Depression and anxiety can have a debilitating impact on daily life. Individuals with these conditions often find themselves exhausted, experiencing difficulties with regular sleep, overwhelmingly sad or anxious, and feeling empty and hopeless. On top of all that, depression and anxiety can also cause severe physical symptoms – such as headaches, digestive trouble, and chronic pain – that don’t respond well to typical treatment. This article discusses the many ways in which PEMFs for depression and anxiety can enhance the outcomes of other therapies and help with this hidden epidemic.
The statistics on depression and anxiety in the United States are sobering. In 2017, according to the National Survey on Drug Use & Health, 17.3 million adults (7.1%) in the US experienced a major depressive episode. Among these adults who experienced major depressive episodes, 63.8% had severe impairments that interfered with their ability to carry out the major activities of daily life.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, with 31.1 % of adults experiencing one at some point in their lifetime, according to Harvard University’s National Comorbidity Study.
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, with about one-half of individuals diagnosed with depression also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And that doesn’t even take into account the people who go undiagnosed.
While depression and anxiety are highly treatable, approximately two-thirds of people with these problems do not seek or receive proper treatment. And of those who do take advantage of conventional methods of treatment such as medication, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, approximately one-fourth do not respond. As understanding of the neurobiology behind the issues increases, the door opens for new treatments, including PEMFs for depression and anxiety.
Understanding the Chronic Pain Brain
Long-term pain, both physical and emotional, can have a profound impact on the brain. When your brain is exposed to pain signals constantly, it causes changes to the brain that can result in what I call “chronic pain brain.” When your brain is receiving constant messages that pain is present, your limbic system (where emotion lives) and frontal cortex (the decision making part of your brain) are activated. When this happens, the perception of pain can be far more intense than the actual pain. Mental distress caused by depression and anxiety can trigger these pain signals the same way a physical issue can.
Traditional approaches, particularly medications, don’t address these brain changes. They simply cover up the problem without addressing the root cause of the pain. This is problematic because it can often take more medication to relieve the symptoms as time goes by, and can also lead to addiction issues.
Another problem with conventional treatments is the time it takes to feel relief. Anti-depressant medications typically take four to six weeks to produce results. Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are long term interventions. Other therapies, like ECT (convulsive therapy) and rTMS (high intensity transcranial magnetic stimulation) have to be applied repeatedly to get the full therapeutic effect. With the exception of medications, none of these therapies can be applied at home daily.
PEMF for Depression and Anxiety – Evidence and Effectiveness
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of magnetic field therapies on both depression and anxiety disorders as well as many other conditions affecting the brain.
One study at Harvard Medical School found that the PEMF device they used prompted greater than 10% significant improvement in mood after just one 20-minute treatment in patients with bipolar disorder and in patients with major depressive disorder (Rohan, et al). While this is just one study, it demonstrates the immediate benefits that PEMFs for depression and anxiety can have.
Another study found that after five weeks of active treatment with low intensity transcranial PEMF (T-PEMF), there was a 62% reduction on a Depression Rating Scale among those in the active T-PEMF group (Martiny, et al). This study also found that improvement was noticeable within the first weeks of therapy.
A home study using the same device found that after eight weeks of daily treatment, 73% of subjects were relieved of their depression. At five weeks in, this number was only 27% (Strasso, et al). Two years after the treatment, 52% of subjects were still in remission, and those who were not in remission, found relief after another course of treatment (Bech, et al).
This suggests that long-term, daily treatment – which can be easily achieved with a portable home PEMF device – could be very beneficial for people who suffer from depression, with minimal side effects, and without the cost and time commitment necessary to receive other treatments in a physician’s office.
Both animal and human research has demonstrated the value of using PEMFs to treat depression and anxiety disorders. One study showed that mice treated with a pulsed low-frequency magnetic field had a reduction in “anxiety-like behaviors” after fifteen minutes of treatment (Choleris, et al). Similar results were found in a study using rats (Kalkan, et al).
One study of low intensity PEMF in healthy women showed that applying treatment to two areas of the brain for just nine minutes caused brain EEG changes. This indicates that PEMF stimulation can decrease higher EEG frequencies, common in anxiety, making it very effective in treating anxiety (Amirifalah, et al).
A wide body of additional research demonstrates that PEMFs, both low and high intensity, can be helpful in treating a range of anxiety disorders, from mild to quite severe.
Professional experience with PEMF and anxiety
I saw an extremely anxious patient in my medical office, too nervous to sit still. Just applying a medium intensity coil to the back of the neck for 45 minutes reduced her anxiety by over 60%. She got her own PEMF device and uses it every day to maintain control. She is no longer afraid to go anywhere that would cause her fear to be aroused.
How do PEMFs for depression help heal with depression and anxiety?
Stimulation with PEMFs directly impacts the brain, causing changes to the underlying EEG patterns through entrainment of brainwave oscillations. Other forms of entrainment, most notably electrical stimulation and visual auditory stimulation, have been tested and used to create these changes. PEMFs penetrate more deeply into the brain than these other methods, allowing them to balance and heal the brain tissue that is part of the mood and pain problem.
The stimulation from PEMFs has an effect on the electrical activity of neurons, which change the neuronal networks that alter the areas of the brain that control mood. The fields also seem to impact the glucose metabolism of the regions in the brain that are linked to depression and anxiety. Neuroscientists have mapped these changes, and even very weak PEMFs have been found to prompt the changes.
Home treatment with PEMF for depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are complex conditions that often require long term treatment. The flexibility of a portable, battery-operated PEMF device makes it an ideal component to treatment for anxiety and depression.
These machines are easy to apply, and can be used daily for as long as you’d like – even overnight, which can promote high quality sleep. Sleep quality has important benefits to the management of depression and anxiety.
If you are looking for an alternative method to managing depression or anxiety, call my office and speak to a member of my staff, who can discuss the potential benefits of PEMF therapy with you.
Amirifalah Z, Firoozabadi SM, Shafiei SA. Local exposure of brain central areas to a pulsed ELF magnetic field for a purposeful change in EEG. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2013 Jan;44(1):44-52.
Bech P, Lindberg L, Straaso B, et al. 2-year follow-up study of patients participating in our transcranial pulsating electromagnetic fields (T-PEMF) augmentation in treatment-resistant depression. Acta Neuropsychiatrica 2015.
Choleris E, Thomas AW, Prato FS. A comparison of the effects of a 100 ut specific pulsed magnetic field and diazepam on anxiety-related behaviors in male CF1 mice. Bioelectromagnetics Society, 21st Annual Meeting, 20-24 June, Long Beach, CA, Abstract No. P-91, p. 129-130, 1999.
Kalkan MT, Korpinar MA, Seker S, et al. The effect of the 50 Hz frequency sinusoidal magnetic field on the stress-related behavior of rats. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference Biomedical Engineering Days, 20-22 May, Istanbul, Turkey, p.78-81, 1998.
Machado S, Paes F, Velasques B, et al. Is rTMS an effective therapeutic strategy that can be used to treat anxiety disorders? Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan;62(1):125-34.
Martiny K, Lunde M, Bech P: Transcranial low voltage pulsed electromagnetic fields in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Biol Psychiatry 2010, 68:163–169.
Rohan ML, Yamamoto RT, Ravichandran CT, Cayetano KR, Morales OG, Olson DP, Vitaliano G, Paul SM, Cohen BM. Rapid mood-elevating effects of low field magnetic stimulation in depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug 1;76(3):186-93.
Straaso B, Lauritzen L, Lunde M, et al. Dose-remission of pulsating electromagnetic fields as
augmentation in therapy-resistant depression: a randomized, double blind controlled study. Acta