Depression, when accompanied by anxiety, can be fatal. Young adults and middle-aged people are more prone to depressive episodes in one or other situations. This has become more frequent in developing countries with economic and social issues that trigger such stressful episodes. However, with breakthrough treatment studies in rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), experts are suggesting a long-term treatment for clinical depression and anxiety issues. The rTMS treatment is considered to be the latest in the field of brain stimulation technologies to treat mental and emotional imbalances in the brain and body.
Chronic depression is one of the most dangerous mental disorders in the world right now with more than 350 million people diagnosed with clinical depression, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2015. That’s up to 3.8% of the total world population. Women are twice as likely to acquire depression and anxiety issues due to their biological, emotional, social, and economic dependencies and limitations. In recent years, alarmingly, the rate of depression cases has drastically risen among teenagers and young adults, mostly due to the prevailing global health and economic crisis.
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” – Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
Coming back to the rTMS treatment for depression treatment, let’s see how it works…
What is rTMS?
Stimulation of the brain nerves through electrical waves has been tried and experimented of humans for treating disorders. Many tests have been conducted in the past decade to understand and deal with memory issues and weakened cognitive abilities. Particularly, for Alzheimer’s and Dementia, such treatments are conducted.
But no such treatment has been surfaced for treating depression and anxiety issues as they are normally considered as more emotional issues than mental. Clearly, the evidence is contrary to this general belief and now through rTMS, depression can be cured for good.
How does rTMS work?
Before suggesting the rTMS treatment to a patient, the doctor would conduct MRIs and other tests to ensure which part of the brain needs treatment. Normally, the depression-controlling parts of the brain are the amygdala, hippocampus, and dorsomedial thalamus. If any abnormality in the external structure or internal functioning of these areas occurs, then a patient may feel mood swings, hormonal imbalances, bouts of anxiety, and severe and repetitive episodes of depression.
Through rTMS, a coil wire is attached to these parts of the brain, and stimulated magnetic waves are released. This magnetic pulse suppresses the mood-controlling reactions and stabilizes the emotional and reactive impulses. Behavioral and emotional patterns can be changed through long-term treatment for mental disorders.
The stimulated magnetic pulses target the limbic system structures and activate the neurons for a more “calming down” of the emotional impulses. This treatment normally requires six weeks of “repetitive” sessions, as the name suggests, but considering the severity levels of the disorders, the treatment may last longer.
The rTMS treatments are personalized for each patient and their requirements. They are carefully conducted to suit each patient’s level of disorder and their capacity to handle the effects.
rTMS is an advanced form of studying and treating mental disorders which are on the rise globally. Experts like Nolan Williams, an assistant professor at the Stanford psychiatry and behavioral sciences institute, believes “rTMS technology can treat patients on an emergency level with repetitive stimulation which doesn’t allow enough time to the depression episodes to recur during the treatment. Therefore, for a fast treatment, rTMS is ideal”.
rTMS technique has already been converted into further advanced form, i.e. Stanford Neuromodulation Therapy (SNT), which reduces the six-week treatment time to a single-day therapy session! This is an amazing effort by the Stanford scientists who have recently created this instant treatment method for depression and anxiety disorders. This method is based on the traditional rTMS technology but in a more advanced form.
Let’s hope these efforts pave way for a lasting cure for depression and anxiety issues.