When diagnosing a person with depression, most doctors first turn to anti-depressants to treat one of the 20 million Americans affected by the disorder.
However, not everyone benefits from them, and considering some of the side effects they carry, many patients and doctors end up looking for alternatives. That's where a new treatment, which uses magnetic fields, is becoming a treatment of choice.
The new therapy, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), involves sending magnetic pulses into the brain that are the strength of a standard MRI scan. The treatment, which is cleared by the FDA, stimulates neuron activity specifically in the part of the brain that controls mood.
"These neurons were not working as well, and therefore the patient was not getting the proper neurotransmitter release," Dr. Niku Singh, a psychiatrist, said.
Dr. Niku calls the results that he has seen "phenomenal." Unlike anti-depressants, he says that TMS doesn't have adverse side effects.
Meanwhile, a recent study found that after five weeks of therapy, depression symptoms for those undergoing TMS improved for 58 percent of patients. Even further than that, 37 percent of them entered remission.
"I think it revolutionizes psychiatry," he said.
For patients like Patricia Rinker and Christine Curtis, who both underwent TMS treatments and struggled with depression for years, their condition is like night and day.
Before the treatment, Curtis said that at times, she would want to do nothing but stay in bed all day and would cry for no reason. Rinker said that in the throes of the disorder, "everything bothers you."
However, after years of anti-depressants and side effects, TMS is making a difference.
"Each day, I feel (calmer)," Rinker said. "I laugh like my old self from eons ago."