Addiction―It has become an accepted assertion that a connection lies between mental illness and substance abuse. Whether it’s self-medication or the inability of a person to control his or her impulses (which is a symptom of many other forms of mental illness), substance abuse affects chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin, much like in people who suffer from Depression.
Because TMS treats the limbic system which is the system that controls basic emotions and drives, scientists are optimistic that it will be an effective treatment in the addiction of alcohol, opiates, nicotine, and stimulants like cocaine, just as it has been with Depression.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks―A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear when there is no real danger or reason for the fear. If these attacks become recurrent, you may suffer from Panic Disorder. This is not the same as Anxiety which is more of a fear or anxiousness that won’t go away but like Panic Attacks can have many causes including environmental factors, a traumatic event, genetics, and brain chemistry.
Scientists are looking into TMS as a treatment for Panic Disorder and Anxiety because of their connection with possible brain chemistry malfunction and the effectiveness of TMS in the treatment of symptoms of Depression.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD/ADD)―Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a disorder in which the patient may have trouble focusing and staying on task or maybe even controlling impulses. In the U. S., 6.1 children are currently being treated for the condition with medication and 4% of American adults will be diagnosed with it in their lifetimes. While no one really knows the exact cause of ADHD, scientific evidence point to genetic and a chemical imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate behavior. TMS has been proven effective in the treatment of Depression by retraining neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to function normally. There is great hope that TMS will have the same success in the treatment of ADHD.
Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder)―Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 59 children. It has a wide array of symptoms and behaviors that range from social impairment and communication difficulties to repetitive behaviors and sensory sensitivities. There is no known cause for autism. Currently, the FDA has not approved TMS for the treatment of children but clinical studies are being conducted to determine the efficacy of TMS in the treatment of Autism and the results so far have been encouraging. Some studies have suggested that TMS may relieve some symptoms of Autism such as irritability and repetitive behaviors and improve hand-eye coordination and social skills. These studies are small and wider clinical trials are needed but for now, scientists are cautiously optimistic about the potential for TMS treatment for the relief of Autism symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder―Bipolar Disorder, or Manic Depressive Disorder, is a neurological disorder that causes abnormal shifts in moods, periods of highs and lows that make it difficult to function in day-to-day life. People who suffer from the disorder experience periods where they exhibit the usual symptoms of Depression such as sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, and lack of energy but then bounce to the other side of the mood spectrum to the manic phase that includes elation, irritability, sleeplessness, talking fast and excessively, recklessness, and feeling wired.
TMS has found success in treating the symptoms of Depression and studies are being conducted on TMS as a treatment for Bipolar as well. TMS is directed at the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that regulates mood and stimulates neurotransmitters into functioning normally. The success with TMS and the treatment of Depression gives hope for similar success with Bipolar Disorder.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)―People who have BPD may experience wild mood swings, usually centering on how they view themselves, as well as view things in extremes, all good or all bad. They can be prone to impulsiveness, self-harm, suicidal behaviors, distrust, feelings of disassociation, and unstable relationships involving extreme emotions. Risk factors include a family history of the disorder, environment, and brain function, specifically with mood regulation.
Because of TMS’s effectiveness in the regulation of moods using magnetic stimulation of neurotransmitters, TMS is being used as a treatment for BPD and has shown promise in regulating impulse control and the depressive symptoms that tend to go along with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Depression―Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder, is a debilitating disorder which has symptoms that include sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of concentration, anxiety, loss of appetite, and low self-esteem. Each year, more than 16.2 million people experience a major depressive episode. For most people who have severe Depression, the disorder is treated with psychotherapy and antidepressants but for some, relief from symptoms is more elusive. They may have to try several antidepressants until they find one that works or they may have to try a cocktail of several medications before finding a combination that works and that has tolerable side effects. If medication isn’t effective, TMS may be the solution. By stimulating neurotransmitters using magnetic coils, the nerves may be able to make connections that it couldn’t previously which results in better regulation of moods. TMS has brought many people relief and even remission from symptoms of Depression.
Eating Disorders―Eating Disorders are not just a form of extreme dieting. They are illnesses that cause obsessions with food, body shape, and body weight. They include Anorexia Nervosa in which a person views himself or herself as overweight and severely restricts food, Bulimia in which a person overeats and then purges, and Binge-eating which involves binging on food but not purging. Although they can develop earlier or later in life, Eating Disorders most commonly occur in the teens and early adult years. Eating Disorders are complex and are caused by genetics, behavior, psychological, and social factors.
TMS has shown great promise in a small study that treated patients with Anorexia and Bulimia which saw a 50% reduction in bingeing and purging behaviors.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)―With OCD, a person exhibits certain behaviors that are uncontrollable and must be repeated again and again. Obsessions can be fears, forbidden thought, aggressive thoughts, or the need for order. Compulsions are the behaviors that go along with these obsessions and can be anything from excessive hand-washing, counting, or repeatedly checking a locked door. Motor tics can sometimes accompany the other behaviors. Genetics seem to play a role in the development of OCD, as does environment, and brain function.
Depression is often associated with OCD so reducing the symptoms of Depression with TMS can greatly improve the life of the OCD patient. In addition, there may be an improvement in the other symptoms of OCD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)―Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that develops as a result of a person experiencing a frightening or upsetting event. Most people will recover after a traumatic event but others will continue to experience real feelings of fear and trauma long after the event. Symptoms include flashbacks, bad dreams, avoiding certain situations, being easily frightened, angry outbursts, and trouble sleeping.
While further study needs to be done, TMS has been shown to help patients suffering from PTSD by forcing neurons into firing in a healthy pattern and restoring their natural function. It also may be useful in reducing the auditory activity that can lead to hallucinations.
Schizophrenia―Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that has symptoms that include hallucinations, delusions, dysfunctional thinking, abnormal movements, reduced expressions, trouble focusing, difficulty making decisions. Schizophrenia may be genetic but it is believed that malnutrition in the womb, problems during birth, exposure to viruses, and social conditions can also be factors in the development of schizophrenia. There may also be a chemical imbalance in the brain with dopamine and glutamate that play a part in its development as well.
For patients with auditory hallucinations, there has been some success in quelling them with TMS treatments.
Suicidal Thoughts―Symptoms of Suicidal Thoughts include talking about suicide, a preoccupation with death, withdrawal of social interactions, risky or self-destructive behavior, giving away belongings, feeling of being trapped, and changes in personality.
Suicidal Thoughts are part of several mental disorders including Depression, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and others. There are many risk factors such as previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, and medical conditions.
There is evidence that shows that TMS can help restore the cortical control pathway and reduce suicidal thoughts in patients.
If you feel that you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide reach out to a loved one or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.