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Alternative Depression Therapy Available With No Side Effects

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  The holiday season can be a difficult time for people suffering with depression.

It's an issue that millions of families deal with at some point.

Medications and therapy are helpful for many, but they don't always work.

Now there's a different kind of therapy, with no side effects.

The device may look funny, but depression is nothing to laugh at.

For Sharon Ferguson, this helmet has turned her life around.

"I've been just a complete different person," said Sharon.

Sharon, who lives with her husband Robert in Newark, Delaware, walks with a cane.

It's all due to a back injury and four surgeries.

It's what started a long ordeal with depression.

"It gets you down," Sharon said. "You can't do a lot of things, you're mostly sleeping."

When anti-depressant medications didn't work, she tried TMS, also known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

It's a magnetic therapy that studies have shown can relieve depression.

"About 70-80 percent of the patients are reporting significant improvement," said Dr. Ganesh Balu, of Delaware TMS.

Dr. Balu says the Brainsway system provides a deeper stimulation with the magnetic therapy.

"By rotating the helmet, we can stimulate different parts of the brain," said Dr. Balu. "When we stimulate the brain repeatedly, with thousands of pulses per minute, the brain has the ability to improve its function. It's almost like a reset button."

The therapy involves 20 minute sessions over a period of four to six weeks.

Sharon says not only did her depression ease, she also lost 48 pounds.

"You're a complete different person," Sharon said. "You're upbeat and you smile constantly."

"It feels like I have my partner back, you know, because she's not constantly in bed," said Sharon's husband Robert. "She's just totally different."

After the initial treatment phase, some patients need occasional refreshers with the therapy.

It is covered by most insurance.

However, experts say magnetic therapy with TMS doesn't work for everyone with depression, and it's not clear why.

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