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Chicago nurse is finally free of COVID-19-related PTSD and depression after electrical brain tapping therapy

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Chicago nurse is finally free of COVID-19-related PTSD and depression after electrical brain tapping therapy

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A Chicago nurse has been liberated from her own mind, thanks to a brain-tapping technology called deep TMS.

Gulden, who requested to omit her surname for privacy reasons, worked as a nurse for more than 40 years before COVID-19 rocked the hospital system and took a toll on her mental health.

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The mother of four worked at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Illinois, as an ICU and ER nurse.

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In an interview with Fox News Digital, Gulden described the “massive chaos” that the 2020 coronavirus pandemic brought to the hospital.

“No matter what we did, it was like a failure,” she said. “We were not prepared [for] the onslaught of patients.”

Housekeeper Tonia Harvey changes a bed in the Roseland Community Hospital intensive care unit after a COVID-19 patient passed away, April 17, 2020. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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“The predictable outcome of coming in through the ER and leaving in a body bag was just devastating.”

Despite her many years of medical work, New York City-born Gulden admitted that she “could not cope with it.” 

By Sept. 2020, she was a “different person,” she said.

“I was on autopilot. I lived at work and when I came home, I was not functioning … My organization and concentration skills were gone.” 

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“It was very, very unlike me, because I’m a single mom. I’ve raised four kids all by myself … but I started to notice that I could not let go of what had transpired during the day.”

Gulden told her primary care provider about her symptoms, including “horrible nightmares” that prevented her from sleeping and constant “weeping” that came “from her soul.”

gulden sitting in a chair

Gulden, pictured here, said that working in a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic turned her into a “different person.” (Melanie Eilers)

In the span of two years, the doctor prescribed Gulden eight different medications for sleep, PTSD and major depressive disorder, along with cognitive behavior therapy — but nothing worked.

Even after the pandemic began to slow down, the nurse described how she hit a “spiral” when she realized COVID-19 created a “chain reaction.”

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“[There] was a 51-year-old who had bilateral tumors and needed a mastectomy,” she shared. “She’d gone through all her chemo and radiation, and she was ready for her mastectomy, but she had to wait like 11 months.”

Added Gulden, “By the time she came back, her tumors had grown back, and that’s when I was like, This is never going to be over.”

Gulden mentioned that screenings for major health complications were down at least 84% during the pandemic, feeding into a “ripple” of patients who received care too late.

a chicago nurse tends to a covid-19 patient in hospital

Tamara Jones gives antibiotics to James Davis as he recovers from COVID-19 in the intensive care unit at Roseland Community Hospital on Dec. 16, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The nurse said through tears that she decided to leave the hospital and retire, since she “just couldn’t function there.”

After leaving, she fell into a “hibernation state” of sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day.

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“The only reason I got up was to go to the bathroom,” she said. “And I’m embarrassed to say I would go weeks without showering.”

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“I lost 54 pounds — I got to the point where I couldn’t eat, because everything in the refrigerator reminded me of what was on patients’ trays.”

Gulden’s “incredibly vivid, horrible nightmares” continued along with other symptoms, including the inability to stay awake. She called it a “complete shutdown.”

gulden at relief mental health in orland park

Gulden received deep TMS treatment at Relief Mental Health in Orland Park, Illinois. (Melanie Eilers)

After Gulden spent three years in “hibernation,” a friend introduced her to a new type of mental health treatment called deep TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) — a magnetized tapping of the brain used to treat various disorders and diseases.

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Gulden agreed to visit Dr. Teresa Poprawski, the chief medical officer of Relief Mental Health in Orland Park, Illinois, who helped “put the threads together” on what was triggering her PTSD and other symptoms.

What is deep TMS?

Dr. Aaron Tendler, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of BrainsWay, a brain disorder treatment company, discussed how the therapy works in an interview with Fox News Digital.

Tendler is based in West Palm Beach, Florida and was not involved in Gulden’s care. He said the brain is primarily an “electrochemical organ” that sends messages to different parts of the body.

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Most symptoms, including depression and anxiety, are controlled by changes in the brain, Tendler said, which can be treated electrically.

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Deep TMS is a more “targeted” approach than electroshock therapy, he told Fox News Digital.

tired nurse during covid-19 next to a deep TMS patient

Gulden described the sensation of deep TMS as “tapping on specific parts of the brain.” (iStock; BrainsWay)

“Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses the principle of electromagnetic induction, where magnetic pulses induce an electrical current inside of neurons,” he said.

“Essentially, we are changing the electrical activity in a group of neurons in an area of the brain.”

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These magnetic pulses only stimulate a specific area of the brain for “a brief period of time,” he said, with treatments lasting anywhere from six to 20 minutes. Patients undergo treatments for a series of days, depending on what’s necessary.

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Tendler described the therapy as a “learning experience” that changes “the state of the brain” through repetitive treatment.

patient sits for deep tms therapy

Deep TMS interrupts activity in the brain that is creating unwanted patterns, an expert said. (BrainsWay)

Gulden received deep TMS treatments for five days a week, for six to eight weeks. She described the sensation as “tapping on specific parts of the brain.”

