As I was diagnosed with clinical depression, everything in my life rapidly changed. I became a different person in a short period, and it bothers me a lot. I was once active in social interactions too. But one day, things just went overboard, and I lose control over my emotional and mental health. At first, I thought it was normal, not until I figured out something was wrong with me. My full emotional and mental recovery journey was a mess, and everything was too overwhelming to handle alone.
Don’t get me wrong. I tried the best and worked on the things I could. I tried reducing my stress and anxiety by focusing on self-care, which was not easy, by the way. I tried getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, exercising regularly, etc. Basically, I managed to get on a healthy lifestyle change. However, despite all my efforts and understandable self-awareness, I still was not able to deal with my depression.
My family and friends kept on asking what is the matter with me. I tend not to answer their questions. But not because I do not want to engage with them or express my thoughts and emotions, but because I, myself, could not fathom what is happening between my emotional and psychological health.
Fortunately, one day I just had enough. I told myself that I want to get better and return to my old self. I want to do the things I loved doing before I even struggled with this mental health problem. That is where TMS came in.
What is TMS Therapy?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure which utilizes the use of magnetic fields in stimulating nerve cells located inside the brain. TMS therapy has been FDA-approved since 2008 for the treatment of major depressive disorder in individuals who have not responded to traditional treatments such as medication and therapy.
During a TMS therapy session, a magnetic coil is placed on the scalp of the patient’s head. This coil delivers magnetic pulses to the targeted areas of the brain that are involved in regulating mood. These pulses stimulate and activate nerve cells and increase the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are associated with improving mood.
There are different types of TMS therapy available, including repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS), and theta-burst stimulation (TBS). The type of TMS therapy used may vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and treatment goals.
TMS therapy is considered a safe and well-tolerated treatment option for depression, with minimal side effects such as mild headache or scalp discomfort. It is important to note that TMS therapy is not a first-line treatment for depression, and individuals should consult with a mental health provider to determine if TMS therapy is an appropriate treatment option for them.
Who is a Good Candidate for TMS Therapy?
TMS therapy may be a suitable treatment option for individuals who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and have not responded to traditional treatments such as medication and therapy. However, not all individuals with depression are good candidates for TMS therapy.
The following are some criteria that may indicate a person is a good candidate for TMS therapy:
- Diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder: TMS therapy is typically used to treat major depressive disorder. Individuals who have been diagnosed with this condition and have not responded to traditional treatments may be good candidates for TMS therapy.
- Failed Traditional Treatments: TMS therapy is usually recommended for individuals who have not responded to at least one medication for depression. Additionally, individuals who have not experienced significant improvement with psychotherapy or other treatments may also be considered for TMS therapy.
- No Contraindications: TMS therapy may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, or those with metal in their bodies that cannot be removed. A medical evaluation will be conducted to ensure that there are no contraindications to TMS therapy.
- Willingness to Commit to Treatment: TMS therapy typically requires several sessions per week for several weeks. Individuals who are willing and able to commit to the treatment schedule may be good candidates for TMS therapy.
- Positive Expectations: Research has shown that individuals who have positive expectations about TMS therapy are more likely to experience a positive outcome. Individuals who are open-minded about the treatment and have a positive outlook may be good candidates for TMS therapy.
The decision to undergo TMS therapy should be made in consultation with a mental health provider, who can evaluate the individual’s specific needs and determine if TMS therapy is an appropriate treatment option.
What to Expect During TMS Therapy
During a TMS therapy session, the individual will be seated in a comfortable chair while a magnetic coil is placed on their scalp. The provider will then adjust the coil to ensure that it is positioned correctly over the targeted area of the brain.
Once the coil is in place, the TMS machine will generate a series of rapid magnetic pulses that will stimulate the targeted brain cells. The individual may feel a tapping or clicking sensation on their scalp during the session, but the treatment is generally not painful.
The length of each TMS therapy session may vary depending on the specific treatment plan, but most sessions typically last between 20 and 40 minutes. The number of sessions required will also depend on the individual’s needs, but most people undergo TMS therapy for four to six weeks, with five sessions per week.
During the course of treatment, the provider will monitor the individual’s progress and adjust the treatment plan as necessary to ensure that they are receiving the optimal amount of stimulation.
After the session is over, the individual can usually resume their normal activities immediately. Some people experience mild side effects such as scalp discomfort, headache, or dizziness, but these typically resolve quickly.
It is important to note that TMS therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, and the specific treatment plan will vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and response to the treatment. A mental health provider will work closely with the individual to develop a personalized treatment plan and monitor their progress throughout the course of treatment.
