Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is used to treat depression if traditional treatments, such as medication, have not worked. It can also be beneficial in treating various other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Before starting any treatment, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of TMS therapy to see whether it is a sensible option for you. As with many things in life, TMS therapy has a range of positives and negatives, which you should be aware of.
If you have tried multiple treatments with no real results, TMS therapy could be a good option. Although this treatment is beneficial, there are also some downsides associated.
TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment that works with magnetic fields. During the treatment, an electromagnetic coil is placed over the part of your brain thought to be responsible for mood and well-being. The coil administers magnetic pulses that stimulate nerve cells, alleviating symptoms caused by certain mental health disorders.
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As touched on above, although TMS therapy has a high success rate, it is generally only used when other treatments, such as medications or talk therapy, have failed to treat major depressive disorder.
Before beginning transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy, it is important to ensure that you are ready for treatment. Though those carrying out TMS treatments will inform you of what will happen, we have outlined what to expect below.
Once the coil is correctly placed, it will fire out low-intensity magnetic pulses. This generally lasts for around forty minutes and will be repeated five days per week. The overall length of TMS treatment will usually last between four to six weeks.
With an understanding of TMS treatments, we can now share the pros and cons of TMS therapy with you. The first pro is that TMS can help to treat major depressive disorder.
Unfortunately, as many as 30% of people do not respond successfully to first-line treatments for depression, such as medications or talk therapy, and some people may find that they may not work at all. Meanwhile, others experience a slight alleviation in symptoms, but this may not last long or be very effective overall.
However, TMS therapy has a high success rate in treating treatment-resistant depression. Approximately 50% to 60% of those with depression who do not respond to medication respond to TMS therapy. Around 30% of these people say their symptoms go away completely, experiencing complete remission.
A significant pro of TMS therapy is that it is non-invasive. This means that nothing is inserted inside your body during treatment. This is advantageous because it means that you will not have to take any anesthetic, meaning you will stay awake for the procedure, and you will be able to continue your day after treatment.
This is different from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), another treatment sometimes used for treatment-resistant depression. ECT is an invasive treatment involving an anesthetic and is performed in a hospital, which means it is a lot more difficult to incorporate into your daily routine.
Medication is usually offered as a first-line treatment for depression. However, antidepressant medications can give way to a host of unpleasant side effects. In comparison, the side effects of TMS are minimal.
TMS therapy has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is generally very safe. The associated side effects can include:
These common side effects are generally mild, making TMS a safe treatment option. However, there is a rare 0.1% risk of developing a seizure after TMS.
TMS therapy is FDA approved for treating depression. This means that most major insurance companies will cover the majority of costs, signifying that it is affordable if you have health insurance.
Unfortunately, not all mental health disorders are covered by health insurance for TMS treatment. This means that you would have to cover the costs upfront if you selected TMS as a treatment for OCD, which can be very expensive. A typical course of TMS therapy costs around $6,000 to $12,000.
Most insurance companies have specific criteria that you have to meet to benefit from coverage for TMS.
Although each insurance company may have slightly different criteria, criteria often state that you must:
If you don't meet these requirements, TMS might not be covered by insurance.
Because TMS therapy is scheduled over five days a week, it can be seen as a time commitment. As it involves traveling to a doctor's surgery or medical center each day, some people may struggle with fitting this into their daily routine.
Some people will not be able to have TMS therapy for various reasons. These people include:
Furthermore, TMS therapy can't be offered to those who have metal items, such as the following, in their body:
As with most treatments, TMS therapy is not 100% effective and, although successful for many, you are not guaranteed results. For some, their depression may go away completely. However, for others, it may disappear or diminish for a while before returning.
It is always a good idea to explore the pros and cons of TMS therapy before deciding whether it is the right option for you.
As the pros of TMS therapy include treating depression, reducing OCD, anxiety, and PTSD, and a low risk of severe side effects, TMS treatment could be a great therapy option if you have been unsuccessful with antidepressant medication. Likewise, as long as you don't have a history of seizures and coverage is available in your insurance plans, TMS could be beneficial.
However, the cons of TMS therapy are that you may not be eligible for insurance coverage, you may experience scalp discomfort and other side effects, and it is not 100% guaranteed to be effective.
Always speak to your doctor to establish whether you should go ahead with TMS therapy.
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