Major depression affects millions of people each year, diminishing their healthy engagement in life and relationships.  Fortunately, many of them are able to find relief from their symptoms through psychological counseling, antidepressant medication, and other treatments. There are, however, some for whom nothing seems to work. The good news is that when standard treatments fail, many people with treatment-resistant depression are finding relief through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). 

 

What is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy is a breakthrough treatment for depression. Non-invasive and drug free, TMS is often effective in alleviating symptoms in patients who have been unable to find relief with antidepressant medication.  TMS has been proven to significantly reduce symptoms in people with treatment-resistant depression. In fact, many are able to achieve full remission and live symptom free.

 

How does TMS help depression?

Depression often involves low activity in certain areas of the brain.  TMS activates targeted regions by using a series of magnetic pulses that cause neurons to fire. When applied to areas of the brain associated with mood regulation, this magnetic energy results in symptom improvement in patients who suffer from depression, allowing them to feel more engaged in their life and relationships, and more optimistic about the future. 

 

What’s involved in TMS therapy sessions?

TMS treatment requires a time commitment of 5 sessions per week for 4 to 6 weeks. During a TMS treatment session, a small electromagnetic coil is placed lightly on the patient’s head. The magnetic pulses are transferred into the brain through the coils, passing easily through the skin and the skull, and stimulating the brain painlessly. The magnetic energy is administered by way of a computer program that allows the practitioner to target specific areas of the brain and stimulate the nerve cells there. Each session takes 20-40 minutes. Most patients relax or listen to music during the course of treatment.

 

Does TMS hurt?

TMS is generally pain-free. Some patients report sensations that take getting used to, such as the sensation of tapping on the scalp. This is caused by the magnetic pulses, as there is no object that taps against the scalp during the treatment. Other sensations include a mild twitching around the facial or eye area during treatment, though this subsides immediately after the session has ended. Overall, the discomfort involved with TMS therapy is minimal. 

 

How long does it take for TMS to work?

Every patient is different, and the time it takes to notice results from TMS therapy is different for each individual as well. In general, younger patients and those who combine TMS with antidepressant medication tend to see results sooner, sometimes even as soon as two weeks into treatment. But even for those who take longer to see results, TMS is just as effective in providing symptom relief for the long term. The best way to maximize results is to complete the full course of treatment. 

 

What are the side effects associated with TMS?

Most TMS patients experience no side effects, but some do report mild headaches or tingling sensations in the jaw, face, or scalp. These side effects generally subside within a couple of weeks of treatment completion. Most patients who experience these side effects find them mild and tolerable enough to complete their treatment without interruption. 

 

Is TMS compatible with depression medication?

Depression is a complex condition. From symptoms to severity to effective treatment methods, individual experiences vary widely.  The same is true for TMS and medication. Some patients find that TMS therapy relieves their symptoms so that they no longer need medication. Others find that TMS aids in the effectiveness of their medications, and some find relief despite never having found relief with medication. In other words, there is no single answer to this question.  It’s important to discuss this matter with a qualified and experienced mental health practitioner before making any decisions regarding antidepressants and other medications. 

 

How do I know if I’m a good candidate for TMS?

The best way to determine whether you’re a good candidate for transcranial magnetic stimulation is to consult your mental health practitioner. Most candidates for TMS therapy have been diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, meaning they have found other forms of therapy to be ineffective in treating their symptoms. Patients who may not qualify for TMS include those with implanted medical devices or other metals inside their bodies, those with a history of seizures, and those with brain damage. Not all who qualify for transcranial magnetic stimulation will find the treatment successful, but many are able to achieve complete remission from their symptoms of depression. 

 

Advanced TMS therapy at Pacific Health Systems

If you or someone you love is suffering from symptoms of depression that won’t seem to go away with standard treatments and therapies, TMS therapy may help.  At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, our team of mental health practitioners will provide a full evaluation, taking into account your symptoms, medical history and other factors to determine whether TMS is a good option for you. We understand the importance of individualized care. We take a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment, and we’re committed to helping each patient optimize their mental health. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call us at 619-267-9257 today.