SEATTLE -- It's the No. 1 cause for disability, according to the World Health Organization.
About 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression and
Judie Main of Renton is one of them.
Judie says life feels like a fog.
“With my depression it got so bad like I said I slept most of December,” Main said.
No motivation, no happiness and no laughter.
“I have had suicidal thoughts, I thought about that every morning I can get out of my truck and walk in front of that train,” Main said.
She struggled with depression for the last 20 years hoping the next pill will fight the urge to take her own life.
“Six antidepressants over the last twenty years,” Main said.
Main says each would eventually lose its effectiveness.
Doctors say to understand Main’s struggles you have to understand the brain.
Dr. Kalyan Dandala with Associated Behaviorial Healthcare is Main’s doctor.
He showed us an image of a normal brain with yellow all over it.
The yellow means the frontal part of the brain is activated with glucose and oxygen.
A depressed brain shows little activation.
Dr. Dandala decided to try something new with Smith.
He introduced her to transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS.
You can think of the device as a condensed MRI machine.
The patient lies down and a square device is aligned on top of the left side of their head, the part of the brain that’s dormant.
“It’s nothing like shock therapy, shock therapy is they put you in sedation and you actually create a seizure in the entire brain,” Dandala said.
Dandala says TMS instead sends magnetic stimulations to awaken neurons.
“What we are using is your body’s natural serotonin to communicate to the front part of the brain,” Dr. Dandala said.
Patients have to sit through 19 minute treatments, 30 different times.
Q13 News visited Main as she underwent her last session.
“About the third week is when things really started to lift,” Main said.
Main says it’s saving her life.
“Now I have good days I don’t even think about not having good days anymore,” Main said.
And people are noticing.
Main says friends and coworkers have commented about the improvement.
Dr. Dandala says the vast majority of his patients see improvements.
“They are getting off from 3 to 4 anti-depressants to 1 or none,” Dr. Dandala said.
About 37% of patience beat depression for good according to Neurostar.
“Let’s track this for another 40 years then we will call it a cure,” Dr. Dandala said.
For Main, she says it feels like a cure. She says that fog she was living in is finally gone.
“It’s like somebody is wiping that fog off that mirror even before I get up,” Main said.
Dr. Dandala believes Main is now among the 37% of patients who were able to beat depression.
For others he says they may have to come back in a year or two and get the sessions again.
Neurostar’s TMS was FDA approved in 2008 but Dr. Dandala says it’s growing in popularity because more studies are proving its effectiveness and more insurance companies are willing to cover the treatment including Medicare and Medicaid.