Magnificent Magnet

Non-drug TMS therapy relieves depression, panic attacks.

After retiring from his career in retail, Chris Deffendall landed his dream job.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

After several weeks of TMS treatment, Chris was back to being himself.

“I’m actually semi-retired,” he clarifies. “I work part time at a golf course. I’ve been doing that for nearly five years, and it works out perfectly for me because I like to golf. Before that I worked in retail for 12 years.

“Retail was a good job for me because I’m a good salesman. It comes naturally to me. I started working at a store, and the next thing I knew, I was the store manager. We sold gadgets such as massage chairs, stereo systems and goggles for watching movies. I stayed at the store for a while and did pretty well, so I was able to retire.”

Chris enjoyed the interaction with people that working in retail afforded, but five years ago he began to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety and found he could no longer function effectively on the job. His condition spiraled downhill from there.

“I became depressed and started having frequent panic attacks,” Chris shares. “I experienced panic attacks every day and went to the hospital a couple of times a month. The symptoms of panic attacks mimic those of a heart attack, with sweating, chest pains and shaking.

“The depression became really bad as well. I didn’t want to do anything. I had no energy, no pep. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to socialize or be around people. Eventually, I couldn’t function at all. I was either sleeping or just lying around. I was afraid to go anywhere for fear I would have a panic attack, so I was essentially stuck in the house.”

Seeking a solution, Chris visited several mental health professionals, but they didn’t agree on the source of his issues. They recommended various treatments, including talk therapy and antidepressants, but Chris continued to experience symptoms.

“None of them could figure out what triggered my depression,” Chris notes. “Some thought it was physical and some thought it was mental. It was just one big circle. Two years ago, my wife finally said, Enough is enough. We searched for the best psychiatrists in Palm Beach County and discovered Dr. Zawadzki.”

Edward Zawadzki, DO, is a board-certified forensic and adult psychiatrist at Lighthouse Health Group, a full-service psychiatric practice in Jupiter offering traditional and leading-edge treatments for mental health disorders.

“When I first met Chris, he described a longstanding history of difficult depression,” Dr. Zawadzki remembers. “There was an anxiety component as well, which was a serious problem for him.

“Chris was seen by a few other psychiatrists and did well at certain points. But it seemed that his depression was recurrent and nonresponsive in the long run to many types of medications.
“Eventually, we suggested that transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, might be a solution for him. Chris was interested in the treatment because it was non-drug based and was a more direct treatment to the area of depression rather than the systemwide therapy of medication.”

Woody Woodpecker Machine

“TMS is an FDA-approved therapy for treatment-resistant depression,” Dr. Zawadzki observes. “It is most often used with patients who have a history of depression that has not responded well or well enough to other treatments, including psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.”

During TMS, a high-strength magnet is placed on the patient’s head over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain considered important in the development of depression. It has been shown in MRI studies to be underfunctioning in people who have depression.

“Pulsing the magnet at a high frequency over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex induces a small electrical charge,” Dr. Zawadzki explains. “The charge forcibly wakes up that area of the brain and causes its neurons to fire and release their neurochemicals. These neurochemicals are critical to well-being and mood.”

“The effect of TMS is similar to that of electroshock therapy, or ECT, in that electricity travels through the brain prompting neurons to fire and other complex mechanisms to engage. But TMS accomplishes this in a much more focal and tolerable way than ECT.

“There is no anesthesia or sedation necessary with TMS, and it is an outpatient procedure. And unlike ECT, which is a great treatment for those who need it, TMS does not require a hospital stay. Patients can drive home after a TMS session.”

A course of TMS therapy is generally 36 sessions over approximately one month. The initial session lasts 45 minutes to an hour. During that time, Dr. Zawadzki maps the brain to determine the location for magnet placement. Subsequent sessions take about 30 minutes.

“After three weeks of TMS, therapy, I felt 100 percent better. My depression lifted and my panic attacks became few and far between and less severe.” – Chris

“While our office does not accept insurance for general psychiatric visits, we do offer free TMS consultations to interested patients to determine its effectiveness for them,” Dr. Zawadzki notes. “We accept most major insurance for four TMS treatments, and we work with those insurance providers to cover TMS therapy.”

Dr. Zawadzki says most patients start feeling better about two weeks after beginning TMS therapy. It took Chris slightly longer, but he says the treatment from what he calls the “Woody Woodpecker machine” was well worth the wait.

“A Godsend for Me”

“I call the TMS magnet the Woody Woodpecker machine, because the pulses from the magnet feel like something knocking on your forehead,” he says. “It’s like someone is tapping on the side of your head very lightly.

“But it doesn’t hurt at all, and after three weeks of TMS therapy, I felt 100 percent better. My depression lifted and my panic attacks became few and far between and less severe. The treatment made it so I could function, get out of bed and get on with my life.

“It was amazing, like someone hit a switch and I was back to being myself. It’s been two years now since I had TMS therapy, and I still feel great.”

Whenever Chris walks into Dr. Zawadzki’s office, the psychiatrist gives him a pep talk, restating that his depression is in remission. But that’s not the only reason Chris likes to go to Lighthouse Health Group.

“When I’m there, I feel like I’m around family, and not just with Dr. Zawadzki,” Chris reports. “I feel that way with the entire staff. Everyone treats me like I’m part of the team, not just a patient, and that’s what I love about Lighthouse Health Group.

“I go there because the people there really care about me, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted a doctor who cares about me, not someone who treats me just as a co-pay walking through the door to be handled and discharged.

“And that’s what I got from Dr. Zawadzki. When I went there for the first time, he spent an hour talking with me. After that, he got more aggressive with my medication, which helped some, and then TMS, which has absolutely changed my life.

“TMS therapy was a godsend for me and I recommend it to other people who have the same kind of problems that I had. And I absolutely recommend
Dr. Zawadzki and Lighthouse Health Group. I can’t describe how much they helped me.”

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    • Lighthouse Health Group

      At Lighthouse Health Group, their practice brings overall mental health counseling and wellness to one location. With their state-of-the-art, calming, and ‘easy on the eyes’ office space, you’ll love going to the psychiatrist or psychologist (... Read More

    • Edward Zawadzki, DO

      Edward Zawadzki, DO, is board certified in psychiatry and neurology, and forensic psychiatry. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University in College Park, PA, and a Master’s degree in Clinical Neurop... Read More