MADISON, AL (WAFF) - A popping noise is heard at Asbury Family Counseling Center in Madison. A gentleman sits in a chair with a device the size of a cupped hand on the side of his head. This is the sound of progress when it comes to treating Jim Douthit's depression. He was diagnosed with major, chronic depression.
"I kept getting deeper and deeper. This began like 10 years ago and then my wife died, like two years ago, and that was when it really got bad," said Douthit.
He said he, like other patients, was able to keep it hidden for a long time. Sleeping, eating and other necessities became very irregular. As his days got darker, he became afraid and sought help.
"I've used about every type of drug that there is from the top; none of them were having any real effect. It would work for a while and that was the end of it," he said.
Many patients find that Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is more effective than anti-depressants.
TMS starts with a very strong magnet and a treatment coil placed on a specific spot on the head.
Psychiatrist Dr. Charles Hayden explained how it works.
"…And it's going to put a pulsing, magnetic field about an inch into the brain. And that pulses about 10 times a second and starts to wake up the brain," he said.
That part of the brain is under-functioning. Small electrical currents cause brain cells to become active, releasing neuro-transmitters.
"The patient is alert. The only side effects could be some scalp tenderness. Occasionally patients will have a mild headache," added Hayden.
He said each treatment takes about 37 minutes, so patients are in and out in an hour. There are 25 to 30 treatments over five to eight weeks. Boosters may be needed. After the third week, doctors see an increase in energy, appetite, and mood elevation. The depression subsides.
"This offers hope for patients who have given up hope or who are not getting all the way better or just having a lot of side effects to the medicine," said Hayden.
Douthit describes life after the treatment.
"Life is not any easier. We still have difficulties, but I'm able to deal with them, straight up," he said.
He is grateful to TMS, the staff at Asbury, and his faith in God; he said he's able to find joy and laughter once again.
TMS was cleared by the FDA four years ago as treatment for those not responding to anti-depressants.