Major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is a complex mental health condition that can negatively impact a person’s ability to live a healthy, engaged life. Fortunately, there are a number of different ways to decrease or eliminate symptoms altogether. Two of the most effective include medication and TMS therapy. But can they work together? 

Short answer: yes. But the longer answer is more complicated. In order to understand the relationship between medication and TMS, it’s important to first understand how they both work. 

Antidepressant medications work by balancing the chemicals in the brain that affect mood and emotion.  There are a number of different kinds of antidepressant medications, each formulated to optimize a different set of neurotransmitters.  Some people experience relief with their first medication, but others need to try more than one before they find the one that works to alleviate their symptoms. 

Not everyone has success with antidepressant medication. In some cases the medication has little to no effect, and in other cases, the side effects are intolerable.  Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy has helped thousands of people with treatment resistant depression or for whom medication is not an option. TMS treats depression by actively stimulating the regions of the brain responsible for mood and emotion. Essentially, it restructures the brain, correcting the way the nerve cells work and significantly improving symptoms. 

Related: Outpatient depression treatment at Pacific Health Systems


Medication and TMS Therapy

As with any treatment for mental health disorders, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size fits all approach to combining medication with TMS therapy. Every person is different, and individual treatment plans vary as well. Certain antidepressants medications need to be carefully discontinued before beginning TMS therapy because they interfere with TMS or because of the side effects involved. But other medications work well in combination with TMS, providing significant symptom relief with no negative side effects. Your doctor and mental health practitioner can help determine whether or not your medications would work safely with TMS therapy. 

For those who are able to alleviate their symptoms with TMS, it generally affects their medication in one of the following ways: 


  • TMS eliminates the need for medication – Many people begin their TMS therapy treatment while still on antidepressant medications, and then slowly taper off. Often, the TMS is so effective that they are able to live symptom-free without medication. 
  • TMS increases the effectiveness of medicationStudies have shown that TMS therapy can enhance the effectiveness of certain medications, producing better results than TMS or medication alone. 
  • TMS enables an adjustment of medication dosage – TMS can be used to augment medications in order to decrease the dosage and reduce side effects that are only present at higher dosages. 


TMS does not work for everyone, but for thousands of people who suffer from major depressive disorder and are unable to find relief through medication alone, TMS can provide additional support and symptom alleviation. 


TMS Therapy at Pacific Health Systems

At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, our team of mental health practitioners will conduct a full evaluation of your medical and psychiatric history, and take into account your symptoms, your lifestyle and other factors to determine whether TMS is a good option for you. For more information on transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy or any of our other services, please give us a call at 619-267-9257 today.