How CES Can Help with Anxiety and Depression 

14 min read

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation for anxiety and depression is an alternative treatment method many people tend to consider. They typically use it when they either don't want to take medications to manage their conditions or those that they're taking aren't effective. One of the biggest drawbacks to taking prescription medications to treat depression or anxiety is that patients often experience side effects. Many people have started to search for alternative methods to reduce their dependence on medicine so that they can live without these.

This guide reviews what you need to know about electro cranial stimulation for depression and anxiety, otherwise known as CES (short for cranial electrotherapy stimulation). You'll learn more about different ways to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety without traditional prescriptions and how to find the right treatment plan for you. It's important to discuss your treatment options with a licensed professional who can monitor your progress.

CES device being used while reading

What is Depression?

The clinical diagnosis for depression is major depressive disorder and it's a common mental condition that impacts millions of people every year. Most people associate depression with sadness, but it also can include a lack of energy, an inability to socialize with other people, and not being able to find enjoyment in activities or work. Many people with depression also have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

In order to diagnose depression, a doctor or psychologist must determine that these symptoms aren't related to any other medical conditions. Fatigue, loss of appetite, restlessness, changes in weight and difficulty concentrating are all symptoms of depression. Since they are also symptoms of other medical conditions, those disorders must first be ruled out before someone can be diagnosed with depression.

People suffering from depression may have periods where they oversleep, overeat, and feel they have no energy or desire to do anything. Some people who have depression also experience mood swings and feel sudden bursts of energy, become reckless, and have difficulty sleeping. This could be due to a condition called bipolar depression.

Depression can be the result of traumatic experiences throughout one's life, but many people who are diagnosed with depression don't have any past trauma. When this is the case, doctors believe that depression is caused by an imbalance in hormones such as melatonin and serotonin, which regulate mood, appetite, and the ability to rest and recover.

About 6.7% of adults are diagnosed with short-term depression each year, and 16.6% of people will be depressed at some point during their lives. For some people, the symptoms are temporary and can be managed without the ongoing need for medication, but others might need to remain on medication for the rest of their lives.

What is Anxiety?

It's natural for people to feel anxious sometimes. The brain is programmed to become more alert during times when people sense danger or need to respond quickly. For people suffering from anxiety disorders, they're unable to return to a sense of calm and may feel alert, panicked, and unable to relax most of the time. There are many forms of anxiety, and psychiatrists may diagnose someone based on what it is that makes them feel anxious.

For example, some people have phobias and don't exhibit symptoms of anxiety unless they're around the things that trigger said fears. Most phobias are considered normal until they interfere with a person's ability to live a normal life, such as agoraphobia, the fear of leaving your home. Anxiety is often accompanied with panic attacks that cause people to experience rapid heartbeats, sweating, palpitations and even fainting.

Not everyone who experiences anxiety has a history of trauma, but many anxiety disorders are related to it and stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among people who've served in the military, experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, and those who suffered an injury that left them traumatized due to the pain of the experience. For example, this could be a person who has panic attacks in the presence of dogs after being mauled in the past by an aggressive pit bull.

The symptoms of anxiety include feeling very tense most of the time, trembling, sweating excessively, nausea, increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating, avoiding things that trigger panic, insomnia, and hyperventilation. Just like with depression, some of these symptoms may be linked to other medical conditions. For example, people with diabetes are more likely to experience panic which is connected to other medical concerns.

To properly evaluate whether you have anxiety, you need to undergo a psychological evaluation. After reviewing your symptoms and what triggers your anxiety, your therapist will determine what type of condition you have and how to treat it. Medication is often used to control anxiety because therapy can't provide the immediate relief people see. For those looking to overcome their anxiety and eventually cease taking medication, psychotherapy is advised.

How Do Doctors Treat Depression and Anxiety?

Before being treated for depression or anxiety, someone first needs to undergo a psychological assessment to determine the exact causes of their symptoms and to come to a diagnosis. Factors such as substance abuse and addiction can make treatment more complicated. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, the person is then referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist to discuss a treatment plan.

One of the most popular treatment options is the use of antidepressant or antianxiety medications to address hormonal imbalances that could cause symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can take some time to find the correct medication and dosage. For example, a patient might need to try several medications because of side effects, ineffectiveness and other complications.

Once a medication has been found that shows an improvement in symptoms, the person might need to remain on that medicine for the rest of their life. It's possible to recover from some types of depression and anxiety and to live a normal life, but many people report struggling with their mental health. The second component of treatment is therapy with a licensed psychotherapist or counselor.

There are numerous ways therapists might address depression or anxiety. Those with depression may be encouraged to join support groups and to develop coping skills so they know how to better manage symptoms and ask others for help. If someone is suffering from anxiety, they may go over the things that trigger their panic with a therapist. Exposure therapy forces people to address their fears under the guidance of a therapist until they can cope in the presence of those triggers.

It can take many years to make progress in therapy, which is why most psychiatrists prefer to use medication. Prescribing drugs offers an immediate benefit and people suffering from depression or anxiety can feel better much faster. The problem is that the medications many people take for these conditions exacerbate other medical conditions or have side effects they can't live with.

Ways to Treat Anxiety and Depression Without Medication

Doctors and psychiatrists who treat patients for depression or anxiety often prescribe various medications. These are intended to help regulate serotonin levels in the brain to produce a positive mood. Serotonin is a hormone that the brain associates with rewards, pleasure, and calm. It helps us feel happy and sleep well, and gives us energy throughout the day. There are many behaviors and substances that can have a positive or negative impact on serotonin production.

One of the ways that a lot of people manage their depression is by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Irregular sleep can have a negative impact on a person's circadian rhythm, energy levels, physical recovery and mood. Individuals experiencing depression are often instructed to monitor the quality and quantity of their sleep.

