Friday, June 21, 2024

Winning the Battle with Anxious Depression

For those suffering from anxious depression, every day can feel like a battle. Thankfully a new, non-invasive treatment, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can provide relief for patients in the Port City.

Depression and anxiety can seem like polar opposites: depression is associated with stagnancy and lack of energy, while with anxiety the mind is in constant, panicked motion. And yet, this paradoxical nightmare is more common than you would think.

“It’s like having two devils on your shoulders. One tells you that you don’t care or feel anything. The other tells you to overthink and worry about absolutely everything,” wrote Carleen W. in an article shared by Teen Vogue.

Other patients described it as having no physical motivation to move while simultaneously agonizing about everything left undone, ““For me, my mind is split into two halves. The anxiety half worries constantly about every aspect of my life (from health, image, to relationships) where the other half is too exhausted and worn down to do much about it,” wrote Dominick L.

Indeed, 60-90% of patients diagnosed with depression also have between moderate and severe anxiety, with dangerous consequences if left untreated. Anxious depression can actually exacerbate depression symptoms and lead to higher risk of suicide, reduced response rates to treatment, and higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

And researchers are still struggling to understand why some people experience anxiety on top of depression. Anxious depression does leave unique neurobiological markers such as dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and cortical thinning in the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, yet further research is required to understand the root cause.

Additionally, until recently, the available treatments for anxious depression have had mixed success or are associated with undesirable side-effects. Treatment options for anxious depression are similar to those for patients who have anxiety disorders or major depressive disorder: psychotherapy and medication.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) has been shown to be effective in treating anxious depression, however achieving results can require a major time commitment and many patients find that this treatment is not sufficient alone to prevent severe symptoms.

Another common treatment for anxious depression is medication–including SSRIs- however the side-effects of these medications can also be distressing on their own: such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction. Adding insult to injury, studies have also found that patients with anxious depression often don’t experience long term remission from symptoms despite initial treatment success.

Thankfully, a breakthrough treatment offers hope for those suffering from anxious depression. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treats depression using brief electromagnetic pulses (significantly weaker than those used in an MRI machine). TMS is non-invasive, free of harsh side-effects, and has been shown by multiple peer-reviewed clinical studies to be highly effective in treating anxious depression.

Patients living in the Cape Fear Region now have direct access to this groundbreaking treatment at the Center for Brain Stimulation. For practitioner Dr. Aaron Albert, TMS has been inspirational–helping countless patients finally find relief from their depression when antidepressants failed: “TMS turned out to be the greatest advance in treatment of mental illness in my lifetime.”

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