Magnets and Depression

Depression, a chronic condition marked by sadness and feelings of hopeless, makes life difficult for millions of people around the world. Sometimes, simply getting out of bed in the morning is a tremendous challenge.

Is it possible that magnets can relieve severe symptoms of depression? It may sound too good to be true, but there are strong indications that a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation may be help people who haven’t had satisfactory relief of symptoms from counseling, antidepressants and other standard treatments for depression.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as Depression Treatment: Does it Work?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive technique in which a technician places a small device on the forehead. The device delivers short but intense pulses to the brain, generating an electrical current that stimulates nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex.

Scientists believe the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with regulation of emotions and moods, may be too active in depressed people, thus causing negative emotions and feelings of hopelessness.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation shouldn’t be considered a miracle cure for depression, although many people enjoy partial or total relief of symptoms. The treatment may provide an answer when traditional therapies haven’t worked

Research is still needed to determine if transcranial magnetic stimulation is more effective when used in conjunction with talk therapy. It also remains to be seen if the treatment may help people with anxiety, schizophrenia or attention deficit syndrome (ADD). There are indications it may be helpful for stroke patients and migraine sufferers.

Side effects are mild and generally consist of slight discomfort during treatment. There is no sedation. The non-invasive treatment takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Most people receive three to four treatments per week for four to six weeks, although some people may have daily sessions. Others may need an additional treatment or a regular booster session if symptoms return.

The treatment has been approved by the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for depression, but it is rarely covered by insurance.

Drugs, Alcohol and Depression

There is some concern that the treatment may cause depressed people to give up on antidepressants too quickly or to turn away from therapy or other treatments that may be helpful.

Standard treatments are still beneficial for most people with depression, although some may not receive complete relief. Rehab for alcoholism or drug addiction may be required for people who turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms of depression.

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