Maximizing Your TMS Therapy Outcomes: A Guide to Success

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is one of the few non-invasive and non-systemic treatment options for various mental health conditions. It was approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) by the FDA in 2008, making TMS an excellent treatment option for those seeking relief from their depressive symptoms. While treatment is effective, especially for those of you with treatment-resistant depression (TRD), there are some steps you can take to maximize therapy outcomes and enhance its overall impact on your mental well-being. Use these seven practical tips to help make the most of your TMS journey:

1. Continue Other Treatments Concurrently

Talk therapy, especially, can increase the odds of TMS successfully treating your disorder by a significant margin. Because of this, some insurance companies require concurrent therapy before authorizing TMS treatment. On the other hand, research shows that TMS is also an excellent concurrent treatment with medication. It can enhance the effectiveness of certain antidepressants and your response to them. Whether it’s medication, talk therapy, or a combination, be sure to follow the treatment plan your mental health provider established with you for your best TMS results.

2. Follow Your Prescribed Schedule

Consistency is key. Adhering to your provider’s recommended treatment schedule is vital for optimal outcomes. Think of your TMS therapy as brain training–your brain learns best with repetition. Attend your scheduled sessions to ensure your brain receives the necessary stimulation to foster lasting changes. Work with your provider to create a schedule that will work with your current schedule and lifestyle, so it’s easier to stay committed to the full course of treatment.

3. Get Your Rest

Quality sleep is important, especially during treatment. Just like when you start a new fitness routine and you come home exhausted from training unused muscles, you can tire easily from training your brain.

You may notice you’re more tired at the end of a treatment day–typically in the first week or two. Adequate sleep will give treatment the best chance to work on your brain, resting and repairing for another day and another session. Sleep also ensures you’ll have more energy which can help you have a better mood and improved cognitive functions like concentration and decision-making.

4. Don’t Make Other Treatment Changes

You’ll need your cognitive functions to remember not to change other parts of your treatment plan. TMS doesn’t mean you can go off your antidepressant medications cold turkey or stop meeting with your therapist for your talk sessions. Continue your regular treatments unless you and your providers have worked out a new treatment plan such as tapering your medication or reducing your sessions with your therapist.

5. Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Whether you are already maintaining a healthy lifestyle or need to make some changes, here are some tips to help optimize your TMS treatment:

  • Eat a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. They will help fuel your brain and be a source of vitamins and minerals–some are linked to helping depression.
  • Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Your brain needs enough water for optimal function and staying hydrated combats fatigue. Not to mention drinking water will help you avoid drinking sugary drinks, which aren’t great for battling depression.
  • Get your blood pumping with some daily exercise. It can produce endorphins, another way to reduce depressive symptoms. These can relieve stress, help you sleep, and keep your motivation up throughout treatment.

6. Stay Alert During Treatments

Since TMS is essentially brain training, you can also think of it as learning. Your brain learns best when you’re awake with all cylinders firing, so it’s best not to sleep. You can absolutely relax or watch a movie if that’s what helps you get through treatment. However, any activities that keep your brain alert will provide more optimal results. You could:

  • Talk throughout your treatment; TMS providers are excellent listeners
  • Draw
  • Listen to stimulating music
  • Read an engaging story

Or find any other activity that helps keep those cylinders firing aka those brain signals flowing.

7. Track Your Progress

Find an easy way for you to track your progress throughout treatment. Whether you journal, keep a note on your phone, or find a fancy app, you can track:

  • How you’re feeling
  • Any changes to your depression symptoms
  • Any side effects you experience or have concerns to discuss with your provider

Empower yourself by tracking your progress and staying informed. Ask your provider questions and seek reliable information sources. By actively participating in your mental health journey, you’ll be able to see the positive changes more clearly.

Remember to be patient with yourself, though. As with any treatment, you may not see noticeable results from TMS at first. Set realistic expectations and be patient with the process. Again, communicating openly with your provider is crucial. They can help you understand the anticipated timeline for improvements. You should approach your treatment with a balanced perspective.

Finally, TMS therapy is a holistic process and taking care of yourself is the best way to support its effectiveness. Prioritize healthy lifestyle habits, sleep, following your prescribed treatment, and giving yourself time to heal. All of these factors contribute to overall well-being and can complement the positive effects of TMS on your mental health. These practical tips should serve as a guide for you to make the most of your therapeutic experience, highlighting your path to recovery.