TMS & Treatment Resistant Mood Disorders

Next Steps for Depression Treatment

When you're suffering from chronic depression, life seems, well, lifeless. What if medications and therapy don't work?

Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, psychiatrist at SIU School of Medicine, explains the next steps to ward off the shadows of depression.

Depression is a serious medical illness affecting more than 14 million American adults every year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Researchers believe that just 10 years from now, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States commit suicide, 60 percent of whom suffer from depression. Women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, although depression in men may be under-reported. Psychotherapy and medication are the preferred methods of depression treatment. For those who haven't reached success with those methods, some additional treatments are available.

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy (TMS) – This non-invasive treatment focuses magnetic pulses on areas of the brain which are underactive in people with depression. The magnetic pulses produced by the device are the same type and strength as a magnetic resonance imaging scan. Patients receive magnetic pulses in 30-second intervals. The pulses, which feel like a tapping on the scalp, induce a small electrical current in the brain that affects brain circuits involved in mood and affecting the brain chemicals altered in depression such as serotonin and dopamine. With TMS, patients are alert, and there are almost no side effects except some headache or scalp irritation. It is done entirely in an outpatient setting.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – Also known as electroshock therapy, this is a safe and effective treatment with a high success rate.
  • Light Therapy – Exposure to full spectrum visible light each day can reverse symptoms of seasonal depression.
  • Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) – sometimes referred to as a "pacemaker for the brain." This device stimulates a particular cranial nerve alerting the electrical activity in the brain to control mood symptoms that are resistant to treatment.