Let me walk you through my journey by answering some of these frequently asked questions about TMS.
How successful is TMS?
TMS is a non-invasive procedure that improves symptoms of depression by stimulating the nerve cells in the brain using magnetic fields. The usual success rate of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is between 70% or 80%. That percentage indicates that most people find considerable mental and emotional relief after the treatment. These particularly are the people who have not achieved any satisfactory improvement before using antidepressants. But in all honesty, there’s no definitive answer to how long the TMS results will last.
Is TMS therapy safe?
TMS requires nerve or deep brain stimulation that does not require any surgery or implantation of electrodes. Yes, it is effective since it does not cause seizures or any severe physical reactions. It does not require sedation with anesthesia, and people often experience no side effects or very mild ones. TMS is generally well-tolerated and considered safe to use.
How long do the impacts of TMS treatment last?
People experience depression through different factors. Because of that, there is no concrete answer as to how long the TMS results will last. Fortunately, some individuals feel a slight improvement in their depressive symptoms two weeks after the treatment. Meanwhile, others notice the effects and changes in weeks four or five, and individuals who complete the full course of TMS treatment experience improvement within six months to a year. Yes, TMS results may take a while, but that does not mean that the treatment is ineffective.
Is TMS therapy permanent?
Unfortunately, these TMS results are not permanent. While it may be encouraging, it is important to acknowledge that, like most other treatments for mood disorders, there is a chance that depressive symptoms might reoccur even in patients who complete the full course of treatment.
Is TMS a hoax?
TMS is not a hoax. But unfortunately, the TMS device for depression was rejected by the FDA Advisory Committee in 2007 because of the failure to show overall benefits compared to a sham treatment. There is some experts’ recommendation that says that there is insufficient evidence that TMS can be considered as first-line therapy. Fortunately, in some specific cases, it may be considered an alternative treatment.
Can TMS make you worse?
Though transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS is an effective treatment to address symptoms of depression, a trial shows that it makes anxiety worse for most individuals with panic disorder.
Why is TMS so expensive?
TMS was initially so expensive for a couple of reasons. It has something to do with the monetary value of the machine used for the procedure. It is so expensive that most clinical experts and doctors could not afford to treat people at cheaper rates. Aside from that, the first devices available to the public usually charge the doctors a whopping price of $60 – $100 per treatment.
Can you consume or drink alcohol during TMS Therapy?
No, you cannot. It is vital that you avoid consuming all types of alcohol during TMS treatment. Alcohol consumption greatly raises the risk of seizure, which is not something you should not consider less. You should also avoid caffeine, especially if you intend to consume it time after time. It would be best to drink moderately if you must.
What does TMS feel like?
TMS requires stimulation from a machine. From there, you will feel the magnetic pulses easily passing through your skull. These cause small electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells. You will hear some clicking sounds in your ears, and you will feel that there is a knocking, tapping, or tingling sensation in your head. Also, there is a slight scalp discomfort during the treatment, and it can last for a while. But these are mild conditions, and there is nothing to worry about.
Does TMS work for everyone?
No. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) doesn’t generally work for everybody since people have different emotional, mental, and physical issues that need to be considered. Also, it is not a long-lasting cure. But when it works for a couple of people, their depressive symptoms often improve significantly. And sometimes, those mental health problems go away completely.
Is TMS treatment painful?
No, it is not. TMS is so painless that the process can be done even if the patients are awake and alert. Unlike other drug medications, TMS does not cause severe side effects that may cause damage or alter other systems of the body.
What are the side effects of TMS?
Some of the side effects of TMS at the site of stimulation include headache, tingling, scalp discomfort, spasms or twitching of facial muscles, lightheadedness.
Does TMS therapy help with anxiety?
TMS therapy provides significant benefits for individuals who experience mild to severe symptoms of depression. But in some instances, TMS can reduce both depression and anxiety. That is, even if TMS is not an FDA-approved treatment for the latter mental health problem.
Does TMS help with sleep?
TMS helps with the improvement of quality sleep as it calms the activity in the brain area that causes insomnia. It treats the brain circuits affected by depression instead of flooding them with other forms of brain chemicals. But note that results vary from one person to another. TMS does not guarantee a general outcome, especially since people experience different factors and symptoms of depression.
It is vital to take care of your health. You need to exert effort for that. But if ever you already tried working things on your own and still don’t get the results you wished to have, seek immediate help. Don’t ever think that there is no solution to your mental health problems because there actually tons of ways that can help you. You just have to explore possible solutions.