Advance with MUSC Health

Patient finds relief from depression with TMS therapy

Advance With MUSC Health
January 22, 2024
Andrew Manett, M.D.

Diagnosed with depression in his early 20s, H.H. Shelton says at one point, he was taking more than 20 medications as he searched for a treatment that would cut through the dark fog that hung over him daily.

“It’s horrible to come off antidepressants or antianxiety medications, and for most of my 20s and 30s, I was going on or coming off of all kinds of medicines,” says Shelton, who also has had years of psychotherapy. Yet he was never able to get relief from the effects of depression.

“I am what they call a treatment-resistant depression patient,” he explains. After 20 years of battling his disorder with little success, a life-changing event prompted him to take another path, and he sought out MUSC Health Department of Psychiatry's Brain Stimulation Services, where he met Andrew Manett, M.D. and immediately knew he was in the right hands.

“The expertise within the brain stimulation team is amazing,” says Shelton. “They work with mental health recovery every day, with all age groups. The nurses are kind and compassionate, and Dr. Manett takes the time to help me understand my treatments, which really helps with the recovery process for me. We’re all cheering for the same outcome, and I know they care about me and want me to do well.”

What is Brain Stimulation Therapy?

Brain stimulation therapy, or brain stim, can be highly effective when medicines and psychotherapy are unsuccessful in relieving symptoms of common mental illnesses, including treatment-resistant depression.

Brain stim activates or inhibits specific brain areas with a mild electrical current or magnetic field, disrupting the abnormal nerve signals that are thought to cause mental health dysfunction. The magnetic field pulses are the same strength as those used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.  

Accelerated TMS Treatment

The safest and least invasive brain stimulation therapy currently available is transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. Because Shelton lives and works several hours from MUSC, he qualified for accelerated TMS, which aims to expedite outcomes with 10-minute sessions in multiple daily doses.

“I had 50 treatments in one week,” explains Shelton. “Accelerated TMS sessions are higher intensity and frequency, allowing more immediate results for people like me who are working or can’t wait weeks to feel better. TMS is noninvasive, nonmedicated, and makes me feel better in a week, with lasting effects.”

Positive Outcomes with TMS Therapy

Some people feel better after the first treatment, while others require several sessions. “I respond exceptionally well to them with zero side effects,” says Shelton. “I started to feel better after the third day, then I started to feel a lot better.”

After years of struggling, Shelton says he’s finally found a way to lift his depression. “I have a new outlook on life! I’ve gotten months back where I feel symptom-free from depression. And I’ve got hope, too, that if things get really hard, I have something I can turn to that helps. I’m living a better life.”

He’s also been able to reduce his medications and make better choices. “I’m working out regularly, while before, I was too depressed to do that. This treatment has helped me to go out and try to live a regular life. I’m clearer and more effective at work because the treatments reduce negative symptoms associated with depression, like lack of energy, brain fog and being unmotivated.”

But Shelton is most proud of and grateful for the difference the treatment has made in his relationship with his child. “My daughter gets her dad back. After years of living with a dad who struggled with mental health, she now has a present, engaged parent. I have the energy to play with her, and I’m not mentally tired, so I can help with homework. I’m emotionally clear and available for her.”

Every six months, Shelton returns to the MUSC Brain Stimulation Lab for refresher treatments, a regimen that has proven most effective for him. “It varies for each person — some people never need additional treatments, and some need them more often.”

“I am so glad I found MUSC and accelerated TMS — it’s changed my life! How can I repay them? They’ve given me my life back.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there’s a brighter future. Visit MUSC Health’s Brain Stimulation Services or call 843-792-5716.