To say that I have a keen interest in mental health research is an understatement, sometimes I think it borders on obsession. In particular, i’m interested in the various treatments available for anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Nothing is off-limits when it comes to reading material.
The standard treatment options such as, anti-depressants (SSRI) medication and talking therapy are well-known. You try the meds for a few months and wait to see improvement. The side effects can be brutal and vary depending on the person.
On that note, I recently let my brain wonder into a territory that was completely banned when I was experiencing depression. It’s not something that I write about often, because I consider anxiety to be my main condition. However, I know depression and it knows me very well. On the whole I’ve been lucky, experiencing only two intense episodes in seven years, both of which lasted two weeks. A short period in the grand scheme of things, but they left a scar and even now I still fear the return of the dark cloud. “What if this doesn’t work?” The question I never allowed myself to ask. What if you take the medication and do the talking and you still feel depressed to the extent that you can’t function? What else is there?
So, when a clinic called ‘Smart TMS‘ got in touch, and explained that they offered a treatment called TMS, for depression, I was intrigued. Even more by their slogan “mending minds.” Was this too bold a claim? Or were they really that confident?
When I first read about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, I was nervous. Years of horror stories associated with ECT sprang to mind. But to clarify, unlike ECT, this treatment is completely non invasive.
What is TMS?
A highly concentrated magnetic charge, produced by a treatment coil, applied to the head, which turns on and off very rapidly. These magnetic fields are the same as those produced by an MRI scan. The treatment coil is applied to the area of the brain most associated with depression, (the left frontal cortex). Unlike ECT, it only reaches between 2 – 3 centimetres into the brain. So in other words, you’re not zombified for an hour after the treatment is finished.
The Claire Explanation
They put this device on your head and position it next to the part of your brain that’s associated with low mood. Then a wave of magnetic energy is pumped into the brain in short spurts. The aim of this current is to increase activity in the brain, activity that’s associated with good mood and positivity. Basically, there isn’t enough going on in the left frontal cortex, and TMS wakes it up.
To be clear, I haven’t trialled this treatment myself, as I don’t currently have depression. But I was impressed by it’s potential:
“Stimulation of the pre-frontal cortex by rTMS in depressed patients can lead to complete remission from depression with patients reporting that they feel much more positive, sociable and motivated.”
To read the word ‘remission’ used in the same sentence as mental illness blew me away. It’s not something that enough people even consider.
What you need to know
- It is recommended that a patient try conventional treatment methods, such as medication and therapy, before considering TMS.
- TMS has been approved by NICE (2015) and is considered an effective and safe treatment.
- The success rate of TMS is a whopping 60%, which for mental health is incredible.
- The majority of patients do not experience any significant side effects. There is a risk of a seizure, however, the rate of seizures is less than 1 in 30,000 sessions, which is less than the risk of a seizure with many antidepressants. To minimise this risk, patients are screened prior to the treatment.
- The normal protocol is a 40 minute session per day, 5 times a week for 2-6 weeks.
- The cost is £1,000 a week, so as with many therapies, it’s an investment and not something that should be taken lightly. Patients typically require 20 – 30 sessions. (4 – 6 weeks).
- Is it available on the NHS? NO! Of course not.
“I have been on and off medication for about 25 years now, but in the short space of a month TMS has given me back something immeasurable.” – This particular testimonial made me cry.
Smart TMS have clinics in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Northampton and Ireland.
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