TMS for Depression

Each year in the United States, an astonishing 16.2 million adults live with some type of depression, making it the second-most common mental health disorder in the country. Only anxiety disorders are more common. When accounting for short-term and chronic types of depression, these numbers mean that 15 percent of adults experience depression in their lives.

Unfortunately, researchers have not yet discovered a perfect cure for this relatively common disorder. Because depression is a complex illness, what works for some patients may not work well for others. With this in mind, scientists have developed several treatment types for depression.

When Therapy and Medication Don’t Work

Every person who experiences depression has a unique cause for the disorder, brain chemistry, and symptoms. All of these factors affect how depression treatments work. Professionals often recommend that people with depression try therapy, medication, or both as the first type of treatment because it works well for many patients.

However, these options are not enough for some patients. In some cases, medication can worsen a patient’s symptoms, so they stop the medications under doctors’ orders. However, therapy may not be enough on its own. Patients in situations like this do not need to give up the hope of finding a treatment that works.

TMS is Perfect for Treatment-Resistant Depression

When first-line treatment options, such as medication and therapy, do not work well for a patient, professionals may recommend other options. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is one way that these patients can find relief and start to heal.

Sometimes, patients are nervous about TMS because it isn’t as common as other treatment methods and there may be some misconceptions about what it is. However, the truth is that TMS is an effective and safe treatment option for some people with depression.

TMS Safety

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of TMS for treating depression. In order to receive this government approval, scientists had to prove that TMS is both effective and safe. In these studies, researchers found that many patients tolerate TMS better than antidepressant medication. Not only is TMS safer than some antidepressants, but it’s also much better than leaving depression untreated.

Is TMS Therapy the Right Option?

As with any mental health treatment, TMS is not the right approach for everyone. It’s important to consider a few factors when choosing a treatment path for yourself.

Your Diagnosis

The DSM-5 gives mental health professionals strict diagnostic criteria that helps them get the correct diagnosis in most cases. However, human error and miscommunication can lead people to get the wrong diagnosis sometimes.

For example, some people with bipolar disorder only seek treatment when they are in the middle of a depressive episode. However, they don’t see anything wrong with the manic episodes, so they do not bring those up. A counselor could easily misdiagnose such a patient with depression. TMS is for people with depression, so patients and their treatment teams should be sure about the diagnosis.

The Success of Previous Efforts

We suggest TMS for people who have tried at least two different antidepressants and at least one type of psychotherapy in the past. When patients do not tolerate the medicine well or both options simply are not enough, they may benefit from TMS.

The Severity of Your Symptoms

Depression can keep people from enjoying life, finishing the things they need to do, or even holding a job. In fact, the condition can be so debilitating that it is the number one cause of disability around the globe. When a patient’s symptoms are this severe, TMS can help.

However, TMS requires a larger time commitment than medication. Patients typically receive treatments for 30 minutes per day, five days per week for at least a few weeks. This commitment is often worth it for people who cannot continue daily life without it.

Your Doctor’s Opinion

Before deciding if TMS is right for you, you should speak with a trusted doctor. The professional team at LifeStance Health can help you understand the risks, imagine the potential benefits, answer your questions, and make an informed choice about your care.

Efficacy of TMS

Because depression is a complex and varied disorder, there is no treatment that works for every patient. This includes TMS. However, it is one of the top depression treatments available today in terms of how well it works. A study from Harvard found that 60 percent of people who used TMS for depression saw improvements in their symptoms. That’s about the same rate of efficacy as most antidepressant pills.

Approximately one-third of the patients who undergo TMS go into full remission from depression and have no symptoms of the disorder. However, some patients do relapse. Luckily, the patients in these cases know what worked before and can turn to TMS once again.

It’s important to remember that antidepressants and TMS help patients with depression using very different mechanisms. That’s why TMS is particularly effective for people who did not get better on medication. Trying a completely different approach can help.

Most importantly, TMS is much safer than not getting any treatment for depression. Untreated depression can be fatal.

If you’d like to learn more about TMS and how it can help, take our online quiz to see if TMS is right for you.