THE BLOG

Can Magnets Heal a Broken Heart?

03/15/2016 06:00 pm ET
  • Barbara Alvarez Writer and lover of books and crafts. The perfect weekend consists of writing, crochet and making beaded gifts.

After the breakup of a romantic relationship, you enter uncharted territory. It can trigger painful and unsettling emotions, your life is turned topsy turvy, routines are disrupted, you also have to endure comments, pitying glances from friends and family and there is the craving/sometimes obsessive ruminating about the ex.

Research shows that the emotional response to the breakup of a relationship can be as traumatic as the death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. You go through the five stages of breakup: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and hopefully acceptance.

However, there is a large number of people who, rather than entering into a period of grief over this loss, slip into full-fledged depression. If you notice that your grief isn't lessening--if you're unable to move forward--you may be clinically depressed, according to Helpguide.

Depression carries the heaviest burden of disability among mental and behavioral disorders. Regardless of how you developed depression, you just want relief!

Your doctor probably will recommend talk therapy and prescribe antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, or Lexapro. Unfortunately, these medications are only about 30-40 percent effective and can be associated with numerous side effects such as weight gain, apathy, fatigue, dry mouth, sexual side effects, nausea and such. And there is also the stigma of being on "anti-depressant medications."

If you could find a safe, reliable way of dealing with your depression, without dealing with side effects, you'd do so just as soon as you finished researching the new method. Let's explore Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

Wait a minute. . . magnets on my head? Yes, this is a safe, FDA-approved non- invasive treatment. Dr. Shashita Inamdar, M.D., Ph.D is a neuroscience researcher and physician who offers this innovative treatment approach, right in her clinics in La Jolla, San Diego, East Lake and Palm Desert.

About Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
dTMS is a method that helps people with depression who, for one of several reasons, don't want to use antidepressants. dTMS is also beneficial for those whose depression symptoms haven't responded to traditional treatment, such as medication. The treatment is safe with none of the side effects associated with most anti-depressant medications. This means there is no weight gain, sexual dysfunction, sedation, or memory impairment. This is because the treatment is applied externally to a specific area and does not enter your system the way medication does. However, you may experience slight toothaches or headache, which is temporary.

dTMS was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for the treatment of depression. In 2015, the FDA approved dTMS for the treatment of migraines.

There are very few contraindications: if you have an aneurysm clip, untreated seizure disorder, metal devices or objects implanted in or near your head, bullet fragments or shrapnel in or near your head, dTMS won't be a treatment option, Implanted stimulators or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) also rule you out for this treatment.

How dTMS Works
Imagine sitting back in a comfortable treatment chair as a helmet with magnetic coils is placed on your head. You're awake through the entire session--you don't have to receive anaesthesia. In fact, it's perfectly safe for you to drive home or back to work at the end of your session.

dTMS works by delivering magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain involved in mood regulation - areas known to be under-active in those diagnosed with depression. The magnetic pulses stimulate brain cells, thereby improving the brain's ability to regulate mood.

dTMS actually produces physical changes in the neurons of the brain that affect mood and mood regulation, according to the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences website. Each magnetic pulse stimulates a brief spurt of brain activity. The Johns Hopkins website points out that stimulating opposite sides of the brain can cause opposite effects on mood.

dTMS treatment can be used instead of antidepressant medication or it can be used in conjunction with antidepressants and talk therapy.

In the first session, the doctor ensures that the magnetic coil is correctly positioned over the patient's skull. Next, he measures the patient's motor threshold, which is the minimal amount of magnetic power needed to cause the patient's hand to twitch, which will determine the optimal placement and strength of the magnetic field. The location and threshold changes from person to person. In this way, dTMS treatment is individualized to each patient. Think of this as a very fancy " navigation system" and the doctor determines the exact location of the under-active area of your brain and stimulates those brain cells.

The only thing the patent will notice is several clicking sounds. The patient will also feel a mild tapping sensation immediately under the magnetic coil.

The patient undergoes treatment for 20 to 40 minutes, five days a week, while watching an uplifting show or listening to music or reading a book. The overall course of treatment lasts from one month to six weeks, but this can vary depending on the needs of the individual patient, according to Dr. Shashita Inamdar, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Inamdar is a neuroscience researcher and physician and she and her team have developed specific protocols for depression, anxiety, OCD and addiction targeted to the patient's specific needs. They have treated more than 200 patients with dTMS, including several doctors, lawyers, pilots, nurses, and even some teenagers with severe depression.

What Conditions Does dTMS Treat?
Magnetic treatment can help with symptoms of depression, anxiety and migraine. Let's see what else it's used for:

This treatment has been approved in Europe (CE approval) for the following conditions:

º Stroke
º Multiple Sclerosis
º Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
º Bipolar Disorder
º Smoking Cessation
º Chronic Pain
º Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
º Schizophrenia
º Adult autism
º Parkinson's Disease
º Alzheimer's Disease

In the U.S., dTMS has been approved for treatment of migraine and depression, but there are many multi-center studies looking at treatment of OCD, addictions and PTSD, so the possibilities are amazing

Will Insurance Cover dTMS Treatment?
dTMS treatment is covered by most insurances such as United Healthcare, all Blue Cross Blue Shield, Multi-plan, Health Net and many others. Other insurance providers have covered dTMS Therapy on a case by case basis. Because treatments are administered on an outpatient basis, this helps to keep costs lower. If you aren't sure whether your insurance company will cover these treatments, the dTMS coordinator can help you to figure this out.

dTMS Safety
When you think about magnetic pulses being sent through your skull and brain, you may wonder if this is a safe form of treatment for your symptoms. There is no radiation, no electric current, no systemic side effects and no anaesthesia. The FDA has approved this treatment, so it is a safe and noninvasive procedure.

Who Benefits Most From dTMS?
According to AchieveTMS, those with treatment-resistant depression, migraines, major depressive disorder and anxiety will benefit the most from dTMS treatment.

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