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Does TMS work long-term for Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Over 8% of American adults suffer from major depression, but less than half of this group seeking treatment for their condition. Depression is common and highly treatable. However, a major depressive disorder can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, from the moment they wake up in the morning to when they lie down in bed at night. It can disrupt social activity, job performance, relationships, and many other factors in a person’s life.

For people struggling with depression and anxiety, the endless list of treatment options, particularly medication, can be overwhelming. Traditional treatment options, like talk therapy and medication, don’t always work for individuals with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). For these clients, TMS treatment might be an option.

Alternative Treatment Methods for Major Depression

Oral antidepressant medications can be life-changing, but they don’t work for everyone. About 30% of people achieve remission from depression with antidepressant medication.

Fortunately, TMS treatment has been clinically proven to be effective in treating those with treatment-resistant depression that does not respond to conventional medication, providing long-term relief.

Unlike other treatments, TMS treatment is non-invasive (does not require surgery) and non-systemic (does not affect the entire body). TMS is covered by most insurance and has fewer side effects than other treatments, or in some cases, no side effects at all. 

Since 2008, TMS therapy is an FDA-cleared treatment that can be used alone or in conjunction with medication. TMS treatment uses using gentle magnetic pulses to treat specific areas of the brain known to be underactive in conditions affecting mental health and cognition. Unlike medications, which affect the entire body, TMS therapy treats mental health at the source.

What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive, and drug-free treatment. TMS treatment is effective at treating a range of conditions that affect mental health and cognition.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is FDA-approved and is a safe and effective treatment for major depressive disorder. It’s also a drug-free treatment approach, appealing to individuals who have taken other antidepressant medications without much success or relief.

TMS Treatment Process

TMS is an outpatient procedure. Patients recline in a private treatment room and may relax, read, work, or watch television during treatment. A TMS magnet is positioned over the patient’s head to deliver gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate the specific area of the brain that controls mood regulation, known as the prefrontal cortex. Each treatment session lasts about 20 minutes, after which patients can get back to their days right away, including work or school.

Unlike electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, TMS therapy is non-invasive and non-sedating. TMS does not involve electrode implantation or the use of anesthesia. TMS treatment sessions take place in our private centers. Patients can drive themselves to and from treatment. There is no downtime, so patients can go about their daily activities immediately following treatment. TMS treatment does not cause seizures nor affect cognitive function, it has fewer side effects than other treatments, and in some cases, no side effects at all.

TMS is a powerful treatment for depression that can help most patients achieve full remission. However, TMS is not a cure. Many mental health conditions are chronic, and the length of remission depends on many factors including:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Therapy
  • Severity of illness
  • Lifestyle

The goal of mental health treatment is to achieve full remission. Patients should not tolerate lingering symptoms or unwanted side effects. TMS is an effective treatment alternative to medication and therapy that helps patients feel all the way better.

TMS treatment can help:

  • Anxiety
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Smoking cessation
  • Migraine

Research is also being conducted on how TMS can help people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health disorders.

How often do people get TMS treatment?

Unlike antidepressant medication, which can involve long periods of trial and error and can take months to experience positive results, TMS treatment improves symptoms in as little as ten sessions (two weeks).

In a typical treatment course of TMS, patients receive 36 treatments of TMS over the span of nine weeks. Patients receive five treatment sessions per week for six weeks and then receive the last six treatments over the remaining three weeks.

During these treatments, TMS stimulates nerve cells in the brain with magnetic pulses that are believed to be underactive for those suffering from depression. Over time, the neurons change the way they communicate, build new pathways, and create new behavioral patterns in the patient’s brain. This is thought to be how the symptoms of depression are relieved.

Since depression and anxiety are different for everyone, it’s difficult to predict exactly how your symptoms will respond to each treatment session. It’s possible that your symptoms may subside for a while and then return. In this situation, additional TMS treatment can help.

Fortunately, unlike other treatments for depression and anxiety, TMS treatment does not usually lose efficacy after the initial treatment. So, if you need additional treatments, it’s highly likely they will be just as effective as the initial round was.

What are the side effects of TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation has far fewer side effects than antidepressant medications. With more than 10,000 treatments performed in clinical trials, the most common side effects of TMS treatment are temporary and mild scalp discomfort during active treatment. Unlike medications, which affect the entire body as they pass through the blood-brain barrier, TMS therapy treats the brain directly.

While there are no long-term side effects of TMS, there are some temporary side effects that patients may experience. This is common in any type of treatment, however, and most effects are low-risk and subside quickly after treatment. The common side effects of TMS include:

  • Mild headaches
  • Mild discomfort at the treatment site

More serious side effects of TMS treatment are extremely rare, and the chances are extremely low that patients will experience a more serious side effect like syncope or seizure.

Does TMS work for long-term treatment?

Many patients experience long-term relief from TMS treatment. On average, most individuals who complete a full course of TMS find relief from depressive symptoms for a year or more.

In fact, 62.5% of patients who underwent TMS treatment and experienced initial relief continued to show improvements in their symptoms one year after treatment. TMS offers hope for people who have tried countless treatments and not experienced satisfactory relief or full remission from their condition.

Another benefit of TMS is that it is highly effective for the treatment of major depression when used in conjunction with other treatments, like psychiatry, talk therapy, and medication. Most patients find their symptoms continue to improve when they receive multiple therapy modalities for their condition.

Interested in TMS as a treatment for depression and anxiety?

Seeking alternative methods of treatment? TMS therapy is a highly effective treatment option for major depressive disorder and other mental health disorders.

At Neuro Wellness Spa, our TMS clinics in Los Angeles have consistently achieved over a 75% response rate and we’ve conducted over 74,000 TMS therapy sessions. We’re committed to delivering innovative treatments to the highest clinical standards for the best possible outcomes. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a consultation.

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    Could TMS Therapy Be Right For You?

    I struggle with depression, OCD or anxiety.

    I am experiencing sadness, low energy, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, appetite changes, irritability or weight gain/loss.

    I have tried, or am currently on, 1 or more antidepressant medications.

    I have tried talk therapy

    Has your doctor/therapist suggested you try TMS?

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