Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is often used as an alternative treatment for those who suffer from major depressive disorder. Among those with major depression, TMS is suitable when medication or talk therapy has not previously helped.
Related article: TMS Therapy in Florida
As a relatively new form of treatment, many people are confused about TMS and its success. In this blog, we share the success rate of TMS and the main points to know about this therapy.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, non-invasive treatment. It is primarily used in treating major depression but can also treat some other conditions that may impact a person's mental health.
Essentially, TMS is a brain stimulation therapy that repetitively uses magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells. This magnetic stimulation helps alleviate symptoms of depression and is usually used if other treatment for depression, such as medication, has been unsuccessful.
For many of those suffering from depressive symptoms, taking antidepressant medications or therapy is sufficient to treat depression. However, these treatments are ineffective for as many as 30% of people with depressive symptoms. Often they do not work at all, and for others with depression symptoms, they may work for a time but then stop working altogether.
In this instance, an individual may be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression and may wish to consider TMS therapy.
Although TMS and ECT therapy improve the production of essential brain chemicals which regulate mood and well-being, there are some key differences to be aware of.
TMS is a newer form of therapy than electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT used to be the main form of treatment for treatment-resistant depression. Unlike ECT, which has many side effects and requires an anesthetic, TMS therapy is generally tolerated very well and does not require anesthesia.
ECT works with electric shocks, whereas TMS works by using magnetic stimulation. The electric shocks from ECT can result in side effects such as memory loss (which is generally short-term but can be longer), loss of creativity, and apathy. On the other hand, the side effects of TMS are typically few and very mild.
TMS therapy is a safe form of treatment. Although it is still being researched and is relatively new in the medical field, its side effects are much less severe than those that may arise from taking medication. To assess how effective TMS may be in comparison, it is important to review the side effects of medication.
Common side effects linked to antidepressant medication include:
Less common side effects include:
TMS is regarded as very safe for most people. Its common side effects are generally mild to moderate and can include:
In rare instances, transcranial magnetic stimulation comes with a risk of seizures, and it is not recommended for those with epilepsy. Because it involves the use of a magnet, those who have metal implants in or close to their head should avoid TMS.
Undergoing treatment in these cases could involve life-threatening reactions. It also should be avoided if an individual has a history of head injury.
TMS treatment involves an electromagnetic coil being placed near the forehead on the scalp, over a segment of the brain responsible for regulating mood. This part of the brain is called the left prefrontal cortex. TMS is conducted by a professional and is an outpatient procedure, meaning those who undergo it can return to normal life activities soon after.
Magnetic items, such as jewelry, must be removed before TMS begins. The treatment can be noisy, so the therapist will usually offer clients earplugs to wear. As TMS is non-invasive, clients do not need a general anesthetic during treatment.
Read more: Pros and Cons of TMS Therapy
During the first TMS therapy session, the client's head is measured so that the magnetic coil can be placed in the correct position. Once the coil is put in place, treatment begins.
When treatment begins, magnetic stimulation will start, causing a tapping sensation to be felt under the metal coil. As the impulses are released, there will be a clicking sound. The treatment lasts between thirty and sixty minutes overall, and the process is repeated five days per week.
Depending on the individual's response to treatment and the psychiatric disorders it is being used to treat, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment lasts for four to six weeks in total.
Because TMS is a relatively new therapy, research and clinical trials are still being carried out to determine its effectiveness in treating a range of mental health conditions.
Some mental health conditions that it could be effective in treating include:
Most studies surrounding TMS therapy have focused on its success concerning the treatment of depression. This is because depression is the most common mental health condition that TMS can treat. Due to depression being related to reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, stimulating this part of the brain appears successful in treating people suffering from severe depression.
There have been clinical trials conducted that provide evidence to support the claim that TMS therapy successfully treats major depressive disorder. In these studies, the outcomes were superior in females and those who received a higher number of pulses during their sessions. Additionally, a study conducted in 2019 found that TMS treatment is helpful when depression is medication-resistant. It can also be used to treat anxiety.
It is estimated that between 50 and 60% of those with depression symptoms have found that medication or talk therapy does not provide them with as great a result as TMS does. For these people, around one-third experience full remission, meaning that their depressive symptoms alleviate entirely.
As with many treatments, TMS will not necessarily last long-term. Many clients respond to this treatment for over one year and will undergo additional treatment once the initial effects have worn off.
If TMS does not work, ECT therapy could be an option. For those who have tried TMS therapy, speaking to a medical professional about ECT therapy is recommended.
Unfortunately, TMS treatment is not cheap - it can cost anywhere between $6,000 to $12,000 if paid for upfront. Luckily, many insurance providers will cover this treatment. It does, however, depend on certain factors such as medical history and the effectiveness of medication.
If other treatments haven't worked in treating depression, TMS could be a great option. The non-invasive nature of it, coupled with its high success rate, makes TMS therapy a desirable choice for many people.
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