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CES Technology for Depression and Anxiety: Is it Right For You?

Mental Health
Author name: Lee Health

When you have depression, you can lose interest in the things that bring you happiness. Anxiety, too, can rob you of enjoying life. These disorders can make almost any task feel insurmountable – including the task of finding the treatment that’s right for you.

For some patients, Lee Physician Group psychiatrist Eric Raab has introduced a breakthrough technology called cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) to provide symptom relief of their depression and anxiety.

“The treatment doesn’t involve medications, is safe, noninvasive, and easy to use. Best of all, patients can use this therapy in the comfort and privacy of their own home,” Dr. Raab says.

“Results accumulate over time, meaning patients often find they need fewer treatments as their symptoms improve. Also, CES can be used with other treatment modalities like mental health counseling and medications.”

How Does CES Work?

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) is a medical treatment that delivers a mild form of electrical stimulation to the brain for the treatment of depression and anxiety. 

Studies in animals suggest the treatment might alter certain “chemical messengers.” More recent research indicates it might temporarily change the “connectivity” among certain brain cells.

“Research has found the electrical activity in your brain controls the neurochemicals regulating your moods, emotions, sleep and cognition,” Dr. Raab explains. “Stress causes that electrical activity to function improperly, causing hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate our emotions to become unbalanced.

“By indirectly stimulating brain tissue in the hypothalamic area, CES is thought to cause the brain to restore the various neurochemicals back to pre-stress balance.”

But however CES works, clinical studies report it is safe and effective, and most people who benefit from it typically experience results within a few days of starting treatment, Dr. Raab notes.

Mild side effects may include headache, nausea, and dizziness. CES devices are not recommended for patients who use implanted pacemakers or defibrillators.

Dr. Raab says he uses CES devices, which are cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration and require a doctor’s prescription, as an additional therapy for his patients.

“CES typically isn’t a first-line treatment,” he says. “We often recommend CES treatment for patients in addition to antidepressant medication treatment. And in some patients for whom medication therapy doesn’t work or for those who can’t tolerate medication side effects such as weight gain and nausea, CES is a good option.”

Dr. Raab says another benefit of CES treatment is that patients can use it “as needed” to lower their anxiety or panic levels. Patients also can use a CES device, which are portable and handheld, in their homes while doing everyday activities such as watching TV, reading, working on a computer or light housework.

Help for Service Members and Veterans

Dr. Raab, who previously practiced at the Charlotte County Veteran Services before joining Lee Physician Group, says CES has proved an effective non-drug treatment option for many patients who are veterans and service members.

“CES has long been prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and depression,” he says.

Recently, Lee Health celebrated its first-year clinical partnership with Home Base Southwest Florida Clinic to provide mental health services for veterans, service members and military families.

To learn more about clinical services offered by Home Base SWFL’s Outpatient Clinic at Lee Health, contact Home Base SWFL’s Operation & Special Projects Manager Monique Hashimoto at homebaseswfl@partners.org, 239-338-8389, or visit www.homebase.org/SWFL

The CES Device

The handheld device, powered by a 9-volt battery, uses an electrode clipped to each ear lobe that transmits a mild electrical current through the brain.

According to Dr. Raab, treatments typically last 20 minutes to an hour once a day, for a minimum of three to six weeks.

“People who have depression usually require three weeks or more of daily treatment to experience significant symptom improvement, but may take considerably longer,” Dr. Raab says. “After the condition is under control, CES can be used two to three times per week or less to maintain good results.”

Is CES for You?

Dr. Raab evaluates patients for CES therapy, and will write a prescription for the treatment if patients meet the criteria.

“Our patients order their own devices, and during a one-hour appointment with our office we review how they operate the device and answer all of their questions,” Dr. Raab explains. “We monitor all patients during their first 20-minute session with the device for any possible side effects. Patients who tolerate the therapy can begin using the device at home.”

A CES device usually costs between $600 to $800, depending on the manufacturer and features.

To learn more about CES and other clinical services offered by Lee Health Outpatient Behavioral Health Center, call 239-343-9180.