TMS Therapy for Depression and Anxiety Treatment

Depression is one of the significant causes of disability among adolescents and young adults in the US. Although there are various kinds of treatments to address the condition, first-line approaches like psychotherapy and antidepressants don’t work for everyone. In fact, about two-thirds of depression patients don’t get the desired effect from the dosage of the antidepressant. Even after 60 days of treatment, these patients are still left with some symptoms, with each subsequent medication prescribed seeming less effective than the previous one.

So the question is, what can someone suffering from depression do when their first-line of treatment fails to be effective? Read on to find out.

Anxiety

According to research, anxiety issues are the most prevalent mental disorders, affecting more than 18% of the population in the US annually. And while these disorders are treatable, only 36% of the suffering population receives treatment. The study further revealed that individuals with anxiety problems are 3-5 times more likely to visit a health caregiver and 6 times more likely to be institutionalized for psychiatric illness than those who don’t suffer from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and depression

These two disorders are often intertwined. In fact, it is a common occurrence for an individual who has anxiety to suffer depression and vice versa. About 50% of patients who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are also diagnosed with depression.

Treatment for depression

There are many treatment options for depression, but how well each one works depends on the type and severity of the depression. Examples of procedures include psychotherapy, psychoeducation and support groups, medications, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), experiment treatments and brain stimulation therapies. In this article, we shall focus on brain stimulation therapies, or TMS, to be more specific.

So what is TMS?

Also known as repetitive Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) involves the use of a magnetic field to produce electric current at specific points of the brain to enhance the symptoms of depression. It is a non-invasive procedure that’s used when other depression treatments fail to be effective.

TMS machines are designed to operate outside of the body but can influence the nerve system. During a TMS session, the doctor places an electromagnetic coil against the patient’s scalp (near the forehead). The coil painlessly transmits a magnetic pulse that triggers nerve cells in the specific areas of the brain involved in depression and mood control. The procedure is thought to stimulate regions of the brain that have reduced activity in depression.

Does rTMS work?

Although it still isn’t biologically evident why the rTMS works, the activation seems to affect how the brain functions, consequently enhancing moods and easing depression symptoms. About 50-60% of individuals with depression who haven’t found relief from other types of treatments get a clinically meaningful response with rTMS. Of these individuals, a third experience full remission.

When is TMS used?

As mentioned earlier, psychotherapy and antidepressant are the first-line treatments for depression. These treatments, however, don’t work for everyone. In which case, an rTMS might be applied as an alternative treatment or as a supplement to psychotherapy or antidepressant medications. Those who have failed to attain an adequate response for antidepressants, or who cannot tolerate medications might want to give TMS therapy a try.

How long does the procedure take?

TMS therapy consists of different treatment sessions, which may vary in length based on the electromagnetic coil used as well as the number of pulses transmitted. However, a typical session goes for about 30 to 40 minutes. Patients receive treatment five days a week, and a regular course runs for 4-6 weeks, depending on an individual’s response to treatment.

What’s the recovery time?

Unlike other procedures like ECT, TMS doesn’t need general anesthesia or sedation. So one is fully awake and aware of what’s happening. The procedure doesn’t have a “recovery time” so one is free to drive home after treatment.

Who is not the right candidate for TMS?

Those with any non-detachable metal in their heads (except dental fillings and braces) are not eligible for the treatment. Otherwise, this can cause the object to move, heat up, or malfunction.

What are the side effects?

Side effects are generally mild to moderate and get better shortly after the session. They include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Spasm, tingling or twitching of facial muscles
  • Headache
  • Scalp discomfort at the stimulation site

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