How TMS Is Treating Depression Differently

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive, non-medication option for people dealing with depression.

  • Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in cases of severe or treatment-resistant depression, in which patients have not found relief from antidepressant drugs, TMS therapy is an attractive option for those seeking alternative answers to the question of how to fight depression.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a process in which magnets are used to stimulate a specific area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, promoting brain cell activity in the area. After repeated treatments, this stimulation can result in a decrease in depressive symptoms.
  • TMS does not require the use of antidepressant drugs in accompaniment with the treatment, so patients undergoing TMS therapy are able to avoid the potential negative side effects that may occur as a consequence of a depression medication regimen.

When thinking about how to deal with depression, side effects of treatment can be a cause for concern. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a treatment option that treatment-resistant depression, or otherwise severely depressed, patients can easily tolerate with few, mild and short-lived side effects.

  • The side effects of antidepressant drugs can be so disruptive that they dissuade a patient from adhering to a depression medication plan altogether. Antidepressant drugs are also, by definition, insufficient for successful treatment of treatment-resistant depression.
  • Unlike other, more intense therapies, TMS does not require anesthesia or hospital stays: treatment sessions are twenty minutes long and patients are able to drive themselves home after. They are also able to resume all normal activities after treatment and with treatment duration being so short, it is easy to fit into an average person’s full schedule. The most commonly reported side effects are scalp discomfort and/or headache.

Medical Studies Have Suggested TMS Benefits Other Disorders

Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy was approved by the FDA in 2008 to address symptoms of treatment-resistant depression and other severe cases where antidepressant drugs were insufficient. Researchers are now investigating the efficacy of transcranial magnetic stimulation as a possible treatment for other disorders, as well. A 2012 research study indicated that across 42 TMS clinics in the United States, 37 percent of patients achieved full remission and 58 percent of patients showed improvement in depressive symptoms.

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  • A 2016 research study indicated the efficacy of TMS for anxiety sufferers: 70 percent of participants diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in this study showed improvements indicative of a positive treatment response, and 60 percent showed improvements consistent with a remission response.
  • Research indicates that there could be significant therapeutic value in administering TMS for OCD cases, particularly ones that are severe or drug-resistant.
  • Another potential use for TMS: PTSD treatment, particularly cases that are not responding to standard interventions. Clinical research indicates TMS can help with the reduction of PTSD cluster symptoms.
  • A small study conducted by William S. Gilmer, MD, an associate professor at Northwestern University, indicates there is high potential of TMS for bipolar disorder as a treatment that is safe and successful.
  • A 2015 study encourages additional research into TMS as a treatment for chronic tinnitus, a condition characterized by a constant ringing sound in the ears as a result of hearing loss.
  • There is evidence to support that TMS could improve motor symptoms for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Researchers of substance abuse disorders believe that “long-term neurophysiological changes induced by [TMS] have the potential to affect behaviors [sp] relating to drug craving, intake and relapse”.