By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Of all the diseases and illnesses, there are approximately 200 classified mental illnesses and of those, depression is among the most common, not just in the nation but on a global scale. As such, various treatments exist for individuals with depression to improve the chemical imbalance and help people feel better.
One of the more recent treatment methods to be marked FDA approved is transcranial magnetic stimulation also known as TMS. It was originally “cleared” in 2008 and has been making its way across the nation.
In 2010, Dr. Bernadette DeMuri and her business partner brought TMS to Wisconsin.
“[We were the] first in the state to offer TMS therapy,” DeMuri said. “We pioneered it here in Wisconsin.”
DeMuri has been treating patients with mental health issues since 1991, in that time she’s had a private practice, worked with Outreach Community programs and currently works as the Medical Director for the TMS Center of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.
Over the span of her career, she’s seen the world of mental health evolve as different treatment options become available and as the stigma surrounding mental health started to dissolve.
Typically, she explained, when someone is diagnosed with depression their first option is the traditional route i.e. antidepressants and psychotherapy. However, not everyone responds well to traditional treatment, and this is where TMS comes in.
“This is more of a second line because one-third of people don’t respond to the first,” she said.
While studies have shown that the use of TMS ends in similar results to traditional treatment, it is considered safer, is non-invasive and is not reported to have any negative side effects.
According to NeuroStar Advanced Therapy, the forerunners when it comes to TMS, the treatment is as follows. Using transcranial magnets, the areas of the brain which control mood and that demonstrate a decreased brain activity are stimulated. Treatment lasts four to six weeks five days a week, during which many patients reported feeling better, sleeping better and living better.
“In essence,” DeMuri said, “areas in the brain have decreased activity and we’re taking magnets and stimulating it.”
TMS is recommended for Major Depressive Disorders such as chronic depression. According to DeMuri, many people who have chronic depression respond well to TMS, with some returning every couple of years to undergo another round.
Roughly 58% see an improvement, DeMuri said and 37% retain remission.
In addition to new treatments, DeMuri has also a noticed a change in the stigma surrounding mental health. She believes this is in part thanks to the number of big-name celebrities who are stepping forward and openly talking about their battles with depression.
With the stigma slowly being lifted, more people, specifically the youth, are choosing to seek treatment earlier on rather than later and the symptoms are being detected sooner.
According to DeMuri, the general symptoms of depression include a depressed mood, a change in appetite, trouble sleeping or decreased activity, low self-worth and a feeling of guilt. Women typically tend to feel more anxious and withdrawn, but are more likely to reach out DeMuri said. Men may feel more agitated and restless, and may not reach out due to feeling “unmanly.”
“This [depression] is a brain illness, not a character flaw,” she said.
It’s important to know, that it’s okay to ask for help DeMuri said, because, “We all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves.”
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, talk to your doctor, visit the TMS Center of Wisconsin or call the suicidal hotline at 1-800- 273-8255. And remember, just like a physical illness needs to be treated in order to heal, so does a mental one.