Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a non-invasive treatment for depression that uses magnetic fields to send electric pulses to areas of the brain where mood regulators are. It can be extremely effective in treating symptoms of depression but how do you know that TMS is right for you?
TMS is a treatment for people who have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with symptoms that interfere with sleep, school, work, eating, relationships, and the ability to enjoy life. Symptoms of depression include:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Thoughts of suicide or attempts of suicide
- Aches and pains
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Sad, empty feelings that persist
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty focusing
- Lack of interest
TMS is a treatment for those people who have depression that is resistant to other forms of therapy like antidepressants prescribed by a physician or psychotherapy with a psychiatrist. TMS is an option if the antidepressants that you’ve tried were not effective or if their side effects are simply too harsh for you to tolerate. Side effects of antidepressants can be mild or they can be more severe and include nausea, fatigue, drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, constipation, decreased sexual desire, irritability, agitation, and anxiety which might only make your situation worse.
Sometimes, if your medications aren’t working well, doctors will recommend a combination of medications to find the right cocktail to more effectively treat your depression. If you’re considering this kind of multi-drug regimen to treat your symptoms because they don’t work on their own, TMS may be a more successful and less invasive option.
TMS was cleared by the FDA in 2008 for treating patients with Major Depressive Disorder and not those who suffer from mild depression or who are doing well on medication. In fact, those who tolerate and respond well to drug treatments typically don’t respond well to TMS.
Because TMS is a prescribed treatment for depression, it must be prescribed by your physician or your psychiatrist.
There are a few reasons why you may not be a good candidate for TMS treatment:
You have any metal objects in your neck or head. Because TMS uses magnetic fields just like an MRI machine, you cannot use this treatment if you have any non-removable metal implants such as electrodes, aneurysm clips brain stimulators, or other metallic implants in your neck or ears. You cannot have tattoos that have metallic ink or metallic-sensitive ink or shrapnel or bullet fragments either. Braces and metal fillings should be fine but you should talk to the TMS technician first.
You have a history of seizures. There is a small risk (1 in 10,000) of experiencing a seizure while undergoing the treatment so if you have epilepsy or have a history of seizures, you can’t undergo the treatment.
You can’t remain seated for long periods. You must be able to remain seated for the 20-40 minute treatment.
You’re under 18. The FDA approved the treatment for people 18 years of age and older. Most doctors will not prescribe the treatment to anyone under the age of 18, although the treatment is so well-tolerated there is interest in using it to treat severe cases of depression in adolescents. However, until there is adequate research that reveals what the effects may be on a developing brain, the treatment most likely won’t be available to anyone under the age of 18.
For many people, TMS can be a life-changing treatment but it is not the right treatment for everyone. To find out if it’s an appropriate treatment option for you, talk with your physician or psychiatrist.