What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Major depression is a significant contributor to disability worldwide and can be challenging to diagnose correctly. Even when it is accurately analyzed, standard treatment approaches such as psychotherapy and medication are sometimes insufficient in controlling depressive symptoms.

When psychotherapy, medication, or the combination of the two fails to improve depressive symptoms, it results in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). TRD leads to poor functional consequences in clients, such as increased unemployment, suicidal thoughts or ideations, substance abuse, or erratic relationships. Fortunately, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has proven to be a success in treating clients with TRD.

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions, typically when other therapies have been unsuccessful.

In 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first TMS device to treat major depressive disorder (MDD). Today, several devices have governing authorization in the U.S. and internationally in treating various mental health disorders.

How Does Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Work?

During a TMS session, an electromagnetic coil is positioned against the scalp near your forehead where the prefrontal cortex is located. The electromagnet sends a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain associated with depression and mood control.

Each TMS session is approximately 30 to 40 minutes and does not involve sedation or anesthesia, so the client is entirely awake. Since it is an outpatient process, clients can drive themselves to and from treatment without constraints.

The biology of why TMS works is through activating regions of the brain that have decreased activity in depression. The stimulation impacts how the brain works, which in turn eases depression symptoms and improves mood.

There are different ways to administer the procedure, and techniques may change as researchers discover the most effective ways to implement TMS treatments.

Types of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Over the years, TMS has gained substantial attention as a potential alternative treatment for specific conditions. Though TMS was developed approximately 30 years ago as an instrument to treat major depression, TMS has now been extensively examined for effectiveness in treating various mental health disorders, depending on the type of TMS administered.

Two types of TMS are commonly used for different mental health conditions. The two types are repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep transcranial magnetic stimulation. The FDA has approved each type of TMS for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental health disorders.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and TMS are often interchangeable. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation applies recurring TMS pulses to a specific brain region. It involves placing a small device containing a coil of wire directly onto the skull. The wire transfers electricity and generates a magnetic field to produce a harmonizing effect on cortical impulsiveness.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is similar to rTMS in that the coil is placed on the skull, creating the magnetic field. However, in dTMS, the coil allows the pulse to penetrate deeper into the brain.

What Can Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Be Used For?

The impact TMS has on an individual will be dependent on which type of TMS is applied and the mental health condition being treated. For instance, research implies that rTMS can successfully treat depression, while dTMS is more effective in treating OCD.

The electricity traveling through the TMS device stimulates neurons in the brain and changes their activity levels. Due to alternating activity levels, TMS can be beneficial for additional mental health conditions, including:

  • Treatment-resistant depression (TRD)
  • OCD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Tourette disorder
  • Chronic pain syndrome
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Parkinson’s disease, functional tremors, focal epilepsy, cortical myoclonus, and spasticity

Although there are currently several effective medical and psychological treatments for each mental health condition listed, some individuals are treatment-resistant and may need to look for new ways to treat their symptoms.

Getting the Most From Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

The following suggestions can help achieve success to ensure the client receives the best outcomes of their TMS sessions:

  • Listen to your health care provider: Follow your doctor’s instructions about preparations required before and during the administration of TMS.
  • Confirm insurance coverage: Some insurance plans will cover the cost of TMS treatment, but always check the policy beforehand.
  • Don’t give up: Consistency is necessary because TMS may require several treatments before feeling the effects over a certain amount of time.

TMS can be life-changing for managing TRD and other mental health conditions. Its non-invasive technique and low risk of side effects may be an ideal option for treatment in specific clients suffering from symptoms.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe and effective treatment option for depression and displays great potential in treating other mental health conditions. If you or a loved one could benefit from TMS, we want to help. Crownview Co-Occurring Institute in San Diego, CA, offers quality psychiatric treatment for many levels of mental health conditions. We provide an individualized approach that makes sure each client receives the care they deserve. We understand how overwhelming life can be when struggling with your mental health, and we are here to support you from crisis to independence. Our compassionate team members in our healing environment will help you regain control of your life through tailored treatment plans with evidence-based services. Let Crownview Co-Occurring Institute help you achieve long-term recovery.

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