Military veterans attempting to re-enter civilian life may encounter a variety of challenges. Military life is highly structured and regulated, so returning to regular civilization can be difficult. One prevailing problem our veterans face upon returning home is the presence of co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Depression and PTSD in veterans has become a serious issue for our military personnel, with approximately 15% of them struggling with the comorbid disorders.
Depression and PTSD in veterans are not new challenges faced by our brave heroes following a tour of service. In fact, there has been recorded trauma-based psychological suffering going back 150 years to the Civil War, then called Da Costa’s syndrome. Since then PTSD has been termed “shell shock,” “battle fatigue,” and post-Vietnam syndrome, according to an article published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. However, current high rates of suicide among veterans have cast mental health issues into the spotlight.
Treatment for depression and PTSD in veterans has relied on the traditional guidelines provided by the mental health industry, typically a combination of psychotherapy and medication. However, for a significant number of veterans, these interventions are not effective, leading the Veteran’s Administration to consider alternative methods for treating the comorbid disorders. One of these alternative treatments is transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.
What Causes Depression and PTSD in Veterans?
There are multiple reasons why individuals exposed to extreme conditions while in the military might develop PTSD and/or depression. Exposure to combat, seeing friends seriously injured or killed, the persistent fears of being attacked or ambushed, feeling vulnerable or helpless and other situations related to duty—or even being abused by a fellow soldier—can cause some soldiers to develop PTSD. It has been demonstrated that depression is the most common mental health disorder co-occurring with PTSD, with comorbidity rates of 52%.
It is believed that preexisting mental health issues or substance use disorders may predispose some military members to acquire a trauma disorder where others do not. Other related conditions, like a traumatic head injury or persistent sleep disturbances or sleep deprivation may be contributing factors to developing PTSD.
When Traditional Treatment Doesn’t Work
In general, treatment for depression or anxiety disorders tends to revolve around psychotherapy and psychotropic medications. The medications are helpful to a large number of people. These drugs, which include such brands as Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, and Prozac, are effective in managing the symptoms of depression and/or PTSD in about 50% of patients.
In addition to the drugs, specialized therapies can be especially helpful for the PTSD, such as:
- Prolonged exposure. Prolonged exposure (PD) involves discussing the traumatic events, and their effects on daily life, with a therapist. The therapist will guide the patient toward methods that help them resume control over their lives instead of allowing the trauma to negatively impact their choices and behaviors.
- Cognitive processing therapy. Working with a therapist, the patient will be guided toward reframing the negative thoughts and emotions related to the trauma through discussion and writing assignments.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps patients change irrational thoughts and subsequent self-destructive behaviors related to the traumatic event. The therapist guides the patient toward shifting the negative or irrational thoughts toward constructive thought-behavior patterns.
- Eye movement desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). A therapist has the patient follow their finger, or some other object, back and forth with their eyes while discussing the traumatic event. This is a type of exposure therapy that helps reduce the impact of the trauma by discussing it.
For individuals who did not benefit from the medications, or who could not tolerate the many side effects, TMS therapy may be a viable treatment option.
What is TMS?
TMS is a neural-stimulation technique that uses magnetic technology similar to an MRI. The magnetic fields produced by the equipment are harnessed and directed through a coil that is placed over the patient’s scalp. The repetitive magnetic pulses penetrate the scalp and brain tissue, creating electrical currents that effectively stimulate targeted brain cells, or neurons.
TMS therapy offers an alternative, or an adjunctive therapy, to antidepressants for individuals struggling with depression with PTSD. The treatment is safe and noninvasive, so no general anesthesia or hospital stay is necessary. Further, because the patient is fully alert during treatment, there is no recovery period required so the patient can immediately commence with usual daily activities.
How Does TMS Treat Depression and Co-Occurring PTSD?
TMS therapy works by methodically adjusting the neurotransmitters located in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. The usual TMS treatment regimen involves 4-6 weeks of treatment, with five 40-minute treatment sessions per week. As the sluggish neurons are stimulated over the treatment period, the brain chemistry can be reset and rebalanced.
In most cases, results are initially noticed after about ten TMS treatment sessions. Most people first report that they are experiencing better quality sleep. In the ensuing weeks, patients notice they are more energetic and focused, and able to concentrate better. By the end of the treatment cycle, many report improved overall mood and less stress.
TMS therapy has been shown to be well tolerated with relatively minor side effects reported. Some patients have reported scalp tenderness where the pulses are delivered. Some may experience some facial tingling, and others have reported mild to moderate headache. However, in nearly all cases, these side effects have been transient, disappearing on their own as the treatment regimen proceeds.
Anew Era TMS Provides TMS Therapy for Depression and PTSD
Anew Era TMS is a specialty provider of TMS therapy for treating individuals with depression and co-occurring PTSD in Orange County, California. Only trained experts who are knowledgeable about how to deliver the best treatment results using this technology should provide TMS therapy. At Anew Era TMS, the doctors and technicians have extensive training and experience in providing this promising treatment alternative for depression and PTSD. To learn whether you are a candidate, call Anew Era TMS today to schedule a free consultation at (888) 503-1549.