Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy What Is TMS Treatment? How TMS Can Help with Depression

What Is TMS Treatment? How TMS Can Help with Depression

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Imagine having a treatment for depression that doesn’t involve medication. That’s what transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) offers. TMS is a noninvasive, FDA-approved procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in your brain. This stimulation helps improve symptoms of major depression. You might also hear it called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) because it involves the application of repetitive electrical impulses. The two terms, TMS and rTMS, are often used interchangeably.

Depression is a common and serious condition, but it’s also treatable. However, sometimes standard treatments like medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) don’t work for everyone. That’s where TMS comes in. It offers an alternative when other treatments haven’t been effective. In addition to helping with depression, the FDA has approved TMS for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), migraines, and even to aid in smoking cessation. 

How does TMS work? 

To understand how TMS works, it’s helpful to first know a bit about the brain. Our brains are full of nerve cells, called neurons, which communicate using tiny amounts of electricity. These electrical signals help relay information throughout your brain and body. When a magnet is brought close to your brain, it can influence this electrical activity. TMS takes advantage of this principle by targeting specific parts of the brain that are involved in regulating mood.

During a TMS therapy treatment for depression, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp. This coil delivers magnetic pulses that stimulate the nerve cells in the brain region involved in mood control and depression. The goal is to activate areas of the brain that may have decreased activity during depression. In other words, it’s like giving your brain a gentle wake-up call.

Why choose TMS?

There are several reasons why TMS is a great medication resistant depression treatment. First and foremost, it’s noninvasive. You don’t need surgery, and you can go about your day immediately after a session; no need to take time off work or your daily activities. Plus, TMS doesn’t involve anesthesia, which means you won’t have to deal with the risks and recovery time associated with it.

Another major benefit of TMS is its potential to save lives. Depression can be a severe and life-threatening condition. By improving depression symptoms or even causing them to go into remission, TMS can be life-saving. It’s particularly helpful for those who haven’t found relief from other treatments.

TMS also works well alongside other treatment methods. It can be used in combination with medications, mental health therapy, and other techniques, providing a comprehensive approach to managing depression.

What to expect during a TMS session

If you’re considering TMS, you might be wondering what a typical session looks like. During the procedure, you’ll sit in a comfortable chair, similar to what you might find at a dentist’s office. The electromagnetic coil will be positioned against your scalp, and you’ll hear a clicking sound as the magnetic pulses are delivered. The session usually lasts about 30 to 60 minutes.

Most people undergo TMS sessions five times a week for about four to six weeks. It may sound like a big time commitment, but many find it worthwhile, especially when they start noticing improvements in their symptoms. A provider will evaluate your needs to determine which treatment option will be best for you.

Possible side effects

Like any medical treatment, TMS can have side effects, but they are generally mild to moderate and improve shortly after a session. The most common side effects include scalp discomfort and pain, headaches, and tingling or twitching of facial muscles. Some people might also feel lightheaded. These side effects tend to decrease over time as you continue with more sessions.

It’s important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before starting TMS. They can help you understand what to expect and how to manage any potential side effects.

Getting started with TMS

If TMS sounds like a promising option for you, the first step is to find the best TMS clinic using the Klinic platform. There, your provider can determine if you’re a good candidate for the treatment and guide you through the process. Your provider will also explain what to expect, answer any questions you might have, and help you set up a treatment schedule that fits your needs.

TMS could be a valuable addition to your treatment plan, offering hope and relief when other methods haven’t worked. It’s a step forward in the fight against depression, providing an option for those seeking help.

Ellen Diamond , a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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