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TMS vs. Ketamine: Which Is More Effective and Better For Me?

TMS vs. Ketamine: Which Is More Effective and Better For Me?

TMS vs. Ketamine: Which Is More Effective and Better For Me?

Published: August 11, 2022

Psychology research has long tried to find a treatment for mental disorders such as depression. Depression is the most common mental health issue worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that five percent of all adults suffer from this condition worldwide.

There are different types of depression, ranging in cause and severity. Some types of depression can be managed with lifestyle changes and some require medication. Unfortunately, some people suffer from what is known as treatment-resistant depression.

Treatment-resistant depression is a type of depression that does not respond to the usual forms of treatment. A person may have tried everything recommended for their condition and still suffer from depression. Luckily, modern research has come up with new, innovative solutions for this type of depression: ketamine therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy.

Mental Health Conditions

Many people suffer from mental health issues that affect their thoughts, feelings, awareness, and perception. They can cause a person difficulty in their daily life and in their relationships, work, or school.

A person can have co-occurring mental disorders, meaning they can have more than one condition at a time. As one size rarely fits all with mental conditions, it can be difficult to find the right mental health treatment. The most common of all mental health conditions globally is depression.


There are many different types of depression. Depression severity can depend on the cause and length of the depressive symptoms. Some types of depression are temporary, such as depression that is caused by a life event, and this type may even go away on its own.

However, some types are more persistent. In some cases, depression may be a symptom itself. In trauma-based disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bouts of depression can be expected.

This is also the case for some mood disorders like bipolar, where a person can experience periods of elevated mood and also, extremely low mood. Patients suffering from other psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia may also report periods of depression.

Depression Symptoms

Depression is much more than experiencing a low mood. It is a condition that affects a person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Chronic symptoms of depressive patients include:

  • Low mood
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Weight loss/weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Oversleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts

The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person. Most people will experience a low mood or depressive episode at least once in their lives. However, it is considered a disorder if it occurs frequently and for periods longer than two weeks.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder is a type of severe depression that can be difficult to manage. This type of depression may be characterized by persistent suicidal ideation and last for long periods of time.

For some people, major depression may be helped by antidepressant medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. For other patients, this may not work.

In some cases, a person may try all the standard treatments recommended for depression and still not see an improvement. This is known as treatment-resistant depression.

Treatment for Depression

There are a few alternative treatments recommended for depression. The first thing a doctor will recommend is a lifestyle change. Lifestyle changes can be very effective in minimizing mild depression.

For example, exercise and healthy eating can make a huge difference in a person's well-being. Exercise releases a chemical known as endorphins. Endorphins work with the receptors in the brain to minimize pain and they contribute to overall happiness and well-being.

Eating healthy can improve happiness as certain vitamins have been linked to depression. Studies have shown that being low on B vitamins, such as vitamin B-12 can contribute to depression. If a person is not eating a balanced diet, they may be low on vitamins without realizing it.

Another treatment option is an antidepressant medication. If a person has already adjusted their lifestyle and is still experiencing depression, they may wish to try psychiatric medications.

A common type of anti-depressants is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). This type of medication works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is sometimes known as the 'happy chemical' and it is responsible for increasing a person's mood. SSRIs encourage this chemical, leading to antidepressant effects in the user.

Therapy can also be an effective treatment option. There are different types of therapy and depending on the cause of the depression, therapy can be highly effective. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that teaches a person how to change their thinking patterns. This type of therapy can help with depression and it is very effective in treating anxiety disorders.

Although there are many treatment options for depression, some types of depression cannot be managed with typical treatment. A person could still suffer, even if they eat healthy, exercise, take anti-depressants, and go to therapy.

Related: TMS for postpartum depression

Treatment-Resistant Depression

Suffering from treatment-resistant depression can be very frustrating. After trying all the recommended options, many patients with this type of depression could begin to lose hope.

