For 19 million people affected by depression magnet therapy may help

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by Janet St. James / WFAA.com

kens5.com

Posted on January 21, 2013 at 3:37 PM

FRISCO, Texas -- A few months ago, even a trip to the park with her little boy would've been a chore for 37-year-old Lelah Harwood, because of depression.

"It's affected everything," Harwood said. "Relationships, jobs -- every part of my life."

Depression affects more than 19 million Americans.

After 20 years of various treatments, Harwood wanted to go drug free, for her son's sake. She decided to try a controversial, but potentially revolutionary therapy called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS.

"It's an FDA-approved treatment for treating patients with depression who have failed at least one or more anti-depressants," said Dr. Dhiren Patel, a psychiatrist at Solace Counseling in Frisco.

Patel said TMS represents a shift away from medications in the psychiatric approach to treating depression.

Patients sit in a special chair. A device, similar to an MRI, delivers focused magnetic-energy pulses to the part of the brain believed to affect mood. The current is believed to restart dormant neurons linked with depression. Patients do not report pain, but say the magnetic pulses can cause a temporary headache or an uncomfortable pressure.

TMS has only been FDA approved since 2008, and widely available for less time than that. Doctors who use it say the positive brain changes seem to last.

TMS is currently considered experimental by most insurance companies, so it can cost several thousand dollars out of pocket.

A 40-minute session, four times a week for a month has brought priceless relief to Lelah Harwood's depression.

"It's been life-changing," Harwood said, watching her son the playground. "It's going by so quickly, I would hate for that low feeling to overtake this time."

Now, she can truly enjoy life with her son.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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