Antidepressants are invaluable aids in the treatment of clinical depression and other mood disorders, but they’re not for everyone. According to the World Journal of Psychiatry, antidepressants don’t improve symptoms in 10–15 percent of people with depression and only partially improve symptoms in 30–40 percent. Also, many people experience side effects from antidepressants that can impact their overall well-being.
On the other hand, TMS therapy has shown significantly better results than antidepressants with a small risk of experiencing mild, short-term side effects. One in two patients treated with TMS had a 50% reduction in their symptoms and about 30% of patients experience full remission, which means that their symptoms go away completely.
While most patients begin to show improvement after two to three weeks of TMS treatments, it can take up to six weeks to achieve the maximum benefits.
It is important to understand that mental health treatment plans are not a one-size-fits-all situation. Treatment plans may take longer or require different treatment option combinations to work best for certain patients. It is important for patients to communicate clearly with their provider about how their treatment plan is working. Collaboration between patient and provider can greatly impact the results of a patient’s wellness journey.
TMS should not impact the medications themselves. However, as TMS treatments continue, there may no longer be a need for the medications that were being used as part of the original mental health treatment plan.
Unlike antidepressants, which temporarily impact mood and behavior by working through the bloodstream, TMS stimulates the brain and 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. Many experts believe that depression and other mental health conditions are linked to an imbalance of these neurotransmitters. TMS works to restore that balance and can provide a more lasting impact on relieving depression symptoms than other treatments, such as antidepressants.
However, mental health treatments are not one-size-fits-all situations. Because of this fact, treatment plans will vary depending on each patient’s unique needs and concerns. Treatment plans could follow these paths:
- If a person was already taking medications before beginning TMS treatments, they may or may not continue to take them.
- If a person was not already taking medications before beginning TMS treatments, they may or may not be prescribed medications to supplement their TMS treatment plan.
Overall, patients will work closely with their providers to collaborate on a treatment plan that works best for them. And as treatments continue, the plan will be adjusted as needed to make sure patients are continuing on their path to wellness.
There are numerous medications and antidepressants for depression, but many only mask or temporarily address their depression symptoms as they course through the bloodstream. Discontinuing an antidepressant regimen could very well cause a depressive episode to occur.
Additionally, many antidepressants have a range of side effects, and can include:
- Increased suicidal ideation
- Long-term weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Upset digestive system
- Lower sex drive
Each patient is unique, and their response to certain antidepressants is inconsistent. As a result, patients may have to try (and possibly experience a range of side effects) multiple medications before finding one that may alleviate their depression symptoms.
In order to avoid situations such as these and get people relief sooner, there has been a search for new treatments, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is at the forefront of this movement.
Compared to antidepressants, TMS has very few side effects while also offering highly effective results. One in two patients treated with TMS had a 50% reduction in their symptoms, and after six weeks of treatment, one-third (33%) of patients had no symptoms of their depression or were in remission.
Also, TMS treatments only typically last four to six weeks. Antidepressants must be taken continuously, or else symptoms are likely to return.
TMS is a safe treatment. While it is a relatively new mental health treatment, it was FDA-approved for the treatment of depression in 2008. Since then, there have been millions of individual treatment sessions performed in the United States.
Our clinicians who administer TMS treatments are professionally trained and put each patient’s comfort first.
TMS treatments do not hurt during or after each session. There are very few side effects of TMS therapy. Most side effects are mild and short-lasting, and can include:
- Scalp discomfort
- Twitching or tingling of the facial muscles
Many patients find the headpiece to be uncomfortable on their scalp and mild headaches are common during the first few treatments, but these generally go away within the first two weeks as people get used to the sensation. Patients rarely drop out of TMS because of side effects.
More serious side effects happen very rarely, but can consist of:
- Hearing problems from the loud clicking noise that occurs during treatment
- Mania, which is more likely to occur if an adolescent has bipolar disorder
However, our expert providers will use their professional knowledge to help avoid serious side effects like the ones listed above.
Generally, patients will feel just like their normal selves. They will be able to drive and go back to their regular activities. Some people report feeling a little tired or having a mild headache, but that usually goes away after the first week or two. Other people report more energy and better focus, as well as the ability to ignore obsessive, anxious thoughts after treatment.
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. Depression and other mental health conditions are linked to an imbalance of these neurotransmitters. TMS for depression works to restore that balance and can provide a more lasting impact on relieving depression symptoms than other treatments, such as antidepressants.
During a TMS treatment, the patient sits in a comfortable chair while the TMS coil is properly set in place on their head. (While this may sound intimidating, it really isn’t!) After the headpiece is in place, electromagnetic pulses are sent to the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for mood.
While the pulses are being sent to the brain, patients can watch TV, listen to music, or talk with our staff. If they want and are comfortable, they can also have a friend or family member in the room with them during their TMS treatment session.
