Depression is a disease that hurts the individual, the family, and the community. Suicides and violence are on the rise.
I had been suffering from depression for decades and underwent standard Freudian psychotherapy, including group therapy, for a number of years, without any resolution. Depths of depression were episodic, and I was otherwise able to live a functional life. One physician later put me on Zoloft (Sertraline), one of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin operates as a chemical messenger between nerve cells in the brain and influences moods, sleep and other functions. If serotonin is depleted in the brain, it may lead to depression. SSRIs diminish the depletion and can reduce depressive symptoms. So far, so good. But all drugs have so-called side effects (they are all direct effects, but these are ones we don’t like). My Zoloft side effects included what I called brain zaps, or feelings of little electric shocks in the brain. Another physician prescribed Paxil (Paroxetine), which I was on for over 10 years, with great results. After a while, the beneficial results began to diminish, something a friend of mine referred to as “Paxil poopout.” In my case, another side effect reared its ugly head. SSRIs reduce sodium levels in the blood, so much so that it damaged my kidneys by affecting anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) levels. That meant my kidneys began dumping sodium, to the extent that I must now take 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day to function normally.
I tried a number of other antidepressants, with other side effects, and marginal positive effects. Then in late 2016, my wife noticed an article in our local paper discussing Dr. Tarique Perera’s use of trans cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). I gave it a try and signed up for 7 weeks of treatment. Prior to, and after each weekly session, I filled out a questionnaire that examined any mood changes. At the end of the sessions, the questionnaire results showed a marked improvement, although I didn’t personally feel that way. However, a few weeks later, I went off all the antidepressants and have continued not missing them to this day. TMS appeared to have severed the link for good.
The treatment does not require any prior preparation or anesthesia. You sit in a comfortable chair, and the assistant places a flexible U-shaped band around your head. When the stimulus is begun, it starts at a low level and can be gradually increased in intensity, according to your taste. It produces an audible vibration or clicking as the magnetic waves pass through your brain, but no pain. The magnetic impulses stimulate areas of the brain that are less active in depressed patients, possibly working through neurotransmitters like serotonin. I was comfortable going quickly up to maximum intensity, looking for faster results, but that is a matter of personal preference. There are no side effects or after effects, and you can travel to and from the sessions without any problems.
The daily sessions range from 20-30 minutes, and, and generally run up to 6 weeks. Treatment cost is covered by Medicare and most health insurance plans.
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