According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects nearly eight percent of the population older than 12 years in the United States. It frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists it as one of the top causes of disability globally. Every day, people suffer from symptoms that cause difficulties in carrying out their activities of daily living.
Thankfully, there are numerous pharmacological treatments, in addition to psychotherapy, that help many individuals lead normal lives. Unfortunately, for some individuals, their symptoms persist despite these treatments. If you are one of these individuals, you may benefit from non-medication-based interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy.
What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS?
Since its approval by the FDA in 2008, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has become an enticing treatment for depression. It is a non-invasive treatment that can be used by itself or in conjunction with psychotherapy and medication. Typically an electromagnetic coil is placed just above the left temple to deliver magnetic pulses. It helps stimulate cortical neurons to improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression. The goal is to activate the areas of the brain with decreased activity that can be contributing to depression or other mental health symptoms.
How Can I Determine if TMS Could Work for Me?
Many factors go into treating depression, and a personalized treatment plan developed with a doctor is required to treat it effectively. Here are a couple of valuable points to consider when determining if TMS is right for you.
● Medication Side Effects
Medications used to treat depression can have intolerable side effects such as sleep problems, GI upset, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. These side effects can have a minor impact on your daily life or can be debilitating in more extreme cases. On the other hand, TMS has little to no short-term side effects. The most common side effect reported has been scalp discomfort from the coil placement during the period of active stimulation. The worst side effect would be the occasional headaches that occur while acclimating to the stimulation and resolve shortly within starting treatment. There have been no long-term side effects reported due to TMS therapy other than continued relief from depression symptoms.
● No Relief
Many medications treat depression and approximately half of patients will respond to the first antidepressant treatment. However, up to 40% of patients with depression do not experience relief from their symptoms with medications at all. Consequently, their diagnosis may change to treatment-resistant depression.
If a patient has taken two or more full anti-depression medication courses as prescribed, they can be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. They do need to take it at the full dose considered effective for the entire length of time, often up to 14 weeks. If you fall into this category, non-medication treatment routes should be explored, including TMS therapy.
NeuroStim TMS treatment results are encouraging. Since 2018, NeuroStim TMS have performed over 65,000 successful TMS treatments and over 70% of our patients have experienced greater than 50% improvement in their depressive symptoms. Additionally, 46% have achieved full remission.
Even if you are not diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, you may find that you only achieve partial relief from medication, and TMS can further improve symptoms. When used alongside psychotherapy, it often has the most significant impact to help develop coping strategies for your symptoms in these scenarios.
While some medications are categorized as safe to be taken when pregnant, most patients planning to become pregnant need to discontinue their antidepressant medication. Unfortunately, this is a risk for the patient and her baby. TMS may be an excellent non-pharmacological option during this time.
● Medical History
Unfortunately, if you have been diagnosed with a seizure disorder, you are not a candidate for TMS therapy due to the risks seizures pose. Additionally, if you have brain or neural implants, permanent metal in the body, or previous brain damage from illness or injury, TMS treatment may not be safe for you. Talk with your doctor about your medical history before beginning a course of treatment.
If you have previously undergone TMS treatment and found it ineffective, that can change. As your depression, diagnosis, and body change, you may find you are more responsive to TMS therapy than in the past. Consult with your doctor to see if you could benefit from another round of TMS therapy.
As with any treatment, there is a time commitment. Medications can take up to 14 weeks to see results. TMS treatment is shorter and lasts closer to six weeks. However, the weeks you are in treatment can require you to visit a clinic daily. If you are not willing to put the time into getting better, you may not see the results you wish to achieve.
As with any medical treatment, there isn’t a guarantee that every patient suffering from depression will benefit from TMS. However, you owe it to yourself to evaluate all treatment options that could bring you relief and improve your quality of life. Meeting with a doctor or visiting a TMS treatment center to discuss your unique situation can help you determine if TMS is a good option for you.