RALEIGH, N.C. - Kristi Miller has struggled with anxiety and depression since she was 13.
"I would have this intense feeling in my chest like it was so tight and I couldn't breathe," Miller said.
The busy teacher has tried more than 30 anti-depressant medications, but over time, they would stop working.
"Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Effexor," Miller listed.
Dr. Sandeep Vaishnavi, a neuropsychiatrist and medical director of the Brain Stimulation Service at MindPath Care Centers at Carolina Partners, said newer options like deep TMS or transcranial magnetic stimulation can be very effective.
"What this technology is doing is that it's stimulating the brain using these magnetic pulses," Vaishnavi said.
He said that causes the networks in the brain to change over time.
"We want to make that cognitive control network, the pre-frontal cortex, we want it to be more efficient so it can modulate the emotional brain," Vaishnavi said.
The patient is fitted with Brainsway's deep TMS helmet, which sends magnetic pulses to the brain.
The patient undergoes a 20-minute session where he or she feels a light tapping on the side of their head.
Results have been dramatic: a recent study found that only 11% went into remission with medication alone.
"But with TMS and medications, it was 60%," Vaishnavi explained.
Miller said she felt a difference after the very first session.
"It was like all the colors in the sky were just brighter," Miller described.
The patient generally undergoes a series of 36 sessions in combination with medication and or therapy. Doctors said there's a very small risk of seizures, but it's less than one in 30,000 sessions. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association guidelines suggest TMS after one medication failure.
Deep TMS has also been FDA-approved to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. We're told most insurance companies cover the full 36 sessions.