Depression Sufferers Turn To High-Tech Treatment

TMS Therapy Does Not Include Anti-Depressants, Costs About $10K

Many depression sufferers are turning to a high-tech, state-of-the-art treatment they say is worth the price.

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) does not require anti-depressants, and patients only need to relax in a chair while magnetic pulses are sent to key neurons in the brain.

Sonja Tanner, who is currently using TMS to treat her depression, has battled it for 25 years.

"It's been the battle of my life," Tanner said.

Tanner has been on and off medication, but she recently turned to the Botkiss Center for TMS Therapy in Del Mar. She receives treatment by sitting in a chair, five days a week for 40 minutes, while pulses stimulate the parts of her brain that controls mood.

In about three weeks, she said she saw dramatic changes.

"My focus was better, my memory was better, my anxiety was better," Tanner said.

Dr. Philip Botkiss understands why some who have never heard of this may be skeptical.

"Anything that's new and different is going to be scrutinized in the psychiatric community and even by patients," Botkiss said.

Tanner admitted she did not believe it would work either.

"I was the biggest skeptic, I really was … I have 25 years of non-effective treatment," Tanner said.

The treatment has been approved by the FDA, and the American Psychiatric Association recently included TMS in its depression treatment guidelines.

"It's still relatively new so I think the challenge will be to find where it fits in our entire set of tools," said Dr. Catherine Moore, a longtime psychiatrist and past president of the San Diego Psychiatric Society.

Another big challenge of this treatment is the cost, as TMS therapy costs about $10,000 and most insurance companies do not cover it.

Tanner, however, said it is worth it.

"TMS has been a lifesaver for me," Tanner said.

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