Health Cast: New Treatment for Depression

It may simple for you, but smiling has been almost impossible for Kathryn Brokaw as her battle with depression made her life a constant nightmare.

"Crying a lot, suicide attempts, hospitalizations, medication after medication after medication after medication that didn't seem to help," Brokaw said.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is doing for Brokaw what nothing else has — allow her to smile.

"It's the best thing that's happened since sliced bread," Brokaw said.

TMS turns magnetic waves into mild electrical current, stimulating inactive areas in the brains of people with depression. 

"So instead of applying electricity to the whole brain, or whole body, we can target it to the area that controls mood," said Dr. Glenn Currier, a psychiatry professor at the University of South Florida.

According to Currier, TMS is an option for people who aren't helped by medication. He said it works for around seven out of 10 patients. Some may relapse, but others can see life-changing results. Some patients have to take antidepressants or do another TMS treatment within the first year, but many don't need any more treatment.

It's not a one-time solution. TMS is usually administered about 40 minutes a day, five days a week for six weeks. But Currier said it's one of the safest and most well-tolerated treatments for depression.

"If it gets to the point where you can't function and it's really getting in the way of your day to day life, we tell people you do not need to walk the world in that state, there are alternatives to that," Currier said.

And for Brokaw, that alternative is TMS.

"I can enjoy things and I can actually say that I am happy," Brokaw said.

TMS is also being studied to treat OCD, migraines and post-traumatic stress for veterans.


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