CAN CRANIAL ELECTROTHERAPY STIMULATION (CES) HELP WITH ANXIETY WHILE WE ARE SOCIALLY DISTANCING?
Staying home this lockdown has been the safest bet for everyone. But staying home has not completely helped people from being anxious. The reasons for anxiety are many, starting from worries of staying safe to getting new jobs as the economy has faced a hard hit. But in all of this we have to remember that our mental health is very important.
Medications can help reduce anxiety but it does not reduce the risk of side effects. Thus we look into another approach for possibly treating anxiety without the risk of side effects comparative to medications, and that is through Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES). Out of various brain stimulation devices, CES has been said to reduce anxiety as well as insomnia and depression in the safest way possible. CES is a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved, prescriptive and noninvasive electromedical treatment and studies have shown that it can decrease anxiety, insomnia, and depression significantly. It is a therapeutic device about the size of a cell phone that applies pulsed, alternating microcurrent (<1000 μA) transcutaneously to the head through electrodes placed on the earlobes or other specific areas (maxilla-occipital junction, mastoid processes, or temples) of the head. Side effects from CES are mild, self-limiting and quantitatively is less than one percent and these include vertigo, skin irritation at electrode sites, and headaches.
With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a study revealed that CES can cause cortical deactivation, producing changes similar to those produced by anxiolytic medications. Electroencephalographic studies show that CES can increase alpha activity (increased relaxation), decreases delta activity (reduced fatigue), and decreases beta activity (decreased ruminative thoughts). As reported by the study conducted by Kirsch and Nicholas, CES treatments are cumulative but most patients show at least some improvement after the first treatment. Depression has been told to take up to 3 weeks for initial response whereas Insomnia has shown to vary with some individuals. While some improved sleep immediately, others did not improve sleep until 2 months into treatment. A trial treatment can identify who readily responds to a CES treatment.
In 2014, the American Institute of stress conducted a 5 week clinical trial of CES to examine its effectiveness for the treatment of anxiety and depression. More than half of the participants were put into 60 minutes of active CES therapy sessions every day and by the end of the 5th week a significant difference was seen in depression and anxiety levels of participants. 83% of the active CES group showed ≥ 50% decrease in anxiety scores and 82% showed ≥ 50% decrease in depression scores respectively.
Individuals are capable of doing self-directed CES therapy at home. According to Kirsch and Nicholas, who have researched multiple effects of CES, mention in their study that treatments may need to be performed daily during the first 1 to 3 or 4 weeks and then 2 to 3 times per week during a maintenance phase. Individuals can also use CES as often as needed. Because there are no side effects from extended use of CES it can be especially beneficial for individuals diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those who experience panic attacks. CES can also be used during psychotherapy sessions and with medications, hypnosis, and biofeedback to decrease patient anxiety. Today, various CES devices are available online for purchase. CES is cost-effective compared to drugs and other devices used in psychiatry, it is portable, and easy to use in either a home or clinical settings
If you wish to look into CES further or wish to purchase one, a list of CES devices with specifications can be found at Caputron’s website. Be sure to use code “tdcs.com” to receive a discount off your order.*
For more information about Covid-19 and appropriate safety precautions, please be sure to consult the CDC website.
- Kirsch DL, Nicholas F; Cranial electrotherapy stimulation for treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia. Psychiatr Clin N Am 2013; 36:169-176.
- Feusner JD, Madsen S, Moody TD, Bohon C, Hembacher E, Bookheimer SY, Bystritsky A. Effects of cranial electrotherapy stimulation on resting state brain activity. Brain Behav. 2012 May;2(3):211-20. doi: 10.1002/brb3.45. PMID: 22741094; PMCID: PMC3381625.
- Barclay TH, Barclay RD. A clinical trial of cranial electrotherapy stimulation for anxiety and comorbid depression. Journal of Affective Disorders 2014; 164:171-177