and place the depressive symptoms into remission.

But studies have shown that one-third of these Americans (5.5 million) do not respond to the standard medications and require alternative treatment options to allow them to return to a life they once enjoyed. One such alternative is an effective treatment known as repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), and it may be right for you.

What is rTMS?

rTMS is a noninvasive form of brain stimulation that uses a small magnetic coil placed over the patient’s scalp to apply short, rapidly changing magnetic field pulses to the brain’s specific region known to be involved in depression. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration approved rTMS as a safe and effective treatment option for adult patients with MDD whose symptoms were not reduced or placed in remission by antidepressant medication.

rTMS therapy sessions are outpatient procedures that usually last 20 to 30 minutes and do not require anesthesia. They are also usually covered by insurance. Although each patient’s rate of recovery varies, the sessions occur five days a week for several weeks.

Does rTMS Really Work?

rTMS is one of the most effective treatment options for people with treatment-resistant depression. Recent studies show that existing forms of rTMS relieve depressive symptoms in almost 70 percent of patients with a remission rate of up to 38 percent.

These studies are a breakthrough in the treatment of treatment-resident depression, and lead the way for further studies to find alternative, effective treatments of other forms of depression.

Results at LifeStance

I have provided rTMS treatments for over 500 patients. Sixty-eight percent have demonstrated at least 50% improvement, and 38% have reported that they have no residual depressive symptoms. These benefits from rTMS therapy have lasted for at least two years.

No, rTMS therapy does not cure depression, but it can certainly improve mood, quality of life, and restore relationships for the patient.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.