TMS Therapy for Veterans

As of 2014, there were nearly 2.7 million American veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  About 20% of those veterans reported suffering from PTSD and/or depression.  

The reason that this statistic does not differentiate each diagnosis individually is likely due to the fact that there is a strong interplay between the two conditions.  That is, individuals suffering from PTSD experience flashbacks of traumatic events which lead to shame, guilt, avoidance, nightmares, hyper vigilance and more. These unpleasant feelings tend to bring on anxiety which manifests as excessive worrying, restlessness, and agitation. And when all of the effective symptoms of PTSD go without proper care, it will often lead to further issues like overall sadness, loss of interest in normal activities, disturbance in sleep or appetite, or even thoughts of suicide or death.  That is depression.  So what starts as PTSD is likely to develop into a dual diagnosis of PTSD and depression if the depression didn't already exist.

It is certainly possible that this diagnostic trend, especially amongst war veterans, could be part of the the problem when it comes to treating PTSD by itself.  First of all, only 50% of those veterans suffering from PTSD in the data from 2014 actually sought out care from a medical professional.  And of that 50%, half received care that was 'minimally adequate'.  PTSD is multifaceted, and an integrative approach to its treatment is gaining momentum because many caregivers are seeing increased success by way of alternative care and an added focus on treating concomitant depression. 

Veteran Affairs Researcher Mark George, M.D. has been using TMS Therapy, a non-pharmaceutical treatment that was designed for depression, for his veteran population, and nearly 60% of his clients report a decline, if not a full recovery, from overall symptoms. George has been working with this technology since the early1990s, and he saw great potential in its application for veterans.  Whether TMS allows relief from the PTSD or the depression specifically is of less importance than the improved general well-being of those veterans that went through his clinical trials.  The reported symptom relief was so remarkable that, The Department of Veteran Affairs has recently decided to purchase 40 TMS Therapy machines to help treat veterans nationwide. 

‘At one time, I was having an awful lot of problems isolating myself,’ Jones remembers. ‘I got angry easily and I was always very nervous. I couldn’t sleep. I started drinking too much. It got to the point where I was suicidal. I just didn’t want to live...In the first week and a half (of TMS) I could feel a difference,’ Jones said. ‘I started realizing that I was myself again.’
— Moultrie News

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It is exciting to hear about this new application for TMS Therapy is proving to be so viable.  TMS Therapy is still considered 'off-label' when treating unilateral PTSD, but Dr. George and others are showing that the benefits of this technology go beyond depression.  And sometimes a lift from the weight of depression can be a catalyst in symptom relief for another condition like PTSD.  We are happy that better options for care are becoming available to our veterans :)

Sources:

V. (Ed.). (2015, September 20). Veterans statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html

VA brings transcranial magnetic stimulation to Veterans to fight depression. (2017, February 08). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.moultrienews.com/news/valor/va-brings-transcranial-magnetic-stimulation-to-veterans-to-fight-depression/article_a74fb474-ee0e-11e6-bc8f-5b8d2fc6bb58.html