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Mental Health in the News: August 4, 2022


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Welcome to Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry’s Mental health in the News weekly update. Below are some current news events relating to mental health and mental health treatments.

Research Says TMS Significantly Reduces Symptoms of PTSD

The Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department at Eastern Virginia Medical School conducted a study to observe the effects of magnetic brain stimulation or TMS on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms in patients who had not found relief from other treatments, including medication. 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a treatment method that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate regions of the brain associated with mood disorders like depression. 

Nine people participated in this two-year study. During the study, participants were given TMS while discussing memories that triggered PTSD symptoms. All nine subjects showed a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms after TMS therapy. Seven patients no longer met the criteria for PTSD diagnosis, and almost all subjects no longer needed their PTSD medication. 

The study, led by Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Serina Neumann, PhD, showed that TMS could provide drastic improvements in overall well-being and ability to follow daily pursuits in veterans with PTSD. 

Currently, TMS is FDA-approved for major depressive disorder (MDD), major depressive disorder with anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but has not been approved for PTSD. Neumann has plans for future work with TMS to further validate it as a therapy for PTSD.

To read the original news article, click here.

A Look at the Stigma Surrounding Depression

Stigma surrounding mental health can present an obstacle for people seeking help for mental health issues, like depression. People suffering from depression may feel like outsiders to a world that doesn’t think or feel like they do.

Mental health stigma may be reinforced by the media’s often inaccurate portrayal of individuals suffering from mental health conditions. Harmful stereotypes emerge since the media (i.e. books, movies, and television) is many people’s only source of information about mental illness.

A 2016 study shows that societies and cultures worldwide discriminate against citizens who suffer from mental illness. However, a 2021 study found that, in the past 20 years, there has been increasing acceptance of mental health issues, like depression. The study results looked optimistic for the future, as healthier perceptions of mental health were found in younger generations.

Current research identifies three types of stigma:

  • Self-stigma: occurs when a person internalizes societal views about mental health and feels shame or decreased self-worth.
  • Public stigma: is rooted in the public’s perception of mental health issues, which still needs a lot of improvement. One study reported that 30% of people surveyed equated depression to weakness.
  • Institutional stigma: is based on culturally ingrained elements. Institutional stigma exists in the business world, in organizations like non-profits, and in governments and has resulted in a historical lack of care and opportunity for the afflicted.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) further categorizes stigma to include:

  • Health practitioner stigma: prejudice in professionals that impacts the care a person receives.
  • Perceived stigma: the fear of being judged by others.
  • Stigma by association: the fear that being close to people with mental illness may cause others to look poorly on an individual.
  • Label avoidance: avoiding treatment to prevent being labeled.

Stigma can have a slew of negative consequences, including:

  • Preventing people from seeking help
  • Reduced access to treatment
  • Poor response to treatment
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of social support
  • Harassment
  • Self-harm and suicide

Some good approaches to coping with stigma include:

  • Reading personal stories from people suffering from depression
  • Learning self-compassion
  • Seeking professional help from a licensed therapist
  • Calling out stigma when we see it
  • Advocating for mental health

To read the original news article, click here.

TMS Has Positive Results on Vaccine-Associated Tinnitus

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective at preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but vaccine-associated tinnitus is one of its rare side effects that can reduce the quality of life for those affected. 

Prescription steroids are generally used in cases of an inflammatory immune response where tinnitus develops but have shown to be ineffective at providing relief to patients with vaccine-associated tinnitus. This leads researchers to believe that vaccine-induced tinnitus is not triggered by inflammation. 

A recent study found that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), an FDA-approved treatment for depression, relieved symptoms of vaccine-associated tinnitus for one patient. The patient in this study had begun experiencing symptoms of non-vaccine-related tinnitus in 2020, and her condition was given a rating of 92 on the tinnitus handicap index (THI), a 100-point scale used to determine the severity of a person’s tinnitus. A score of 78-100 is considered to be “catastrophic.”

Despite severe symptoms, she was able to be effectively treated with antibiotics from May to September 2021, significantly reducing her THI down to 12.

In October 2021, immediately following her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the patient’s tinnitus worsened to a THI of 96, and her physicians speculated that she had a vaccine-related cochlear disease. In December 2021, she was prescribed steroids that led to only a slight reduction of symptoms, to a THI of 88.

In February 2022, the patient began to receive TMS therapy, in which practitioners administered 3,000 pulses daily to her left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), an area in the front of the brain where TMS is commonly applied to. The patient’s THI had dropped to 66 after a week of treatment, and then to 9 by early March, after less than a month of therapy.

TMS has also effectively been used to treat non-vaccine-related tinnitus in previous occurrences. However, this is one of the first reports of TMS’s success with vaccine-associated tinnitus and may suggest TMS as an alternative to steroids in these cases.

Researchers hold that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe for use.

To read the original news article, click here.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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