If you or someone you know has ever struggled with depression, you may be aware of some of the treatment options available. However, you may not be aware of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is a non-invasive treatment option that is growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional antidepressant medication.
What is TMS?
TMS stands for “transcranial magnetic stimulation” and it was FDA-approved in 2008 as a safe, non-invasive, non-medication treatment for clinical depression. TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate the specific part of the brain known to control mood. It is used on people with mental health conditions that have not seen success with medications and/or antidepressants.
TMS delivers localized electromagnetic pulses to the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of your brain that regulates mood. These electromagnetic pulses stimulate neurons, which release neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters work to relieve symptoms of depression. Once these neurons are stimulated by TMS, they continue to release these neurotransmitters for a longer period of time compared to other treatments like antidepressants.
Pros of TMS for Depression
There are many advantages to using TMS to treat depression. First, it is a non-invasive treatment option, which means that patients do not need to take medication that impacts the whole body or undergo surgery.
Another advantage of TMS is that it has minimal side effects, which means that patients can avoid some of the common side effects of traditional medications, such as:
- Increased suicidal ideation
- Long-term weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Upset digestive system
- Lower sex drive
TMS also has a great success rate. One in two patients treated with TMS experience a 50% reduction in their symptoms, and after six weeks of treatment, one-third of patients had no symptoms of their depression or were in remission.
Finally, TMS is an effective treatment option for people with treatment-resistant depression, which means that it can be an alternative for those who have not had success with other treatments.
Cons of TMS for Depression
While TMS has many benefits, there are some potential downsides to consider as well. TMS can be quite costly if it is not covered by insurance. Additionally, TMS is also not widely available in all areas, which can limit access for some patients.
One of the biggest drawbacks of TMS treatment is the commitment it takes. Each treatment lasts about 20-30 minutes. The full course of treatment will generally be five days a week for four to six weeks. While coming in five days a week for weeks on end can be hard to work into your schedule, the results could impact your mental well-being for a lifetime.
Finally, there is a potential for people to experience a relapse of their symptoms after treatment. Studies have shown 40% of patients will likely experience at least some symptomatic worsening within 3 months of completing TMS. If that happens, patients will talk with their provider, who will schedule them for TMS maintenance treatments. Patients won’t need to come in every day, but possibly bi-weekly or monthly, depending on what their provider recommends. Luckily, a repeat course of TMS therapy has shown to be exceptionally effective in prior responders with an 80% response rate.
Comparison to other Treatment Options
There are several other treatment options for depression, including traditional antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, esketamine, and ketamine infusion therapy.
Compared to antidepressants, TMS has very few side effects while also offering highly effective results. Medications help many people struggling with depression, but they don’t work for everyone. Having an option like TMS is incredibly valuable in helping those people finally find relief.
Psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy” or just “therapy”) can help people change their thinking and behavior patterns, build effective coping strategies, and set and maintain healthy boundaries. TMS doesn’t necessarily replace the need for therapy as therapy is often a great addition to any mental health treatment plan.
Esketamine is a drug that is derived from the anesthetic ketamine that has a long history of being used to treat depression. Esketamine is a more potent form of ketamine and is fairly new to the market as it became FDA-approved in March 2019. Based on the results from our patients, 69% of people show improvement with esketamine after 8 treatments. However, this treatment does cause side effects of dissociation that some may not like.
Ketamine infusion therapy has similar success rates and effects to esketamine, and can help with the treatment of depression. However, ketamine infusion therapy is not covered by most insurance providers and can have a high out-of-pocket cost.
Many patients who have undergone TMS treatment for depression have reported positive experiences. Patients have reported improvements in their mood and overall quality of life. Additionally, many patients appreciate the non-invasive nature of the treatment and the fact that there are few side effects.
Watch the video below to learn about our past patient’s experience with TMS treatment.
TMS is a non-invasive treatment option for depression that has many benefits, including a high success rate and minimal side effects. While there are some potential downsides to consider, TMS can be an effective alternative for people with treatment-resistant depression.
As with any treatment option, it is important to discuss the pros and cons with a healthcare professional to determine if TMS is the right choice for you. At Mindful Health Solutions, we specialize in TMS treatments. If you’re interested in learning more or starting treatment, call or text us at 844-867-8444. You deserve to feel better.