Feel Like a New Person

Nonsurgical TMS therapy clears dark cloud of depression.

Decorative handmade journals are at the top of the list of creations that Anne Marie Murphy, a self-proclaimed “ultimate crafter,” loves to work on when she takes a break from her job as a stay-at-home mom and home-school teacher.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

TMS therapy has made an “amazing” difference in Anne Marie’s life.

“I do everything from paper to art to sewing, but creating handmade journals is my favorite of them all,” Anne Marie confirms. “A lot of them end up as Christmas presents. In fact, I’m still working on a few that I didn’t quite finish in time for the holidays.”

This past holiday season was one of the more joyful ones Anne Marie has had in recent years. Her emergence from a near decade-long bout with treatment-resistant depression, general anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the reason.

“Those problems all started seven years ago when I first started speaking out about a sexual abuse that happened to me in my childhood,” says Anne Marie, 50. “It was the first time I’d spoken about it, and it blew a valve wide open.

“Once I started talking about it, I couldn’t stop. And because of that, I went to a very dark place that I couldn’t get out of. I started having a lot of physical issues around that time as well, things like widespread muscle and joint pain and headaches.

“I also became very intolerant of heat and very sensitive to loud noises and light, but it was the pain that triggered me to start seeking help. Finally, after a lot of tests, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, so I was dealing with that as well as all the other things.”

For help dealing with her depression, anxiety and PTSD, Anne Marie began seeing a psychologist. That psychologist soon referred Anne Marie to a psychiatrist, Kathleen Carroll, MD, who began treating Anne Marie with antidepressants.

When Dr. Carroll moved her practice to TMS of Central Florida in Brandon a couple years ago, Anne Marie followed her, largely because the antidepressants that she was taking were working well for her.

“But then, last spring, I started having trouble staying above what I would consider a normal quality of life,” Anne Marie says. “My moods were extremely low, I was having suicidal ideations and was pretty much confined to my bed. I wasn’t functioning.

“I had also maxed out on my meds, and nothing else I tried, like medical marijuana, ketamine and acupuncture, was working. Then one day, I was sitting in Dr. Carroll’s office and suddenly noticed the sign in her office that says TMS and asked her about it.”

The TMS Era

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for people with treatment-resistant depression, TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, therapy uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the parts of the brain that are insufficiently active in people suffering from depression.

The magnetic pulses are similar to those emitted during an MRI, the difference being they are delivered through a cup-shaped device that is placed on the prefrontal cortex of the patient while he or she rests comfortably in a chair similar to a dentist’s chair.

TMS treatments last for 18 minutes, 45 seconds, and patients typically receive a total of 36 treatments over a six- to eight-week period. Patients are usually treated five times per week for the first five weeks of the program, with the length of treatments and their number being reduced beginning in the sixth week.

“I have that quality of life back that I wanted. I feel like I’m successful now and that I can live a normal life.” – Anne Marie

“TMS allows us to help someone feel a noticeable difference in their depression in a very short period of time,” Dr. Carroll states. “Medications can take weeks to bring about those changes, and there can be a lot of trial and error with them. With TMS, we know we’re targeting the area of the brain that’s involved in emotional control.”

Far different than electroconvulsive therapy, which uses an electric stimulus, TMS treatments are administered in the doctor’s office and are considered safe and easy on the body. The most common side effect is some mild to moderate scalp discomfort stemming from the treatment application.

“What TMS does is stimulate blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain, which is where the emotional regulatory centers are located,” says Charles Devine, MD, of TMS of Central Florida. “By increasing that blood flow, the brain is stimulated to more effectively regulate its own blood sugar, which is what we’re trying to target with medications.

“At its core, TMS is a noninvasive, non-medicinal therapy that produces a genuine anatomical change, which in terms of regulating blood sugar is different than insulin. While insulin helps somebody regulate their blood sugar, you have to keep taking your insulin to keep it regulated. That’s not the case with TMS.

“When TMS is successful, there is a true anatomical and physiological change within the brain. The anatomical change is the increased blood flow. The physiological change is the better regulation of blood sugar and brain chemistry that produces a result where people can either come off their medication altogether or function better with it.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Anne Marie Murphy

Life-Changing Results

The amount of time it takes for patients to begin realizing results from TMS therapy treatments varies. Many notice a change after just a few treatments. Others don’t notice a difference in their mood for a few weeks. Anne Marie was among those who needed a few weeks to see a difference.

“It took her about ten treatments to start noticing a difference, and even then, it was mostly her husband and daughter who were noticing the change,” Dr. Carroll reports. “But then about two weeks later, she started to notice a difference herself, and she suddenly became a lot more engaging in activities and things.”

Encouraged by the results from the initial TMS treatment session, Dr. Carroll recommended, and Anne Marie agreed to, a second session of 36 treatments. Anne Marie says the second round of treatments “changed her life” in a way that she had not thought possible in years.

“I feel like a new person,” she raves. “I have control over my moods again, and there’s a hopefulness that I have now, whereas before, that word didn’t even exist in my vocabulary. I’m still taking medications, but compared to where I was when I started, the difference is amazing.

“I have that quality of life back that I wanted. I feel like I’m successful now and that I can live a normal life. I didn’t think that was possible for me before I started TMS treatment, so I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is struggling with depression and feels like they’re out of options.

“I definitely recommend Dr. Carroll. She’s a great psychiatrist. She’s really the best.”

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    • TMS of Central Florida

      TMS Therapy is a proven, effective treatment for debilitating depression. TMS Therapy system uses short pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate the area of the brain that is thought to function abnormally in patients with depression. ... Read More

    • Charles Devine, MD

      Charles Devine, MD, specializes in psychiatry and neurology and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He earned his medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in 1995 and later performed his residency at the... Read More

    • Troy Noonan, MD

      Troy Noonan, MD, specializes in general psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry. He earned his medical degree from the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago, Illinois in 1996 and has been in practice for mo... Read More