Electrotherapy an Option for Depression, Anxiety Sufferers

Taking medications to treat mental health disorders is often a big step for those struggling with mental issues. But an old therapy, recently fully approved by the FDA, may offer those living with depression, anxiety and even insomnia a drug-free option for relief. Erin Billups filed the following report.

An infantry machine gunner in the Marine Corps, Logan Shield was injured by an explosive on a battlefield in Iraq in 2011.

"It exploded around 20 feet away from us. It catapulted that stone with enough force that it went, it just went over my gun shield and it hit me right in the face," he recalls.

Shield was unconscious for three days, and now has titanium steel along his jawline.

He says the two years it took for him to recover was a time of uncertainty, during which issues from his tumultuous childhood resurfaced, throwing him into a deep depression.

"The hallmark for depression for me has been waking feeling as if you have no hope. It feels like you're just living to die," says Logan.

He was on anti-depressants and medication for insomnia.  A friend suggested he try cranial electrotherapy stimulation.

His therapist gave him the green light to use the Fisher Wallace Stimulator.

It's different from the more controversial electroconvulsive therapy, sending much lower jolts of electricity to the brain.

"It particularly stimulates those nerves that produce the neurotransmitters that are really important for relieving depression and anxiety and helping them sleep," explains Retired Brigadier General and Psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis.

Xenakis has been using the therapy in his practice for years.

It's been around since the 1970s, but has had little traction.

"Starting with the 80s the main emphasis was with drugs, with pharmaceuticals, and they've really dominated the field. The idea that you could now have something else that's not a drug, has been hard to get accepted," notes Xenakis.

More study is needed, but in small trials the therapy appeared to reduce self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.

"It helped me feel a lot stronger. It helped with my anxiety. It brought me to a level where I feel confident speaking," says Shield.

Shield is no longer on medication, and while he initially used the device a few times a week, he now only uses it when feelings of depression or anxiety return.

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