After three weeks, she reported a noticeable difference in her cognitive state.

“I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s been three years since I’ve heard the birds,’” she said. “I see life again. I see my flowers. Before, I couldn’t even look at the flowers because they just reminded me of funerals.”

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Gulden described her quality of life as “just so much better” since receiving treatment.

She still attends cognitive behavioral therapy sessions to hone her coping skills, she said.

“And if I need deep TMS again, I will be back there in a heartbeat,” she added.

woman smiles while wearing deep tms helmet

Deep TMS is covered by “every insurer” across the country, according to one expert. (BrainsWay)

‘Very useful tool’

Gulden’s goal is to teach others to not feel ashamed about seeking help for their mental health struggles.

“I want people to know that there are interventions,” she said. 

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“The meds did not work for me. Had I not had this treatment today, I don’t know where I’d be.”

woman receives deep tms treatment

Although deep TMS technology was developed in the 1980s, the first treatment application for depression was FDA-cleared in 2009. (BrainsWay)

Most patients experience a 40% to 50% improvement after four weeks of treatment, according to Tendler.

After completing a typical course of 36 treatments, patients have shown 75% to 80% improvement, he said.

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Deep TMS is “not a cure,” Tendler said — but many patients are able to regain normal function for months or years at a time.

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The electrical therapy doesn’t have the potential side effects that antidepressants and other treatments can cause, Tendler said, noting that the brain manipulation is “temporary.”

gulden at relief mental health clinic

“Had I not had this treatment today, I don’t know where I’d be,” Gulden said. (Melanie Eilers)

“I know this might sound like a disadvantage, but it is also an advantage,” he said. “We don’t do anything to the person’s brain that’s permanent. We’re changing the state of the brain temporarily.”

He added, “Generally, we get you out of the state that you were in … and then nature takes its course.”

Deep TMS can also be paired with other medications, such as antidepressants, Tendler added.

Dr. Marc Siegel

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel cautioned that deep TMS could potentially cause some cognitive and behavioral changes, but called it a “very useful tool” overall. (Dr. Marc Siegel)

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel cautioned that deep TMS could potentially cause some cognitive and behavioral changes, but called it a “very useful tool” overall.

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He told Fox News Digital that deep TMS is also “very useful for movement disorders like Parkinson’s, with a high rate of success.”  

“We’re changing the state of the brain temporarily.”

Siegel cautioned that deep TMS could potentially cause some cognitive and behavioral changes, but called it a “very useful tool” overall.

“[Deep TMS is] still being investigated for various purposes to interrupt aberrant nerve conduction,” he said.

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For other medical professionals suffering from mental health issues, Gulden stressed the importance of having a “healthy health care team,” especially following the pandemic.

“I don’t care how tough you think you are,” she said. “You need to know what the signs are, and you need to know what treatments are available.”

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5 myths about schizophrenia, according to a mental health expert: ‘Huge stigma’

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5 myths about schizophrenia, according to a mental health expert: ‘Huge stigma’

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About 1% of Americans, or nearly 3.5 million people, are affected by schizophrenia — yet the mental disorder remains highly stigmatized and misunderstood, experts say.

The reason, according to Brooke Kempf, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner based in Indiana, is a general lack of knowledge about schizophrenia.

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“People may see somebody hallucinating and think, ‘That is schizophrenia,’ when there’s so much more to the illness,” she told Fox News Digital in an interview. 

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“It’s important for people to recognize that schizophrenia is a diagnosed and treatable medical condition.”

For World Schizophrenia Day, Kempf shared some of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding the disorder.

Approximately 1% of Americans, or nearly 3.5 million people, are affected by schizophrenia — yet the mental disorder remains highly stigmatized and misunderstood, experts say. (iStock)

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Here’s a look at five. 

Myth No. 1: People with schizophrenia are violent

One of the greatest and “most harmful” myths is the notion that people living with schizophrenia are “scary” or “violent,” Kempf said.

“There is a long history of conflating TV or movie characters who are behaving in odd, confusing or frightening ways with a diagnosis of schizophrenia,” she said. 

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“However, we have to remember that these are made-up, dramatized situations. A diagnosis of schizophrenia doesn’t have anything to do with what we see on the screen.”

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When patients with schizophrenia experience an acute episode — perhaps having delusions or hearing voices — they might behave differently than they typically would, sometimes seeming angry or violent.

“The person is likely experiencing something within themselves that they might be arguing about or responding to, but they aren’t targeting anything toward another person,” Kempf said.

schizophrenia split

When a patient with schizophrenia is experiencing an acute episode — perhaps having delusions or hearing voices — they might behave differently than they typically would, sometimes seeming angry or violent. (iStock)

When symptoms are managed with medication, “you would probably have no idea of their diagnosis,” she noted.

“Through my long history of working in community mental health and hearing their stories, I know that people living with schizophrenia are good, caring, loving people,” Kempf said. 

