1 Million Americans Have TRD But Think They Have Depression Due To A Misdiagnosis by Rick London

Sadly, I still have numerous friends who have dealt with depression and/or other mood disorders and for many years have received treatment to no avail.

Most, by now have read about TRD (Treatment Resistant Depression) and VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulator). The name itself is a bit of a misnomer, in that it is not depression at all, but creates the same symptoms.  It is a vagus nerve disorder and is a much “closer cousin” to epilepsy (though there are no seizures with TRD); the vagus nerve simply freezes to a certain degree.

It is an estimated 18 million Americans have depression and of that 18 million, app 1 million have TRD) but they are being treated for depression or some other mental illness (and there is no improvement).

I was one of those patients for a number of years (being treated for “garden variety depression” and tried a myriad of treatments, with no real improvement.

Around 1998, I read a magazine article about the clinical trials of VNS which was making a dramatic difference in patients who had tried many other modicums of treatment for a number of years…generally with little or no improvement. The testimonials and initial double-blind studies were showing phenomenal results. Finally I saw hope.  But I would have to be patient.

It was not approved by the FDA for TRD, some seven years later in September 2004. On January 25, 2005, I was one of the few hundred in the U.S. (and one of three in Arkansas) approved for the treatment and had the 45 minute procedure at UALR Medical Center (an implant/pacemaker placed right below the skin in my chest) which, inevitably saved my life).

The battle was still waging between the Giant Pharmaceuticals along with the American Psychiatric Association to try to put a halt to Cyberonics.com’s invention.  They were not able to shut it down, but they made it virtually impossible to receive.

Most psychiatrists do not like losing patients.  If you are eligible for VNS, contact a caseworker at Cyberonics.com in Houston.  They will work to make certain you get an implant.  Chances are very slim you have depression if you’ve been treated with all that is available for the disease.  It is usually inherited.  Did one of your parents take antidepressants (and see little or no improvement over the years)?  It is not always inherited; you may have just noticed it in your own (or a friend’s life).

I just learned today of an insurance company  who is once again covering this expensive (app $40,000 procedure).  I know nothing of this firm; own no stock, and just found this article.  So I am guessing some other insurance companies are now also covering it again (which means the APA and giant pharma are losing ground in the battle).   After the procedure, and the grogginess wore off, something interesting happened.  I didn’t have “depression”, because I never did.  The surgery is performed by an ear, nose, throat surgeon, and is painless, even after awakening.

Many, though still have to continue to take antidepressants. I was one of the lucky ones who did not. The device itself does the trick.  I’ve not experienced “depression” since that time.

If, after many different treatments, you feel it might not be depression after all, talk to your therapist or psychiatrist.  Let them know about VNS.  If they say absolutely that cannot be what it is, I HIGHLY encourage you to contact Cyberonics.com.  A good therapist who cares about your health wants you to try every modicum of treatment to get well.  A bad one, simply wants to keep you to pay his/her home mortgage.

More information on VNS is available at Cyberonics.  After the procedure, you will still be working quarterly with a psychiatrist, simply not the same one you previously had (usually) as only a handful in each state are trained to “tune up” the device. It’s done with a “computer wand” and there is no pain.

This treatment is not for everyone. Many really do have depression. I encourage you to study Vagus Nerve Stimulation on the Internet.  Every major hospital has scholarly studies from Mayo Clinic to Johns Hopkins.  

I write about this about once a year to help those who might have tried everything else, and feels “life will just have to be this way forever”; when nothing could be further from the truth.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via Twitter @RickLondon or on facebook http://facebook.com/RickLondon1


Rick London is an author, cartoonist, and designer.  He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & funny gifts which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005.  His two cartoon compilation books on Amazon Kindle are also #1 ranked. He is a product/gift designer as well.  He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller-London and together they live and hike in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. They are active in childrens, animal, nature and green causes.  Both are happy vegans.