When Depression Persists

Emily Tamberino

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that can cause long-lasting feelings of sadness, anxiety and a sense of “emptiness.” Some people experience a loss of interest in life, appetite and weight changes and/or sleep disruptions. Depression is a mood disorder, and just like a virus or torn ligament for instance, depression should not go untreated.

For some people, talk therapy is a helpful tool for coping with depression. Others respond well to antidepressants. When therapy and medication treatments don’t work, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can be extremely effective. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, also referred to as TMS, is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for adults ages 18 to 70, TMS has also been proven to treat migraines and help people stop smoking. Researchers are testing the effectiveness of TMS for other conditions, including epilepsy, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease and more. 

Vail Health Behavioral Health is proud to offer TMS therapy at Wiegers Mental Health Clinic located within the Edwards Community Health Campus. Dr. Ben Nissen is a board-certified general psychiatrist who specializes in treatment-resistant depression, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder. He explains, “No one should live with major depressive disorder. TMS is a fascinating treatment option for those who haven’t found relief through more traditional modalities. I’ve seen firsthand the incredibly positive outcomes of TMS, and I’m committed to helping as many people as possible get relief from depression and other mood disorders.” 

Who is TMS for? 
TMS is prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist for adult patients, ages 18 and over, who have not responded to standard treatments for major depression, including therapy and medication. Patients with treatment-resistant depression begin their TMS treatment by scheduling a consultation with one of Vail Health Behavioral Health’s psychiatrists, during which the provider will carefully review your medical history, current symptoms and past treatments. Many insurance plans cover TMS if the patient has not responded to traditional treatment options.

How does TMS work? 
During a TMS session, a device is placed on the scalp. There is no incision, and in fact, the patient is comfortably seated or reclined throughout the procedure. The device delivers a series of short magnetic pulses that stimulate nerve cells located in the region of the brain involved in depression and anxiety. These pulses generate an electrical current that causes the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Serotonin is responsible for mood, sleep and relaxation. Dopamine creates the feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. It also plays a role in controlling memory, mood, sleep and concentration. Norepinephrine increases alertness, arousal and attention. TMS allows neurons in the brain to change the way they communicate with each other, forming new communication pathways and new patterns of behavior.

What happens in a TMS session?
During a TMS session, patients recline in a comfortable chair and a magnetic coil is placed against the scalp. The TMS coil makes a clicking sound and produces a tapping sensation during the treatment. Patients are awake for the entirety of the session and are able to talk, listen to music or watch videos. Each treatment ranges from 3 to 20 minutes, depending on the treatment protocol prescribed. Daily treatment sessions for 6-8 weeks (30-36 treatments total) are typically required. Patient’s are able to drive themselves home and immediately return to normal activity following their procedure.
How to schedule a TMS consultation
Call Vail Health Behavioral Health’s TMS nurse coordinator at (970) 445-2489 to schedule an initial consultation. Once a patient has been approved for TMS, Vail Health’s financial navigation team will work closely with your insurance carrier to identify coverage options. Appointments will be scheduled during the weekdays for the duration of the recommended treatment. TMS treatments will be administered in-person at the Wiegers Mental Health Clinic located within the Edwards Community Health Campus. 

Depression can be debilitating, and just like any physical illness or injury, mental health disorders should be treated with diligence and compassion. If you or a loved one are suffering from treatment-resistant major depressive disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder, get help now. Call (970) 445-2489 to schedule a consultation to determine if transcranial magnetic stimulation is right for you.