TMS For Depression - Experiences
April 18, 2016 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience personally with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a treatment for depression/anxiety?

I'm looking for personal stories from people who have had the treatment or who have close family members who have had the treatment. My concerns are: is it actually effective? Does any positive effect wear off over an extended period of time? Is it considered hokum by the psychiatric establishment or has there been enough positive study of it that it is considered legitimate? Has anyone experienced any side effects that have outweighed any benefit to treatment?

I ask because I have been fighting a battle of attrition with depression for years and I've tried nearly every medication there is and the depression/anxiety is nearly medication resistant. I've even had Electro Shock Treatment. The only thing that truly has worked has been adderall but the problem is I very quickly develop a tolerance to it and before you know it I need 90mg a day to function and then there's no where to go up from there so I cycle over to Vyvance for a month to reduce my tolerance to adderall and start the whole process over again. It's driving me nuts.
posted by spicynuts to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I friend of mine had this done last year. technically for her PTSD diagnosis, but she also has depression and claims that the treatment has helped a lot. not exactly a permanent thing but a long acting treatment, based on her experience...
posted by supermedusa at 1:30 PM on April 18, 2016

I used it a few months ago. It was kind of amazing. I instantly chilled out and relaxed, and the feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day. I only used it once, but I could see it working longer term if done on a regular basis.

Full disclosure: after using this at my therapy appointment, I had to stop by the hardware store. I winded up buying candy corn at the checkout and stood next to my car in the parking lot eating them and giggling like a stoned teenager. I definitely experienced it as a very relaxing high.
posted by Vaike at 1:38 PM on April 18, 2016

Have you looked into ketamine treatment? My understanding is that it often works really well in cases like yours.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:45 PM on April 18, 2016

A coworker had this treatment several years ago and blogged about it at My TMS Adventure.

His brief update just now: "Not a cure per se, but by far the most potent treatment I’ve had for the malady. I’m not depression free, but the vestiges which are occasionally visited upon me are faint shadows of the darkness which nearly swallowed me whole."
posted by kbuxton at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2016

He didn't get it for depression, but John Elder Robison's most recent book is about his experiences with TMS.
posted by Lexica at 1:56 PM on April 18, 2016

Response by poster: Ketamine treatment???? Is that actually legal? Like the FDA has approved Ketamine for treatment of depression?
posted by spicynuts at 1:56 PM on April 18, 2016

I haven't personally had TMS but I thoroughly investigated it as a possibility to deal with treatment resistant, long term bipolar depression. It works on a similar principle to ECT, but it is more localized to a specific pathway that is implicated in depression rather than the "whole brain" type of shock associated with ECT. A research team identified this "depression pathway" and have had some success with directly implanting electrodes in the brain which are connected to something I would describe as a brain pacemaker. However, it's invasive and it's brain surgery, so the TMS researchers looked for a "gateway" to this pathway that can be reached from the surface of the brain. That is the basic principle behind this therapy--it's more targeted than ECT but the "shock" is not nearly as strong.

The results from the first long-term study weren't encouraging enough for me personally to consider it more seriously. The tl;dr of it is that less than 50% of patients had complete remission after one year but 68% saw improvement in the more acute symptoms of major depressive disorder. The study participants had to continue taking anti-depressants and had more TMS if symptoms returned. My own personal cost-benefit calculus made me disinclined to pursue it further because it can trigger mania in bipolar patients, but I didn't get the impression that the therapy was based on bunk woo woo or anything like that. There's real science there.

On preview: Yes, ketamine infusion is a real thing. See the Ketamine Advocacy Network for more information and lists of therapeutic providers and clinical trials.
posted by xyzzy at 2:00 PM on April 18, 2016

Response by poster: If TMS can dramatically increase the effectiveness of a daily medication like Zoloft or Paxil I would consider that a success. I already assume I'm going to be taking meds for the rest of my life but if I knew they were able to actually work to their full potential after TMS and essentially eliminate the symptoms of depression then that calculus is a net positive to me.

I'm amazed at this ketamine treatment. Going to look into that.
posted by spicynuts at 2:12 PM on April 18, 2016

Just be aware that ketamine infusion is not FDA approved for this purpose and therefore most insurance companies will not cover it. Each infusion is $400 to $800.
posted by xyzzy at 2:39 PM on April 18, 2016

Response by poster: Well, if 10 infusions costs me 10k one time but removes the need to buy multiple drugs (including an expensive one) every month for the rest of my life, then the investment probably either evens out or comes out to my benefit in the end.
posted by spicynuts at 1:30 PM on April 19, 2016

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