Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve neurological or mental health disorders. TMS is an alternative to drugs and is a non-invasive treatment. It can help relieve major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other similar mental health conditions, particularly when a patient has failed to find relief using antidepressants and other prescribed medications.
How Does It Work?
This treatment course involves using strong magnets like those found in an MRI machine and delivering repetitive magnetic pulses. During a treatment session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against the patient’s scalp near the front of the head. The electromagnet sends a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the areas of the brain that control mood and depression. By creating more activity in these regions of the brain, symptoms of depression decrease.
The patient is awake while the procedure takes place. Once the device is in position, it is held in place for about 25 minutes. Steady electrical currents pass through the brain, causing neurons in the brain to send electrical impulses. This triggers a chemical reaction that, over time, helps lift the patient’s mood.
The Washington Post, in their article “How Magnets Reset Depressed Brains,” stated studies found “that one session of TMS modifies the connectivity of large-scale brain networks, particularly the right anterior insula, which is a key area in depression.” The article goes on to declare the importance of TMS treatment, remarking, “It’s been more than 30 years since a truly new medication has come on the market, and for those with intractable depression, TMS could be a much-needed alternative.”
Who Might Benefit?
Carlos Peña, Ph.D., M.S., director of the Division of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, noted, “Transcranial magnetic stimulation has shown its potential to help patients suffering from depression and headaches… patients with OCD now also have another option.”
The FDA has approved TMS therapy to treat depression and those with OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or general anxiety who have not responded to traditional treatment methods.
What Are the Advantages?
An article by the New York Times titled “A New Approach to Depression” states that one of the advantages of TMS treatment “…is that it is not invasive and, unlike medication, appears to have few side effects.”
In addition, TMS does not have any of the side effects caused by antidepressant medications, such as gastrointestinal upset, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, or weight gain.
TMS does not require the use of anesthesia, and because it is an outpatient service, individuals can continue normal activities immediately after treatment.
What Are the Risks?
While all therapies involve some level of risk, TMS is considered safe and well-tolerated. However, it can cause some side effects. In the 10,000 treatments during the clinical trials, the most common side effect was mild to moderate scalp discomfort and mild headache. These side effects generally diminish throughout the course of treatment and can easily be treated with over-the-counter pain medication.
What are the Potential Outcomes?
After TMS treatment, depression and OCD symptoms become less severe and may even disappear altogether. Relief from symptoms may take a few weeks of treatment. In addition, many individuals report increased vitality, better sleep, clearer focus, and improvement in relationships.
Want to Learn More?
If you are interested in learning more about TMS therapy, call or contact our office to schedule a consultation. We offer both in-person and telehealth services.
At the Brain Wellness Institute, we offer a wide range of psychology and psychiatry services at our treatment center. Under psychology, we offer therapy, neuropsychological testing, ADHD and autism evaluations, and more. Under psychiatry, we offer medication management in addition to TMS treatments for patients suffering from depressive disorders or OCD.
Our office is located at 940 South Coast Drive, Suite 225 Costa Mesa California.