FAQs About Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, is a relatively new treatment in the world of psychiatric care. It is currently recommended as a treatment for clinical depression, but further research and the continued positive results of this method in reducing depression symptoms indicate that this will be a promising therapy for a variety of mental health conditions.

If you have been looking for an effective treatment for depression in Dallas, you may have heard of TMS therapy, but still have some questions about the success, safety, and process behind this treatment.

What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses an electromagnet to deliver pulses into your brain. Each of these pulses prompts the neurons to fire, increasing brain activity in specific regions. Because clinical depression is often associated with reduced brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and other areas that regulate mood, TMS can jumpstart activity and reduce depression.

The technology behind TMS is similar to that used in an MRI. Instead of medications or surgery, the magnetic pulses can travel through your skull and brain for a completely non-invasive treatment.

When is TMS Used?

TMS is most often used for cases of treatment-resistant depression. This is when major depressive disorder does not respond to the more typical methods of treatment such as medication and psychotherapy, a struggle which as many as ⅓ of adults with depression face. TMS has been proven effective at mitigating symptoms that other treatments cannot control.

Will TMS Work for Me?

TMS is a suitable treatment for adults with the majority of patients experiencing at least some relief from clinical depression. Over half of those patients have a significant decrease in symptoms, and some feel entirely cured of clinical depression in the months following treatment. Your psychiatrist can discuss your medical history and the time commitment for TMS to see if you are a good candidate.

What is the Experience of a TMS Treatment?

At the treatment center, you will sit in a quiet room and wear a magnetic coil on your head. This coil delivers a series of brief magnetic pulses which are painless, but can take a moment to adjust to. You will also wear earplugs to block the noise of the pulse. The session can last for 20 to 50 minutes, after which you can drive home or back to work.

During treatment, you will have a session 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks. The length of treatment will depend on your psychiatrist’s observations and your reaction to treatment.

Is TMS Safe and Are There Side Effects?

TMS has been in use since the 1980s and has undergone many trials for FDA approval. It is entirely safe. In fact, it is non-invasive and does not include medication, so it can often carry fewer risks than other depression treatment methods. The only side effects patients report is mild scalp discomfort or mild headaches as they adjust to wearing the magnetic coil during the first week of treatment.

How Long Does TMS Last?

TMS has helped patients manage symptoms for months or even years after treatment. Some patients will never experience a recurrence of depression symptoms, but TMS does not necessarily prevent depression so it is important to continue taking care of your mental health.

Is TMS the Same as Electroconvulsive Therapy?

Electroconvulsive therapy, often called ECT or “electroshock” therapy uses electrical pulses instead of the magnetic pulses in TMS. While this can be effective, it is far more extreme than TMS and only used in severe cases as it can cause memory loss. TMS will work for most patients without any of these side effects.

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