Dr. Sarah Mallard Wakefield at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center says depression is a mood disorder where people have persistent feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness.
Patient Dana Bear has struggled with depression her entire adult life and has taken medication for it for 30 years.
"It has worked some, it's, it's worked pretty good. But the depression always comes back," Bear said.
She's now engaged in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, a treatment that shows promising results for those with severe depression.
Wakefield says all thoughts, perceptions and behaviors are results of neurons interacting with each other, and TMS is a way to increase that interaction.
"We use electrical impulses from a coil that is placed next to a patient's head to create a magnetic field. That magnetic field actually passes through the skull and increases activity of neurons," Wakefield said.
In total, the treatment takes thirty-six sessions lasting twenty minutes each. The first thirty are Monday through Friday for six weeks, then six additional sessions several days apart each.
"That twenty minutes consists of sitting in a comfortable chair, putting a helmet with that magnetic coil on your head and experiencing pulses of electricity two seconds on, twenty seconds off for that twenty minute period," Wakefield said.
"First of all, it does not hurt. Okay, it is loud," Bear said.
Wakefield says the most common side effect is a headache post-procedure and there's a serious side effect of seizure, but it's very rare.
She says TMS and antidepressants can complement each other.
"There are people who benefit from staying on medication or starting medication later, but they have better results from that treatment than they would have otherwise because they engaged in TMS," Wakefield said.
Bear says she began to feel positive results after two weeks.
She says there are still days that aren't perfect, but after her last treatment she had a feeling of being hopeful.
"I had a feeling of kind of being a light of heart and I mean, happiness just seemed to be on my shoulders," Bear said.
Wakefield says most major insurances and Medicare cover the treatment and it's FDA-approved for those experiencing severe depression and are eighteen years of age and older.