Who else immediately thought of this when they heard that I was attending an open house to check out a helmet that could make you happy:
Well, Ren and Stimpy’s helmet it is not, but for patients with treatment resistant depression? It could make them sing the Happy Happy Joy Joy song. Or the Log song. Or the Don’t Whizz On The Electric Fence song. Childhood was magical.
Treating depression and other mental illnesses has a long history of failure, quackery, and patient abuse. Everything from warehousing to frontal lobotomies have been deployed for treating different degrees of mental illnesses. Horrifyingly to us today, lobotomies were once thought of as a huge step forward in treating mental illnesses.
Now, we have a bountiful amount of ways to treat mental illness that’s both much more humane and effective. SSRIs. SNRIs. Anti-psychotics. Mood stabilizers. Anti-anxiety medications. You name a mental illness, we have a drug that works a LOT better than the archaic and sometimes barbaric methods that we once used. Are they perfect? No. However, for mental health patients worldwide with a huge range of disorders, they represent a huge step forward in care and relief from the agony of their illnesses. Mental healthcare is just as important as taking care of the body, and breakthroughs with these drugs have been key in giving people their lives back.
But… what about the cases that we don’t hear about as success stories?
There are cases that are resistant to treatment. They go through years of being bounced from one psychiatrist’s office to the next, trying every medication on the market (even combinations of meds), and they get somewhere between no relief and minimal relief with standard treatment. At this point some people fall prey to the insidious marketing tactics of alternative medicine telling them- with severe, resistant to treatment cases of mental illness- that they just need to go organic/paleo/vegan/just get some sunshine and think happy thoughts. And you know my opinions on that.
So when I got an email a few weeks ago to attend an open house at a psychiatrist’s office to have a look at the Brainsway Deep TMS (TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation), I was interested but skeptical. Magnetic therapy for things like joint pain is bullshit, how did I know this wasn’t someone selling me something when they were… selling me something?
Like a good skeptical scientist, I started asking for evidence before I put any information about it on my website.
Had it been through phase three clinical trials? Yes.
Was it FDA approved? Yes.
Did they have long term clinical data? Yes.
Well you have my attention now. And they should have yours too. I went to Dr. Koo’s office before her open house and had a live video interview. She explained a bit about the helmet and answered all the questions that my followers had sent in the night before. She also gave me a quick demonstration of how it works to stimulate my hand via a calibration test:
Part 1 and Part 2 (my hand really jumps in part 2, and she explains a bit how it works- each video is only about 30 seconds). It was a bit creepy that she could control my hand via stimulating my brain, but it made me realize… this was for real.
The overall results from the Brainsway are impressive. Deep TMS is producing higher remission rates from depression than from medication, and without the potential side effects of long term medication usage. You can find out more about the stats from their website at brainsway.com. The most important thing to look at is their success in treatment resistant depression. Patients who haven’t had success with multiple drugs and even electro-shock therapy (yes, it’s still being used) are finding success with Deep TMS.
Shortly after posting the initial video to my facebook page, I got an email from Ryan R. (last name withheld) to let me know how well Deep TMS worked for him. He was kind enough to answer some questions about therapy. His answers in block quotes, my questions in italics.
I was being treated for long term severe depression and the treatment took place at the Wade Park VA in Cleveland, OH.
Other therapies that I had tried were a few different courses of medications, antidepressants (SSRIs for the most part) and regular counseling
I feel that TCM was very effective for me. When I was in approximately the last quarter of the therapy, my parents were remarking that I was much quicker to smile.
The only side effect that I can report is that upon the completion of my first couple of sessions, I felt slightly disoriented for a little less than a half hour. Beyond that, there were really no side effects. However, it should be noted that the therapy itself is somewhat unpleasant.
-Yes, I am continuing with traditional courses of therapy. In my case, TCM was good for helping reduce the severity of the depression, but is not a magic treatment that will wipe away the ingrained negative patterns of thought that become a trap for people like myself.
I would recommend this treatment to people, though I would make it clear that it is part of a larger process of becoming well. It will help level you out, but if you don’t put effort into making changes in your life to improve your mental health, by whatever means that are available to you, it is possible that condition could return.
For the duration of the treatment I had to sit through an electromagnetic field being pulsed through an area of my brain generally agreed to be responsible for many symptoms of depression. This lasted an hour a day, 5 days a week, for 6 weeks. The sensation of the treatment was a pulsing electrical shock beneath the area where the coil was positioned on your scalp that starts out somewhat uncomfortable, but becomes less noticeable after a session or two. After a while I was able to sleep through the session, though that isn’t recommended.