Despite its surprising success rate for treating depression, many people aren’t familiar with the treatment known as transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS.
Yes, the name sounds a little frightening. The truth is, however, TMS is nothing like invasive treatments of the past. In fact, it’s surprisingly safe and effective for resistant depression.
If you or a loved one suffer from depression that’s doesn’t show any signs of improvement from medication or talk therapy, it might be worth considering TMS. Here’s what you need to know.
What Hope is There for Patients with Treatment Resistant Depression?
Did you know that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide? It’s true. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 300 million people around the globe struggle to live with depression every day.
Finding a treatment for depression that actually works is crucial. Not everyone with major depressive disorder suffers suicidal thoughts, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that, depression can lead to suicide.
Unfortunately, many people who live life with depression never find a treatment that works for them. One study out of the United Kingdom found that over half of patients did not respond to medication and were thus labeled “treatment resistant.”
Transcranial magnetic stimulation offers a glimmer of hope for millions of people who face this fate.
Unlike invasive treatments of the past, like electroconvulsive shock therapy, the side effects of TMS are minimal - yet the treatment produces remarkable results for patients with treatment resistant major depressive disorder (MDD).
What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?
In order to understand how TMS works, it’s important to understand what causes depression.
Although everyone is different, experts tend to find reduced electric activity in certain areas of the brain in depressed patients – especially patients resistant to conventional treatments.
TMS quite literally stimulates the areas of the brain with poor electric activity. During a TMS session, your doctor will apply a coil to targeted areas of your head. He or she will then use an electromagnet to pulse a magnetic field into specific brain cells.
Patients usually feel a light tapping at the application site but no pain or uncomfortable pressure. Typical treatments last between 40 to 60 minutes, with the first session lasting slightly longer.
TMS treatment involves no recovery time so patients can drive themselves home and immediately resume normal activities.
Does TMS Actually Work?
According to Harvard Health, transcranial magnetic stimulation boasts a 50% to 60% success rate in patients with treatment resistant depression. That’s a life changing statistic for millions of people who had previously abandoned hope for successfully treating their major depression.
To top it off, most major insurance plans cover TMS.
Like any depression treatment (or any mental health treatment for that matter), TMS is not a one-and-done solution.
Patients typically receive TMS for five days each week, over a six-week period. After that six-week treatment, patients tend to notice amazing results for anywhere from several months to over a year.
That’s a huge accomplishment when you consider that most conventional treatments for depression involve daily medication maintenance or weekly therapy without any major gaps in treatment periods. The success of TMS is also a big deal considering that it’s much less invasive than the previous alternative: electroconvulsive shock therapy.
If or when symptoms start to return in several months, you can talk to your doctor to figure out if recurrent TMS sessions are the right choice to continue treating your depression.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Side Effects
Unlike electroconvulsive shock therapy - which often triggers seizures, memory loss, and cognitive issues, TMS has minimal side effects.
After a TMS session, you may experience mild headaches, sensitivity at the application site, facial muscle spasms, and lightheadedness. However, many patients don’t experience any unpleasant side effects.
Who Can Benefit from TMS?
Since it emerged in 1985, a handful of doctors have enlisted the help of TMS for treating patients with major depressive disorder who show resistance to conventional treatment options.
Unfortunately, many doctors find it more profitable to bounce patients around on different medications or stack prescriptions in their attempts find a treatment that works.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression
TMS is mostly used for helping patients with treatment resistant depression. At San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, we offer TMS to patients with major depressive disorder due to its non-invasive nature and high success rate.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Autism, OCD, and other Disorders
Although doctors most commonly use TMS to treat depression, it’s also shown significant promise treating other mental health conditions.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Bipolar disorders
In many cases, such as severe autism or bipolar disorders, TMS wouldn’t serve as a patient’s singular treatment. However, it might provide significant relief of symptoms as an add-on treatment combined with other options.
Who Should Avoid TMS?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation isn’t the right choice for everyone. In fact, it can be dangerous in certain patients.
If you fall into any of the following categories, you might want to avoid TMS:
- You have metal or implanted medical devices like stents, electrodes, cochlear hearing aids, aneurysm clips, pacemakers, etc.
- You have leftover bullet fragments in your body.
- You're prone to seizures or have a family history of epilepsy.
- You suffer frequent headaches or migraines.
- You’ve suffered brain damage or stress from tumors, surgery, or injury.
- You're pregnant or may become pregnant.
Only your doctor can help you decide if TMS is a safe and effective choice for treating your depression.
San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is Here to Help
San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is the first private hospital to offer transcranial magnetic stimulation to patients with treatment resistant major depressive disorder. You don’t have to suffer – help is available.
If you or a loved one are over the age of 18 and suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to contact us today for a confidential assessment at 210.541.5350.