Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) an Option for Treating My Depression?


When traditional treatments such as antidepressant medication and outpatient therapy for major depressive disorder are not working, it is often referred to as “Treatment Resistant Depression.” This means that neither medication and/or therapy has produced the desired outcome for the individual. Medications can fail due to a lack of response or an inability to tolerate side effects.

The FDA has approved Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for the treatment of depression in patients who have failed to respond to antidepressant medications in their current episode of depression. TMS is different from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). It utilizes magnetic pulses to excite areas in the central portion of the brain that are not functioning appropriately. The TMS therapy increases the number of neurochemicals in areas of the brain that are commonly found in individuals without clinical depression. The treatment takes place over several weeks, with sessions lasting about 20 to 30 minutes. TMS treatment is well tolerated and individuals can drive themselves to and from appointments. Of patients who have received TMS treatment at the Family Living Institute (FLI) in the past year, more than 85 percent have responded favorably.

FLI, Williamsburg’s only TMS center, has partnered with Brainsway Ltd. — a leader in TMS — due to its patented technology that allows for greater and deeper stimulation to areas of the brain most commonly associated with depressive disorders.

About the author

S. Zafar Ahsan, M.D.

Dr. Ahsan obtained his medical degree from Sindh Medical College, in Karachi, Pakistan. He migrated to the USA in 1984. He completed his Psychiatric training in general/adult psychiatry at Lincoln Medical Center, in Bronx, New York. Dr. Ahsan completed his Child and Adolescent fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York in 1994. Dr. Ahsan moved to Lee County Virginia to establish Psychiatric services at Lee County Community Hospital, in 1994. Keeping in mind the concept of providing the best care to the community, he joined the local community Services Board to provide Psychiatric services to children, adolescents and adults. He has served as consulting-contract Psychiatrist for the Virginia Department of Corrections for the past 10 years.

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