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How Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Rewires Your Brain

The vast array of healthy human emotions includes occasional sadness and even depression. But if you’re experiencing long periods of sadness for no apparent reason, you’ve lost interest in activities and people you love, or you’ve developed extreme feelings of isolation and desperation, you may be one of the more than 17 million people in this country who live with a major depressive disorder.

Medications and psychotherapy are great tools for treating depression and helping you cope with the symptoms, but if and when they don’t provide improvement, transcranial magnetic therapy (TMS) may do the trick.

Dr. James Fox specializes in this revolutionary, FDA-approved, drug-free treatment, and helps our patients here in Summerville, South Carolina, rediscover the joy of life. Here’s what you need to know.

Common causes and symptoms of depression

Depression happens for a variety reasons, and yours may stem from one or any combination of the following factors:

  • Genetic code anomalies
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Heredity
  • Physical conditions (chronic pain and headaches)
  • Medications
  • Presence of another mental health disorder, such as anxiety or PTSD
  • Imbalanced serotonin levels
  • Physical or chemical brain problems

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), clinical depression is diagnosed when you’ve been depressed for at least two weeks, and you’ve experienced some of the major symptoms associated with depression, including:

  • Lack of energy
  • Loss sense of self-worth
  • Sleep problems
  • Eating and appetite changes
  • Thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide
  • Mental clarity issues (memory, concentration, decision-making problems)
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Weight loss
  • Pain
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness

These are some of the most common signs of depression, but there are others, and your depression may manifest differently than someone else’s. Dr. Fox conducts a thorough physical and mental exam to rule out other causes of your symptoms before reaching a diagnosis.

The science behind TMS

If you suffer from depression, there may be a problem with the area of your brain responsible for regulating your moods. Transcranial magnetic stimulation aims to restore this function by triggering a response in your neural pathways.

If you’re a good candidate for TMS, Dr. Fox places an insulated coil on your forehead to target your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain known to influence your moods and play a role in depression. During your session, the device emits electromagnetic pulses similar to those generated by an MRI machine.

The TMS device delivers bursts of energy that penetrate your skin and your skull and stimulate your nerve cells. Dr. Fox uses his specialized training and experience to determine the type of TMS that’s right for you:

  • Theta burst stimulation (TBS): short burst at a high frequency
  • Intermittent TBS (iTBS): intermittent delivery
  • Continuous TBS (cTBS): continuous delivery
  • Rapid or repeated TMS (rTMS): rapid pulses
  • Deep TMS (dTMS): reaches about 4cm below skull

Whichever type of TMS you receive, you can rest assured that it’s safe, painless, and noninvasive.

You can expect to hear a tapping sound during your session, but we give you earplugs to decrease the effect. You can go home or engage in regular activities immediately after your short session, which usually only takes about five minutes, but you’ll need to come back daily for a few weeks for full effect.

Studies have shown that TMS is a safe and effective way to treat depression: 58% reported marked improvement, and 37% experienced full remission.

If you suffer from depression and medications haven’t helped, or if you can’t tolerate medications, TMS may be the answer you’ve been seeking. To find out if you’re a good candidate for TMS, schedule an appointment to see Dr. Fox by calling our friendly staff or booking a consultation online today.

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