TMS is an effective treatment for depression that has been growing in popularity and acceptance because of its high success rate in providing adults who are having a depressive episode relief of their symptoms. By using a device that creates magnetic fields directed at the area of the brain associated with depression, the prefrontal cortex, this non-invasive treatment stimulates the area with small electric currents which release neurotransmitters. The treatment has a high success rate with more than 50% of patients treated feeling a reduction in symptoms and a third of them experiencing full remission. It works best with patients who have tried more than one medication without success.
Who is the treatment for?
TMS is for adults 18 and older who have Major Depressive Disorder and who are not finding relief of symptoms using psychotherapy and medication, which is typically the first step in the treatment of depression. The problem is that there are many different kinds of medications and they often affect people in different ways so many patients have to go through a lengthy period of trial and error in order to find something that works for them. Some medications may not work at all on some people where with others, they’re extremely effective. Even if a patient finds a medication that works well, there’s a good chance it will become less effective over time and the dosage will need to be adjusted.
If one medication doesn’t work, doctors may prescribe a combination of medications to find the right balance of chemicals to work together to lessen the symptoms. The problem with antidepressants is that patients may find relief from their symptoms but their medications cause a new batch of problems. Some of their side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Loss of sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Blurred vision
These side effects can interfere with the patient’s everyday life. Some people may feel mild or no side effects from antidepressant usage while others may have severe reactions. For people who can’t find a medication that works or are considering going on a multi-drug regimen, TMS is a treatment that can reduce symptoms of depression or put them into full remission without the need for medication.
TMS is not for people who:
- Are under the age of 18. The FDA approved the treatment for adults only because there haven’t been enough studies on the effects of this kind of stimulation on growing and developing brains.
- Have metal in their heads. Because the treatment creates magnetic fields like MRI machines do so, therefore, it cannot be used on anyone with any kind of non-removable metal in the neck or head such as medical devices or implants, shrapnel, or tattoos with metal-reactive ink.
- Have epilepsy. TMS is also not performed on anyone with epilepsy or a history of seizures associated with the treatment, although the most common side effects are mild such as discomfort around the treatment area, headaches, and neck pain.
TMS is for people with Major Depressive Disorder, a mood disorder that causes loss of interest and an unending feeling of sadness and can cause loss of appetite, fatigue, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts. TMS is not a treatment for those will mild depression. There can be different causes of depression such as genetics, hormones, biological differences, and brain chemistry.
TMS treats brain chemistry with electrical currents which until now could only be done through ECT or Electroconvulsive therapy. For ECT, the patient is put under anesthesia and the brain is shocked into having a minor seizure which causes changes in brain chemistry. ECT is still used today but because it’s a more invasive treatment and can have an adverse effect on short-term memory, TMS is often recommended as a treatment that should be used after medications have failed to work but before the more severe ECT.