Finding the Music Again
Transcranial magnetic stimulation helps relieve major depression in a UF Health Jacksonville patient.
Steve Chapman felt miserable when he returned home early one morning in May 2021 after completing an annual corporate music gig, where he played guitar and sang with an eight-piece band. He stored his equipment in the front room of his home and didn’t touch it again for eight months.
Chapman was struggling with major depression, and although he was taking medication and being treated with psychotherapy, it wasn’t helping him feel better. The COVID-19 pandemic added to his declining mental health and caused him to fall deeper into depression, and he couldn’t see a way out of it.
“The medication I was taking wasn’t working for my depression, and I was feeling helpless,” Chapman said. “I also had several chronic health issues that added to the feeling that I was falling into a dark pit.”
Transcranial magnetic stimulation
The following February, Chapman saw ads on social media for a new treatment for major depressive disorder called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. TMS is an FDA-approved therapy for individuals who have treatment-resistant depression — a condition in which antidepressant medications have failed or the side effects of medications are intolerable.
TMS uses a focused electromagnet to stimulate underactive cells in targeted areas of the brain. The magnetic pulses generate an electrical current and raise brain activity to normal levels.
Although Chapman was retired at the time, he was familiar with the technology used for TMS treatment, as his career had been in the medical field of advanced technology and radiology, mainly PET-CT and MRI scans.
Finding a TMS provider
At the time, Chapman was receiving psychotherapy treatment from Brian Celso, PhD, a UF Health Jacksonville surgical psychologist in the department of surgery. Chapman inquired about TMS treatment, and Celso referred him to Daniel Lewis, MD, a UF Health Jacksonville psychiatrist.
After reviewing the medical records on his history of mental illness and the complications he was experiencing with medications, Lewis felt Chapman was a good candidate for TMS therapy. Lewis showed Chapman the TMS machine and described the treatment process.
Chapman’s therapy began within a couple of weeks after submitting prior authorization with his insurance company. Treatment sessions for TMS last 30 minutes and are typically performed five days per week over a six-week period.
Chapman started TMS in April 2022, and after only the second session he said he could feel an improvement physically and mentally.
“It was amazing. I thought, ‘Is this a placebo reaction?’” Chapman said. “Suddenly, I felt connected again, with my wife, family and hobbies.”
According to Lewis, 75% of his patients typically respond positively to TMS. Within the first week or two, patients identify something that is improving, whether it be their energy level and the ability to concentrate or increased interest in things.
“Mr. Chapman was really frustrated and disheartened about not feeling that spark of joy in life,” Lewis said. “I’m very happy this treatment worked for him and his family.”
Chronic symptoms improving
According to Chapman, several of his chronic physical symptoms also started to improve after TMS therapy. It is well documented that when patients are treated for depression, their medical comorbidities are better controlled, and patients overall have better outcomes.
“Mr. Chapman’s chronic pain, sleep and heart issues have all improved as a result of his brain improving,” Lewis said.
Let the song play on
Chapman completed TMS therapy in May 2022 and feels like he’s back to his normal self. His wife, Rebekah, immediately saw the positive changes in her husband.
“After the second day of treatment, Steve was a whole new person,” Rebekah said. “He was being more responsive, physically more loving and more romantic. I got my husband back.”
A few months after completing treatment, Chapman, along with his wife and band, performed at the same corporate gig they had participated in last year. This time, however, the whole process of practicing and then playing the night of the gig was entirely different. For Chapman, his love and joy of music had returned, as well as the enjoyment of being on stage.
“After the gig ended, I had a whole new outlook on life,” Chapman said. “Now, when I pick up the guitar, I enjoy playing and feeling connected with people again, especially my family.”
Visit UFHealthJax.org/TMS or call 904.383.1038 to learn more and to schedule an appointment.