People suffering from depression or anxiety are also advised to cut back on or eliminate caffeine. This is because it's a stimulant that interferes with their sleep and makes them more alert. Hyperawareness can cause someone who experiences episodes of panic or anxiety to suffer from more frequent and more severe episodes.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may also contribute to low serotonin levels. Some people believe that certain supplements, such as St. John's Wort, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, might help those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Other alternative ways to manage symptoms include meditation, prayer, and staying physically active to help the body produce serotonin for energy.

Therapy with a licensed professional, joining a support group, and learning special breathing exercises are all additional ways that people may be able to manage their symptoms without medication. One of the main drawbacks to encouraging those with depression to socialize is that one of the defining symptoms of depression is an aversion to social contact. Individuals living with either of these conditions must find a treatment plan that works for them because each person might find that some things work better than others.

The FDA has recently cleared cranial electrical stimulation for anxiety and depression. More people are using this form of therapy to manage their symptoms and to explore treatment options that don't require medications. However, this does not mean that CES treatment for anxiety or depression is approved by the FDA. We’ll explore this in more detail further along in the guide.

Why People Don't Want to Take Medications for Depression and Anxiety

While prescription medications have been proven effective in managing the symptoms of depression and anxiety, many people complain about the side effects. These can include restlessness, anxiety, excessive weight gain or loss, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and sexual dysfunction. For some, the side effects outweigh the benefits they receive from these medications.

Another reason why a lot of individuals are seeking alternative treatment is the rising cost of healthcare in the United States. Insurance companies might not cover the medications doctors would prefer to prescribe their patients and they can't afford ongoing treatment due to high costs. Those seeking alternative treatments might be looking for a more affordable way to manage their conditions.

What is CES?

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation uses electrodes to emit gentle electrical currents into the brain. The electrodes might be placed over areas such as the temples, earlobes, or mastoids during a treatment session and the frequency of the current is determined by what the patient is hoping to achieve. The full impact of CES therapy is currently unknown, but studies in the past have suggested that it works better than placebo for conditions ranging from chronic pain to addiction, anxiety, and depression.

People have also used CES to help manage insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder. It's also been used with people seeking ways to modify their behavior, such as smokers seeking to quit or people looking to refrain from other unhealthy habits. While much more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of CES, it was cleared by the FDA in 1978 for the management of depression, anxiety and insomnia.

CES for Depression

Several clinical studies have been performed to determine the effectiveness of CES treatment for depression. In one study performed in 2012, 115 people were divided into two groups to see whether regular treatments would improve their symptoms of depression. One group wore a fake device that didn't emit any electricity, which is considered a form of placebo. The other underwent regular therapy sessions for five weeks.

The participants were monitored to see if there were any significant side effects from the treatment, whether their symptoms improved and how they felt at various points throughout the study. It was determined that the group receiving electrical impulses showed a significant improvement in their symptoms over the five weeks compared with those who wore fake diodes.

A second study suggested that the effect of treatment was cumulative, meaning that the longer patients used the devices, the more effective they became at managing symptoms. This study monitored 161 people over a period of 24 weeks and showed that after an hour of treatment each day for 12 weeks, patients reported a remission of their depression. This was sustained over the following 24 weeks, but only when the patients continued to use the devices for the entire 24-week period.

CES Treatment for Anxiety

One of the most extreme forms of anxiety is prevalent in people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. To determine whether CES was an effective way to manage anxiety, soldiers suffering from PTSD were invited to participate in a study. The veterans served in and saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan and were clinically diagnosed with PTSD.

The 2016 study showed that among other improvements in sleep and pain management, the veterans also felt significantly less anxious after using the CES device for anxiety. There were no significant side effects reported during the trial. The study suggested that over a course of four weeks, CES could make a noticeable difference for people suffering from anxiety disorders.

CES is FDA Cleared

Prior to 2019, CES was considered a Class III medical device, which means that it couldn't be used without direct medical supervision. Class II devices are considered less risky and may be able to be used at home. It's still very important to discuss your treatment with your physician and to monitor your progress if you use a CES machine.

The FDA has not approved any CES device for depression or anxiety yet. FDA clearance is a major step toward more widespread acceptance of this technology, however, and may lead to its eventual approval.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does cranial electrical stimulation for anxiety and depression work?

The FDA has provided clearance for CES devices, which means they may be used as an alternative to traditional medication. However, the FDA has not approved the devices as a primary form of medical treatment yet. Based on several studies, a CES device may be able to help you manage your symptoms and reduce your reliance on medication.

Can electrotherapy help anxiety?

Using a CES device for an hour a day has helped people feel less anxious and manage their anxiety much better than with just the use of prescription medication. Results may vary, but a CES device might help someone manage their anxiety when combined with therapy and other treatment options. Working with your therapist is the best way to ensure that you're getting the results you want from your treatment.

Does electrical stimulation work for depression?

Studies have suggested that using a CES device for an hour a day may help you manage your symptoms more effectively than medications alone. Some people may be able to use CES therapy as a way to reduce their need for medication, but it's important not to stop taking your medicine without the prior advice of a doctor or psychiatrist.

Where can I find the right CES device?

It's important to compare devices and do your homework before you determine which CES device is right for you. Caputron offers the latest FDA-cleared devices so that you can find one that fits within your budget and provides the functionality you need. Take a look at our CES products today.


If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you may be advised to take medication for your condition and you may be on medication for the rest of your life. CES devices might help you manage your symptoms more effectively without the use of medication or may help you reduce your dependence on these medications. If you're considering alternative forms of therapy, it's a good idea to make sure you're communicating with your doctor or therapist and monitoring your progress.



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