Fifteen million Americans live with depression. The most common way they’re treating it is with anti-depressant drugs, but half of them either can’t tolerate the medicine, or they aren’t responding to it.
Now doctors are using a non-invasive treatment for depression, and it seems to be offering promising results.
“I can’t take care of myself. My husband takes care of me when I get this way,” said Judy Davis.
The 60-year old doesn’t usually talk about the low points in life. But she did with us.
Davis is a wife and grandmother who has lived with bipolar disorder for 38 years.
“I'll become suicidal when I get depressed, and very, very ill," she said.
Medicine after medicine didn’t help Davis. Then she tried something different called Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS.
The magic is in a helmet that looks like a hair dryer at a salon.
“Try to imagine the brain like a strong battery,” said Board Certified Psychiatrist Diana Ghelber.
Dr. Ghelber explained how it all works: the helmet uses a magnet to stimulate parts of the brain that regulate mood. Neurons start firing -- creating connections, a rapid response, and over time, improved symptoms of depression.
“During the treatment we already notice a change,” said Dr. Ghelber. “A lot of times the family members and friends -- they notice a change before the patient is aware."
Changes include better posture and eye contact, improved energy, even a shift in motivation and social engagement as early as two to three weeks into treatment.
So far, Davis has received 30 TMS treatments, which each last about 20 minutes. She admitted there is some pain.
“It makes your lip quiver and it hurts your teeth, but it lasts for just a few seconds then it stops and starts again,” said Davis, who was quick to add, “But it's worth it."
Davis said the pain is worth withstanding for the results and the relief it has offered.
“I’ve been well, I'm on a low dose of medicine now. I feel great,” said Davis, who described herself as happy and living a normal life for the first time in most of her adult life.
“I haven't felt this good in years," said Davis.
TMS treatment is FDA-approved and Dr. Ghelber said most insurance will help to cover or reimburse the cost of treatment.