Local Doctors Use Unique Method To Help Treat Depression

A new treatment for depression being used in San Diego may look strange to some, but could be the wave of the future.

  • Video:Local Doctors Use Unique Method To Help Treat Depression
  • "I was completely hopeless," said Blake. "Six out of seven days a week I wish I were dead, that I could gracefully not wake up."

    Studies show almost 19 million American adults, including Blake, suffer from depression.

    She tried everything to help with her depression, including psychotherapy, acupuncture and electric-shock therapy. She tried anti-depressants, but they caused serious side effects.

    Nothing seemed to work for Blake's depression until she found out about transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.

    "I felt a mental clarity that just was odd," she said of the experience.

    It looks a lot like a dentist's chair, but works like something one might see in a science-fiction movie.

    Dr. David Feifel, director of neuropsychiatry at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, knows a lot about the human brain and where depression starts.

    "There tends to be an under-activity of this area of the brain called the left frontal cortex," said Feifel.

    TMS induces activity in that part of the brain with pulsed magnets, provoking neurons to begin firing. After a series of treatments that can take up to six weeks, the area becomes active on its own. TMS is non-invasive and with very little or no side effects.

    "The side effect profile, which is so positive, is really one of the pluses for this treatment," said Feifel.

    The treatment is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but it can be expensive. Since the treatment is still relatively new, it is not covered by most insurance companies.

    But for people like Blake, this is their last and only hope.

    "I have hope. I had no hope whatsoever. I have a sense of self, which I never have had in my entire life," said Blake.

    A course of TMS costs between $7,000 and $10,000.

    It is now being used at Walter Reed Medical Center and other veterans hospitals to treat military vets suffering from depression.