Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) For Treatment-Resistant Depression – How Does It Work?
Depression is a serious and often misunderstood condition. It’s currently the primary cause of disability among people between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States. However, many people still fail to grasp what depression really is. There is a pervading belief that it is simply about being sad. While sadness is an element of the condition, there is a lot more to depression than that. Any sufferer will tell you that a major depressive disorder is a debilitating problem. It can affect every element of your life and prevent you from living normally.
While there are several effective treatments for depression out there, not all will work for everybody. The first course of action is to try psychotherapy or antidepressant medication, or both together. However, the process of finding a solution to the condition for each patient can be complex. Around two-thirds of sufferers fail to obtain relief from the first medication they try. This leads to months of trial and error with different medications. All the while, the symptoms of depression remain. Also, the various medications can produce unwanted side effects that are hard to live with. Problems, such as digestive disorders, nausea, dizziness, and other symptoms, can make life even more miserable. Evidence has shown that after two months on antidepressants, many individuals still have some remaining symptoms. Even worse, for these patients, the subsequent medications they try will be less likely to improve their condition.
So, what other options are there for depression sufferers who fail to respond to medical treatments? For many years, the only option was ECT or electroconvulsive therapy. Also known as shock therapy, this treatment was the only alternative for those suffering from depression that was treatment-resistant. While ECT is an effective and potent treatment, it is hard to tolerate. This is because it has a host of unpleasant side effects, both on cognition and memory. Also, ECT requires that an individual receive a general anesthetic. This means that patients are unable to drive or perform normal activities after their treatments. Although some patients still have ECT today, it no longer needs to be the go-to option when traditional options fail. Luckily, for anyone who has failed to respond to therapy and medications alone, a newer option is now available. TMS could be the answer.
What Is TMS?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a new treatment that stimulates the brain. The treatment is noninvasive but has proven to be highly effective.
TMS involves using an electromagnetic coil. A technician places the coil on an individual’s scalp close to his or her forehead. This coil will deliver magnetic pulses that are painless. They will stimulate the nerve cells inside the brain that are key to depression and mood control. They may also activate the parts of the brain that show decreased activity for people suffering from depression. The stimulation to the nerve cells affects the way in which the brain works. In turn, this eases the symptoms of depression and improves mood.
TMS devices affect the activity in the nervous system while operating outside the body. It applies magnetic fields onto parts of the sufferer’s brain that are key to depression. There is no need for any form of anesthetic during the treatment and there are minimal side effects. When compared with ECT and medications, this is an added advantage. The most commonly seen side effect of TMS is a headache that may occur after or during treatment. Standard painkillers will easily alleviate this side effect. While seizures are possible, the chances of one occurring are extremely rare. For this reason, however, those with neurological problems, head injuries or epilepsy cannot have this treatment.
Is TMS Effective?
Up to 60 percent of depression sufferers who have failed to get relief from medication responded well to TMS. Around a third of those people went into full remission, with their symptoms disappearing completely. While the results may not be permanent, most patients feel considerably better for months after the treatment. Most report great improvements in their moods for more than a year. Then, it is possible to return and receive maintenance treatments in the future.
What Does TMS Involve?
TMS therapy is intensive. This means it will require sessions over five days per week across several weeks. Every treatment session lasts between 20 and 50 minutes. Its length will vary depending on which clinical protocol and device the technician uses.
After the patient arrives for his or her treatment, the technician will determine the ideal intensity of the treatment. He or she does this by testing the patient’s motor cortex. In this way, it is possible to work out how strong the electrical pulses need to be. It is also possible to work out where on the skull the technician needs to place the coil. The patient will sit in a comfortable reclining chair and be alert during the procedure. The patient will be able to talk, read or watch TV as he or she receives the treatment.
Although TMS therapy may sound worrying, it is usually a completely pain-free procedure. Loud clicking sounds will occur during the process. However, the technician will give the patient earplugs to reduce the intensity of the clicks. When the electrical pulses occur, there will be a tapping sensation on that part of the head. This should not be painful, although you may experience a little discomfort. After the treatment, there will be no lasting effects. You will be able to drive home afterward and immediately resume normal activities.
A single session can help to adjust the neural pathways of the brain. However, most patients do not notice a difference until they have had several treatments. Usually, improvements are noticeable after around four to six weeks of treatment.
Although symptoms are likely to eventually return, maintenance treatments are available. By repeating the treatment process in the future, it is possible to stay depression-free in the long term.
Is TMS Beneficial For Other Problems?
Not only has the FDA approved TMS treatment for depression, but it also approved it for OCD. Many people with treatment-resistant OCD have found relief from this new treatment. There is also ongoing research that is looking into the use of TMS to treat a wide range of other problems. These include PTSD, bipolar disorder, and even smoking cessation.
Seeking Treatment for Depression
If you are suffering from depression, it is vital that you seek professional help as soon as possible. Depression is a seriously debilitating condition. It can have a major impact not only on your own life but on the lives of those around you. SOBA Behavioral Health can give you the treatment you so desperately need. Our outstanding mental health treatment programs can help turn your life around. We have a range of therapies that can improve your symptoms. One of those options is the latest TMS treatments. If you have tried other therapies to relieve your depression and experienced no benefits, TMS may help. Our trained and expert team can administer this effective treatment to give you the best chance of relief. Contact us today to find out how SOBA’s TMS treatment options can help you.