Magnets: Quackery, or Possible Danger?

Remind her about the next poor child that gets strapped to that contraption.

The stress over the quackery shouldn’t be done around your daughter. A simple “we weren’t impressed with this woman, so we are looking for someone else” is probably enough. But your daughter doesn’t need the stress of the confrontation you are contemplating.

Depression is treatable in most cases. I’m not a doctor of any kind, but I am an asshole, idiot and chronically depressed person. First of all, moderate exercise is recommended by virtually all doctors treating depression for the very good reason that it works and provides great results. There are also medications that may need adjusting by a careful medical doctor. These also really work. Talk therapy is also proven to have some effect in many patients.

Now that I’ve included the real stuff, here is my personal offer of harmless quackery methods to somewhat lessen depression. (1) Get out and be around people, even if just to sit and listen. Teenagers can be huge assholes, so be careful about a group of teens without adults around. When I was a kid, youth groups at my church supervised by level headed adults were a god send. (2) Hydration. Make sure that you get enough water. I feel better when I drink plenty of water. (3) Get out of bed at the same time every day and make the bed just after getting out of it. Afternoon naps are just fine. (4) Masturbation. Lots of it. It’s harmless, fun and gets the endorphins going. Just make sure it is in private.

Position statement of the American Medical Association:

*"In the clinical setting, the use of a placebo without the patient’s knowledge may undermine trust, compromise the patient-physician relationship, and result in medical harm to the patient.

Physicians may use placebos for diagnosis or treatment only if the patient is informed of and agrees to its use."*

Again, teaching effective relaxation techniques may be helpful in depression (which often is accompanied by a component of anxiety). On the other hand, utilizing a device which has no demonstrated efficacy (while collecting a hefty fee) strikes me as unethical.

As a licensed therapist, I have to come down on the ‘report to the appropriate licensing agency’. My field is filled with woo and incompetents, best not suffer them to continue to practice unchallenged. At least she should face the prospect of defending her treatment to Board investigators.
Wishing your daughter all the best.

I am guessing the doctor knows it’s quackery. But she continues to use it, because it often helps the patient.

We never considered doing that. In fact, my wife and I didn’t even discuss the issue until after M went to school this morning because we didn’t want to do it in front of her.

Our first plan was to tell her that our insurance didn’t cover the woman’s services, so we weren’t able to go back there. Now, though, I’m leaning toward explaining that a lot of people believe in things that have no basis in fact, such as astrology, the healing power of crystals, and magnetic fields. We didn’t know this woman used magnetic fields until we got there yesterday, and since there is no scientific evidence that they work, we’re not going to go back.

Thank you for the suggestions, Second. She’s been in talk therapy for a few months, but things are getting worse, and after being adamantly opposed to giving pills to a youngster, we’re now coming to think it might be necessary. That’s why we were seeking out an MD in the first place. (I’m on citalopram and buproprion, and probably will be for the rest of my life, so I have no problem with the idea.)

The rest of the stuff — fresh air, exercise, regular sleep hours, contact with other people — are definitely things we need to work on. I do, however, refuse to tell her to masturbate.

If anyone’s interested, this is apparently what she was doing.

And in case anyone has any doubts that it’s woo, there’s this.

Thank you all for your responses. I am greatly relieved that I don’t have to worry that we allowed someone to harm our daughter.

There is no substitute for someone skilled in psychiatry, lest I did not emphasize this enough earlier. The medications out there are now quite extensive for depression and it takes smarts and skill and patience to know how to use them and the other tools. I’d look for a doctor that takes a thorough history.

The number one thing my doctor is always after me about is exercise. When I do it, it works, and when I don’t, it doesn’t. Everything I have ever read emphasizes this as number 1. Sitting around and sulking as a teenager is a surefire recipe for depression, but consult a doctor and don’t assume that I know shit. Cuz I don’t. I do know that lots of depression is curable.

I LOL’ed at this–the image of a 10 year old girl telling the quack “not really.”

As for reporting her, I confess that I’m not well-versed in the practice of reporting someone to their licensing agency, but I’m not sure quackery (I hate the word “woo”) is a reportable offense. Lots of doctors practice quackery and hawk useless pseudoscientific crap. Heck, Dr. Oz is still a professor of surgery at Columbia University.

Years ago, friends advised me to buy a magnetic neck wrap for chronic neck pain, which I did. While it did nothing for my neck pain, it did give me nightmares - every single time I wore it (I was told to wear it through the night). The sense of unease came to be so great I discontinued its use and threw it away.

I cannot make literate scientific claims, or quote studies, but I would be chary of exposing the brain to random magnetic fields. The brain is an electrical organ, after all. Besides, the benefits vary - the wrap did nothing for my depression or neck pain.

None of what you described sounded like Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback (which may or may not have some value), has to involve some way of making you aware of your brain waves.

The feedback may be an EEG display, sound, or even vibration, but unless there is feedback, it’s not neurofeedback.

There is a possibly related field, where very low level fields (or sensory input) are used to synchronize brain waves (much smaller fields than required for TMS). The idea is to synchronize your brain waves to a new and different rhythm. Again, it may or may not have some value.

None of this has anything to do with magnetic tables, coils around your stomach, or ordinary magnets strapped to your head. Which, in answer to your question, are harmless.

Doctors are just as susceptible to snake oil as anyone else, and placebo effects have been demonstrated to be more effective when the doctor is a believer.

Or the one that commits suicide because their depression is going untreated. Depression isn’t something to mess around with, and if she’s an MD, she’s had the training to know that – and is ignoring it. This isn’t a palm reader doing cold reading or an herbalist relying on the placebo effect. It’s someone whose supposed to be using evidence-based treatments on a very serious disease, and in whom a medical board has said we should be placing a higher level of trust.

Report her.

It may be huge, but it exposes you to a pathetically weak magnetic field, so although your initial statement is correct, the supporting “evidence” is irrelevant.

I’d be willing to put a large amount of money on your experience either having nothing to do with the magnets in the wrap, or it having nothing to with them affecting your brain.

It probably had more to do with the fact that you were trying to sleep with something heavy wrapped around your neck.

(Emphasis added.)

Come to think of, why isn’t the brain affected by external magnetic fields anyway? We’ve all heard the people complaining that they get headaches or fuzzy vision or whatever from standing under high-voltage lines, and we’ve all read that there’s no good evidence to believe that. And we know that even high magnetic fields like in MRI machines aren’t harmful (that being a point made in this thread).

But, why? As mandala notes, our nervous system is an electrical system. One would naturally expect it to be affected by external magnetic fields. Why isn’t it?

ETA: Come to think of it, I think this question should be made into a new thread of its own. I think I’ll do that now.

Negative - I had the same experience keeping the wrap under the pillow or on the bed beneath my neck and upper back. Definitely something to do with magnetism.

Did you run the experiment blind with alternating wraps identical but for the creation of magnetic fields? No? Then the balance of evidence for weak magnetic fields influencing the brain still falls down heavily on “Nothing to do with the magnets.”

I think that’s a really excellent idea. She obviously knows her own mind, since she wasn’t being bullied into saying she felt better. I think telling the truth is absolutely the way to go.

Dawkins wrote a letter to his daughterof the same age, explaining about truth and evidence. It’s not nasty at all, it’s written to his own daughter after all, and I think it explains quite nicely how we come to accept certain things and reject others. You could always just look it through for ideas about how to explain this!