Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy have helped alleviate the symptoms of depression for millions of people. But these methods don’t provide relief for everyone. Some people experience intolerable side effects from the medications, and for some, they don’t work at all. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive, drug free alternative treatment for major depressive disorder. Studies have shown that as many as 60% of people with treatment-resistant depression experience an improvement of their symptoms with TMS therapy. And for approximately one-third of those, TMS eliminates their symptoms completely. The results don’t last forever, but even a few months of relief can make a significant difference in a person’s quality of life.
How does TMS work?
The exact cause of depression is not known, but the brain scans of people with depression reveal low activity in the areas of the brain involved in mood regulation. TMS helps to stimulate those areas, effectively “resetting” the brain and reducing the symptoms of depression.
The TMS treatment process involves placing a small electromagnetic coil lightly onto the patient’s head. Magnetic pulses are then delivered to a specific area of the brain to stimulate the nerve cells there. These magnetic pulses are the same type and strength as those used in an MRI machine. They’re perfectly safe, and the procedure is painless, non-invasive, and drug-free. Treatment sessions last 30 to 40 minutes, and must be done 5 times per week for 4 to 6 weeks.
Some patients begin to experience positive mood changes within a few sessions. It is important to note, however, that the best way to ensure optimum benefits is to complete the full treatment process as prescribed by the TMS physician.
How long do the effects of TMS last?
Depression is a complex condition. While we don’t know exactly what causes it, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of major depression. These include genetic vulnerability, severe life stressors, drug and alcohol use, medical conditions, and other factors. Everyone is different, and depression is usually a combination of factors that alter the way the person’s brain functions.
Because of the various factors that influence each person’s depression, there’s no definitive answer to how long the TMS results will last. Most patients who complete the full course of treatment experience improvement in their symptoms for six months to a year or more. One 2013 study to examine 12-month outcomes for patients who completed TMS depression treatment found that after a year, 68% had improved symptoms, and 45% were in complete remission.
These statistics offer a tremendous amount of hope for people who suffer from depression and have been unable to find relief through medication and psychotherapy alone. In some cases, TMS has proven most effective when used in combination with medication.
TMS therapy in San Diego
At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, we offer a range of depression treatment options, including transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy. If you suffer from depression, we can help. We take a holistic approach to diagnosis, and our comprehensive treatment plans are tailored to the needs of each individual. We’re committed to helping each of our patients manage their symptoms and optimize their mental health. For more information on TMS therapy or any of the other depression treatments we offer, please give us a call to schedule an appointment today.