Luckily, new technology and innovative scientists have discovered alternative treatments for treatment-resistant depression.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy and ketamine therapy are two established depression treatments. Like any treatment, they do have pros and cons. However, these treatments are rapidly growing in popularity and show high treatment efficacy.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a relatively new type of therapy for depression. It is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatment. This non-invasive therapy works by stimulating specific brain areas with gentle magnetic pulses.

Brain chemistry is heavily linked to impulses and mood. TMS treatment is not only effective in reducing depressive symptoms, but it also works on substance use disorders and even gambling addictions. In cases of depression, specific areas of the brain are targeted. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that regulates mood, so this would be an area targeted by TMS therapy.

Clinical trials have been carried out to determine the efficacy of TMS to treat resistant depression. These studies have shown that TMS treatment has significant antidepressant effects. Furthermore, TMS patients report lower negative effects of the treatment than other treatments such as medication.

Read more: TMS vs TDCS

Are There Adverse Effects With TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy is not suitable for everyone. It is important to discuss your previous medical history with a TMS treatment consultant. For example, people who suffer from seizures, have had a brain injury, or have co-occurring disorders may not be suitable for TMS therapy.

Furthermore, a person who has metal around the head area, such as metal plates, metallic ink face tattoos, or aneurysm coils may not be suitable for TMS treatment. The known side effects of TMS therapy are mild and may not affect everyone. These side effects are:

  • Headache
  • Scalp discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Facial muscle twitches or spasms.

These side effects are temporary. They will generally occur for a short time following acute treatment. To see therapeutic results, patients will undergo around thirty-six treatments. To maintain results, patients may require top-up sessions.

Ketamine Treatment

Ketamine therapy for depression is relatively new and ketamine is not FDA-approved to treat major depression. However, it is an approved drug for anesthesia and it has been used medically for many years.

This type of therapy is conducted over the space of two to four weeks. The patient will receive each ketamine infusion intravenously. Over the course of the treatment, the person will receive six to ten ketamine infusions. Studies have shown that therapeutic effects are reported after two or three ketamine infusions have been administered.

After the course of treatment, to maintain the positive effects on mood, a person will require a ketamine infusion booster every two to four weeks. Seventy percent of patients who use ketamine infusions report a positive response to the treatment.

Does Ketamine Treatment Have Adverse Effects?

Ketamine infusions are not currently an FDA-approved method of treatment for depression. As a result, it is important to investigate the risks associated with this treatment. Ketamine is fast-acting and elevates mood even within hours, meaning it has a high potential for addiction.

Ketamine therapy uses a sub-anesthetic dose to treat depression, but as it is still anesthetic in nature, it can cause some unpleasant side effects. Some potential side effects include:

  • Impaired vision
  • A feeling of floating
  • Hallucinations
  • Drowsiness

Patients receiving ketamine infusions report feeling drowsy and relaxed. Some even report feelings of euphoria. Patients are advised to remain in the treatment center for around fifteen minutes after receiving a ketamine infusion to ensure their safety.

Finding the Right Treatment Method

Both ketamine and transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy show a statistically significant reduction in treatment-resistant depression. They are both viable options when dealing with depressive patients and can restore a person's quality of life.

It may be difficult to decide which therapy is suitable for you. Some factors to consider are:

  • A person who is receiving TMS therapy can even drive home after treatment as it has very mild or no side effects at all. Ketamine therapy can leave patients feeling hazy afterward.
  • Ketamine infusions require fewer treatment sessions than TMS therapy and offer relief even after initial treatment. However, because of this, it has a higher potential for addiction and dependency.
  • TMS is FDA-approved, Ketamine infusions are not.
  • Most major insurance companies cover the cost of TMS, compared to a fraction of ketamine infusion costs.
  • TMS is not suitable for patients with particular conditions, whereas ketamine therapy has no known limitations.

GIA Miami

GIA Miami is a mental health clinic that specializes in TMS therapy. We treat anxiety, depression, and addiction issues. Visit our website to learn more about the services we offer or call us today to discuss your next steps.

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