“They are more likely,” she added, “to be the victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator of one.”

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Myth No. 2: People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities

There is a misconception that people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities, which could be because the Greek word “schizophrenia” means “split mind,” Kempf noted.

“However, people with schizophrenia do not have split personalities,” she said. 

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“They might have different behavioral characteristics when they’re ill and experiencing an episode, but it’s not because they have a split personality.”

Myth No. 3: People with schizophrenia are not intelligent

This assumption is completely false, according to Kempf.

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“If the illness isn’t well managed and continues to progress, or they have repeated relapses, patients will lose gray matter in their brains, and their cognitive function may decline,” she told Fox News Digital.

“But that does not mean they’re not intelligent.”

Man talking to a doctor

One expert said she’s worked with a multitude of “very successful individuals who also happen to live with schizophrenia.” (iStock)

Some patients may experience cognitive decline in the early stages of the disease — referred to as the “prodromal phase,” Kempf said — but early diagnosis and intervention can help prevent that.

Kempf said she has worked with a multitude of “very successful individuals who also happen to live with schizophrenia.”

“People with schizophrenia do not have split personalities.”

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In many cases, she noted, people can no longer see the “highly intelligent individual” behind the disease.

“As long as individuals with schizophrenia get the proper treatment — ideally with a long-acting injectable (LAI) medication — they can keep their symptoms controlled and function very well,” Kempf said. 

Myth No. 4: Symptoms of schizophrenia only involve hallucinations and delusions

Schizophrenia consists of what is clinically termed “positive” and “negative” symptoms, Kempf noted.

“Delusions and hallucinations, as well as changes in behavior and thoughts, are considered positive symptoms,” she said. 

schizophrenia symptoms

“Delusions and hallucinations, as well as changes in behavior and thoughts, are considered positive symptoms” of schizophrenia, the expert said.  (iStock)

Patients experiencing these symptoms may hear voices or have extra thoughts, delusions or fixed false beliefs, the expert explained. 

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“Hallucinations are not just hearing voices,” Kempf said. “They can occur in multiple ways based on our senses — seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things.”

Negative symptoms are when people lose interest in the world around them, withdraw or don’t take an interest in everyday social interactions, according to Kempf. 

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“Patients with schizophrenia may get labeled as ‘lazy,’ or they don’t seem as put together,” she said. “But it’s not about laziness. The person’s brain doesn’t connect these things as being important.”

People with schizophrenia may also experience what are referred to as “psychomotor” symptoms, Kempf said — they might seem abnormally slow, and their speech and thought processes can be somewhat delayed or disorganized.

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“Unfortunately, if these negative symptoms continue and there isn’t treatment, they can impact cognitive functioning.”

Myth No. 5: People with schizophrenia require long-term or lifelong hospitalization

Hospitalization for a person experiencing acute schizophrenia symptoms is usually very short, according to Kempf. 

“For someone having an episode of schizophrenia, the average length of stay may be about five days.”

“In an inpatient setting, for someone having an episode of schizophrenia, the average length of stay may be about five days,” she said.

“If a patient doesn’t respond to medication and can’t function safely on their own, they might have to go to a longer-term, higher-level setting.”

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CHICAGO NURSE IS FINALLY FREE OF COVID-19-RELATED PTSD AND DEPRESSION AFTER ELECTRICAL BRAIN TAPPING THERAPY

Today, health care providers aim to give people with schizophrenia community-based services so that they’re able to function on their own, Kempf noted.

This might mean supporting them with employment services and housing opportunities to ensure that they have an affordable and safe place to live. 

“Some patients continue to live with their family members; some might live in a group home,” Kempf said.

“People living with this disease deserve to be treated like human beings and with the same care we would provide someone diagnosed with a physical illness.”

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From a medical perspective, schizophrenia has different levels of severity, the expert noted. 

“But, again, if managed well, with early intervention, an individual can remain high-functioning and live independently,” she said. 

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“Our goal is the least structured environment possible, enabling the person to live a normal life where they can work, grocery shop and drive on a day-to-day basis.” 

Ultimately, Kempf said, schizophrenia should be viewed as a disease, not a choice. 

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Female doctor with male patient

“While schizophrenia is a mental health diagnosis, it should be thought of no differently than a physical health diagnosis of diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease,” an expert said. (iStock)

“While schizophrenia is a mental health diagnosis, it should be thought of no differently than a physical health diagnosis of diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease,” she said.

“It just impacts a different organ: the brain.”

Other brain disorders, such as epilepsy, tend to be more accepted by society, she said — but there is still a “huge stigma” surrounding diseases like schizophrenia, “probably because of the fear of the unknown.”

“It is treatable, and both medication and support services are available,” she told Fox News Digital. 

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“We all have a role to play in helping to dispel myths, foster understanding and reduce stigma,” she continued. 

“People living with this disease deserve to be treated like human beings and with the same care we would provide someone diagnosed with a physical illness.”

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