What is TMS Treatment?
Many of us have heard of electroshock therapy and that term elicits plenty of negative emotions. While electroconvulsive therapy was horribly abused in the past, it is a reliable form of therapy today. We now know it as transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS treatment. This non-invasive procedure involves the use of repetitive magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain to relieve symptoms of depression. It is most often used for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. When antidepressant medications stop helping someone suffering from major depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be the perfect option.
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How Many TMS Sessions are Needed?
The number of sessions needed will be based on your depression symptoms and overall mental health. The first cycle of treatment sessions is most often around 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks. A treatment session will begin very short, at about 15 minutes. Each subsequent session will range from 30-45 minutes.
The more treatment-resistant depression is for you, the likelihood you will need more cycles and longer sessions. However, it’s not always the case for each person and their mental illness.
How Long Does it Take for TMS Therapy to Start Working?
On average, antidepressants will take about 4-6 weeks to show any improvement to mood regulation. TMS therapy works quite a bit quicker than pills. Brain stimulation targets the specific area and some folks can see slight results within the very first weeks because of the targeted areas.
Again, each person experiences depression treatments differently and the same is true for TMS. It will depend on your mental health prognosis and the TMS treatment process prescribed for you. If you don’t feel any difference the first week, let your doctor know. They will work to see if it will improve before looking at other depression treatments.
Will TMS Treatment Work for Me?
Clinical trials have shown that there is a higher success rate with electroconvulsive therapies than their antidepressant medication counterparts. Medications are respectively around 50-65% successful at treating depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. TMS treatment has a respective 70-80% success rate. Of those who have successful results, about 50% find themselves in remission from their mental health disorders.
Despite these rates, it’s important to understand that there are factors that play into the success of transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Factors Affecting Results
Age – age itself doesn’t play against the success rate. However, a contributing factor to the success rate is the number of folks receiving treatment for geriatric depression. As we have learned more about this debilitating form of depression in our elder community, the fact that it works so well for them is noted well.
Early positive response to TMS treatments – the earlier you see a positive response to TMS treatment, the better the outcome for you.
The severity of depression and depressive symptoms – as stated previously, how intense your symptoms and diagnosis is can play a significant role in your success. Most patients are able to recover, a small percentage cannot because of the severity of their disorder.
How Long Do the Effects of TMS Last?
Due to the complexity of major depressive disorder and other mental health issues, there is no definitive answer. It is dependent on the severity of the symptoms, if they have completed a full cycle of TMS therapy, and their physical health. It is reported that many folks experience significant changes at 6 months to a year post-treatment.
Is TMS Treatment Safe?
Overall, TMS treatment is a safe option for those suffering from treatment-resistant:
- bipolar disorder
- obsessive compulsive disorder
- major depressive disorder
- post-traumatic disorder
However, there are some side effects one should be aware of:
- scalp discomfort
- neck pain
- facial muscles twitching
Types of TMS devices
Surface Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Surface TMS features pads that are applied to the patient’s head to send a magnetic pulse into the prefrontal cortex. The repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation has an impact on nerve cells, which will impact the regulating of moods.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
These devices work the same as surface TMS with one difference, the brain stimulation can reach up to 4cm under the skull. It is considered safer because it offers fewer side effects to the average patient. You can also have shorter TMS treatment per session.
Who Should Avoid This Treatment?
You should avoid this treatment if you have metal in your head, such as:
- Deep Brain Stimulators
- Neck or Brain Stents
- Aneurysm Clips or Coils
- Shrapnel or Bullet Pieces
- Facial Tattoos with Metallic Ink
- Metal Plates
- Cochlear Implants
- Permanent Piercing