Depression and mental health conditions are common in the U.S. In fact, one in six Americans takes antidepressants or some other sort of psychiatric drug. In 2013 almost 17% of U.S. adults filled a prescription for a psychiatric drug. While medication is often the go-to choice for treating depression, some patients have what is known as treatment resistant depression. This condition doesn’t react well to common treatment options, making it much harder to treat.
Thanks to recent breakthroughs, a new therapy known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) may be the answers for treating treatment resistant depression. Keep reading to learn about TMS and how it may be useful in relieving depression and its symptoms.
History of TMS
The use of magnetic stimulation for brain activity dates back more than 100 years. One of the first TMS devices was created in 1985 though the physics behind TMS dated back to 1881. In 2007 a randomized multi-site study was conducted to determine the impact of TMS in the treatment of depression. Results showed a substantial improvement in mood.
This study laid the foundation for an FDA approval of TMS as a potential treatment for depression in 2007. Since then TMS has become a treatment option for those who haven’t responded to other depression treatments. Treatment centers such as Seattle NTC and others offer TMS as a solution for depression and depression symptoms.
The Science Behind TMS
TMS is a safe and effective treatment for depression. It works by stimulating the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is underactive in those with depression. In the brain it’s also been confirmed that depression impacts many interconnected brain regions. These regions are dysfunctional in those with depression. TMS is able to restore normal function to this regulatory network by stimulating the prefrontal cortex.
The therapy works through the use of strong electromagnetics that increase brain activity in the brain, especially the underactive and dysfunctional areas. With the use of a coil that is placed on the head, a magnetic field is created that move into the brain. Here small electrical currents are created which activate cells and release neurotransmitters.
Treatment usually consists of at least five treatments per week for up to six weeks. Each session lasts no longer than an hour and patients usually need 20-30 treatments for long-term effects. After the therapy course is over, most patients experience complete symptom relief. This treatment can mean a whole new life for someone who has yet to find a depression treatment that works for them.
Benefits of TMS
Of course, the biggest benefit of TMS is that it has proven to be effective in treating depression and related symptoms. Other benefits include:
- Minimal side effects
- Favorable benefit/risk ratio
- Works for treatment resistant depression
- No systemic side effects like weight gain
While the idea of having electric currents sent into your brain may be scary, TMS therapy is extremely safe.
Unlike medications used to treat depression, there are very few risks and post-treatment symptoms that occur with TMS. One of the most serious risks is seizure. However, the risk is only estimated to be about 1 in every 1000 patients or less. This means that it’s very unlikely that you’ll suffer from this serious health impact.
Most patients who undergo TMS report a mild headache after a treatment session. This can be treated with an over-the-counter pain medication. Other patients reported:
- Neck pain
- Scalp discomfort
- Earache from the sound of the machine
While the long-term impacts of TMS are still being studied, there is no indication that it causes a negative cognitive impact. In fact, there is some data that shows that TMS actually causes cognitive enhancement.
Who Qualifies For TMS Therapy?
TMS is rarely a first or second choice option in treating depression. But, if you’ve been unable to get relief from your symptoms, TMS may be a viable option. TMS is a good option for those who haven’t responded well to psychotherapy or medications as well as those who can’t tolerate the side effects of medications. This treatment may also be more suitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s best to discuss depression treatment options with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you. Be aware that medical implants in the head, neck stents, and other medical devices may disqualify you from TMS therapy. Discuss your previous health conditions with your doctor to ensure TMS is 100% safe for you.
While TMS may not be the go-to treatment for depression, its impacts are becoming well-known in the mental health treatment industry. If you’ve tried for years to find a suitable depression treatment to no avail, now is a good time to discuss TMS and if it will work for your type of depression with your doctor.