Each treatment lasts about 20-30 minutes. The full course of treatment of TMS for depression will generally be five days a week for four to six weeks. We know that coming in five days a week for weeks on end is a commitment, but the results could impact your mental well-being for a lifetime.
TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It is a safe, non-invasive, non-medication treatment for clinical depression that uses magnetic fields to stimulate the specific part of the brain known to control mood.
TMS is used on people with mental health conditions that have not seen success with medications and/or antidepressants. TMS has extremely limited side effects, especially when compared to traditional medications and antidepressants, so it is also a treatment option for people who may be suffering from side effects while trying to experience relief from their condition.
Many patients find that TMS is an amazingly effective treatment option. The FDA labeled TMS therapy to be marketed as a treatment for clinical depression in 2008.
TMS therapy is often administered in conjunction with other types of treatment, such as psychotherapy or (possibly continuing) medication management. At Mindful Health Solutions, our expert providers will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your specific needs.
Since its FDA approval as a depression treatment in 2008, further studies have shown that it has the potential to treat a wide range of conditions, many of which can be debilitating. Although the Mindful Health Solutions team focuses primarily on alleviating the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression, our clinics also provide treatment for other conditions like:
- Autism in adults
- Bipolar disorder
- Body dysmorphia
- Certain types of chronic pain
- Memory disorders
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Mild dementia
- Multiple sclerosis
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Smoking cessation
There is also evidence TMS may help in recovery from stroke. Research and studies on the impact of TMS are continuing, and we at Mindful Health Solutions are excited to be at the forefront of it.
TMS therapy can be a great option to consider for people who have Major Depressive Disorder or other mental health conditions but have not had success with medications or antidepressants. It can also be a treatment option for patients who are concerned about experiencing the side effects of medications or antidepressants.
Depression is a challenging, and often debilitating, disease that needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to achieve the best results.
To begin the process, it’s important to check in with yourself. If you are undergoing stress and/or emotional changes, which is not uncommon in this day and age, ask yourself these important questions:
- How are you coping with the stress? What coping skills do you have?
- Is your daily routine (sleep, appetite, energy, motivation) being affected in any way?
- Are you seeing changes in your grades, work performance, relationships, or social interactions?
More specific questions that you can ask yourself are:
- Are you staying in your room/home all/most of the day and/or avoiding social interactions?
- Do you cry more days than not?
- Do you have a change in your appetite or weight?
- Are you no longer interested in hobbies or activities that used to bring them joy?
- Are you quick to anger or agitation?
- Do you hurt yourself?
- Are you not taking care of your physical appearance?
- Are you participating in risky behavior?
You could also complete this Depression Screen for a more detailed and thorough check.
If the answers to the above questions or if their results from the Depression Screen are concerning, then your radar for depression should be high.
The next step is to seek professional assistance from a psychologist or psychiatrist to clarify the diagnosis. Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor can work with you to come up with an individualized treatment plan that works for you and your needs. This treatment plan can consist of psychotherapy, medication management, and/or TMS therapy.
The sooner you get treatment, the more likely you will achieve remission in this episode, which decreases your risk for future episodes as well.
Anxiety is sometimes treated with TMS, along with migraines and OCD. There is evidence that TMS may help for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, certain types of chronic pain, smoking cessation, PTSD, and autism in adults. There is also evidence TMS may help in recovery from stroke. There is evidence that it may help in mild dementia and certain other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis may benefit as well.
Many people confuse Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This is understandable but at the end of the day, the treatments are very different from one another.
Both are forms of brain stimulation used to treat depression, but this is where the similarities end. While ECT uses an electrical current to stimulate the entire brain, TMS uses a magnetic field to stimulate a particular part of the brain. These differences help account for the different side effects of the two treatments.
ECT has been in continuous use worldwide for over 80 years. There are few treatments in all of medicine that can make such a claim. Despite its long record of safety and efficacy, ECT remains poorly understood by the general public. ECT is a modern, mainstream medical procedure and roughly 100,000 patients receive ECT in the United States every year.
Because the treatment requires general anesthesia, ECT must be done in a hospital setting. As a result, it is often reserved for patients with severe, life-threatening depression. During ECT an electrical current is applied to the scalp to intentionally cause a controlled seizure. The modern ECT technique has significantly decreased or eliminated most of the troublesome side effects previously associated with this treatment. However, it can still cause memory loss as a side effect.
TMS does not use an electrical current itself but instead uses a powerful, MRI-strength magnetic field to cause a very localized electrical current in the brain. This current does not spread throughout the brain and does not cause a seizure. As a result, TMS does not require any anesthesia or sedation. It has very little risk for side effects, most of which are mild and temporary. Patients can drive themselves to and from treatment with minimal disruption of their daily routine.
Yes! Most major insurances cover TMS, and we’ll work directly with your insurance provider on your behalf to help you get covered.