Putting ECT and TMS Under the Mental Health Spotlight

Believe it or not, mental health care is not satisfying everybody’s needs, despite the broad range of treatments on offer. Generally, when a patient is prescribed medication for depression, they will be given an option to redeem an antidepressant, such as an opioid. Opioids are one of the common types of medication for depression that fall into the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac or one of the many products that mimic its effects.

Depression Plays a Role in the History of Mankind

Historical understandings of mental illness were not as accurate as they are nowadays. Procured from the Latin word “deprimere,” which means “to press down,” depression is a term that was that was used to describe various types of melancholia.

Today, the number of antidepressant users is estimated to be one in six in the United States alone, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine. A large portion of these people will be blissfully unaware of the health risks they are being exposed to.

Swapping Medication for Brain Stimulation

Based on a study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a mere 40% of the 1 in 10 American adults with depression will experience relief from opiates and similar medication. Many individuals, despite the drugs being deemed safe, will encounter dependency, intolerance and overdose-related problems. Furthermore, antidepressant use has been heavily associated with personality changes, some of which have led the user to commit a violent crime or even take their own life.

Brain stimulation in the form of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a localized treatment choice that targets the abnormally inactive parts of the brain (the depression-inducing areas). But how do you choose between TMS and a secondary treatment like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)? Let’s find out.

Common Treatments Have Been Exposed for Safety Concerns

The hazards associated with using antidepressants on a regular basis have been brought to light quite a lot since they were first introduced to the world. One of the main concerns is dependence on pharmaceutical drugs. In some cases, this can lead to addiction and in severe situations, potential overdose. Sure, it is possible to switch medications, but do you really want to waste time testing the waters with antidepressants that do not work?

It’s also important to note potential safety concerns of using serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs):

  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in sexual libido and/or performance

Should I choose ECT or TMS as a depression cure?

Each type of brain stimulation therapy is recommended as an alternative approach to treating depression, but it is important to remember that neither ECT or TMS is claimed to cure depression completely. There are, of course, advantages to both types of brain stimulation.

If we were to put both treatments against one another, we would discover that TMS is the more appealing choice, due to the fact it is non-invasive. TMS patients will be capable of driving themselves to the clinic, as well as from the clinic once the session is complete. ECT on the other hand will require anesthesia, and in most cases, the patient will need to stay in hospital for the duration of their recovery period.

More time-consuming than TMS, electroconvulsive brain therapy may leave the patient feeling somewhat disorientated. The time it takes for someone to recover from ECT depends on how quickly their body reacts to treatment, whereas TMS usually does not take longer than six weeks.

Maintaining Positive Mental Health After Brain Stimulation

There are a few things you can do to enhance your mental health and maintain it, even after TMS therapy has been carried out effectively. Introducing exercise into your daily routine is one way to get rid of depressive thoughts. Your emotional outlook can be altered when you exercise, since it is a natural stress-buster. Make a habit of exercising in different environments, as this will have a profound effect on mental health.

In addition to keeping active, why not do something you excel at, such as painting, organizing a fundraiser or making music? Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and open up about your feelings with someone you trust at least once a week. Talking about your emotions is a form of therapy and it would help to start discussing your feelings after the very first session.

What about Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) – do I need it?

Just like ECT and TMS, Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is a type of medical treatment that sends electrical impulses, except this method targets the vagus nerve. Oh, and the electrical impulses are delivered all day long. More invasive than TMS, it involves making an incision to fit an implant near the armpit/beneath the collarbone. Although VNS is recommended for chronic depression, it likely won’t be necessary if one of the other treatments are tried.

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