The Differences Between ECT and TMS

It’s no secret that mental health disorders are on the rise. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffer from a mental illness.

And with more and more people struggling with their mental health, it’s more important than ever to find effective, safe treatments, with minimal side effects. There are many different types of treatment available for mental illness, all with different treatment experiences, potential risks, and efficacy rates.

If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, you may have heard of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). When it comes to treating difficult-to-treat depression, TMS and ECT are two types of treatments that, despite being extremely different, are oftentimes mistaken for one another.

By understanding the differences between TMS and ECT, you can make an informed decision about which treatment is right for you or your loved one.

How ECT and TMS Work

Both TMS and ECT work using brain stimulation technology to target areas of the brain responsible for major depression. The main difference between TMS and ECT is that TMS treatment uses non-invasive, gentle magnetic pulses and ECT treatment uses electric currents under anesthesia to achieve brain stimulation.

Both TMS and ECT can help relieve symptoms of difficult-to-treat depression. TMS can also be used for OCD, anxiety, migraines, and cigarette cessation while ECT is commonly used for bipolar disorder, particularly when it has not responded to other treatments.

There are several important differences between ECT and TMS.

ECT is typically used when other treatments, including medications and psychotherapy, haven’t worked. ECT is also used for people who require a rapid treatment response because of the severity of their condition, such as being at risk for suicide. A patient typically receives ECT two or three times a week for a total of six to 12 treatments.

ECT has been used since the 1940s and is generally considered safe and effective. However, like any medical procedure, ECT has some risks. ECT treatment has been associated with short-term memory loss and difficulty learning. Some people have trouble remembering events that occurred in the weeks before the treatment or earlier. In most cases, memory problems improve within a couple of months. Some patients may experience longer-lasting problems, including permanent gaps in memory.

Additionally, ECT requires the use of general anesthesia, which poses similar risks too, when anesthesia is used for other procedures. The most common side effects of anesthesia on the day of treatment include nausea, headache, fatigue, confusion, and slight memory loss, which may last minutes to hours.

TMS has been FDA-approved to treat depression since 2008. There have been over 15,000 studies looking at the safety and efficacy of TMS therapy. TMS is a newer treatment than ECT, but there is no debate that TMS is very effective.

Unlike ECT, TMS does not cause a seizure and the patient remains awake through the noninvasive process. Because TMS is non-invasive, drug-free, and fast (20-minute appointments), patients can drive themselves to and from treatment and return to work, school, or home right away.

TMS has little to no side effects. The most common side effects reported are headaches and temporary scalp discomfort at the treatment site. TMS is usually administered five times a week for four-to-six weeks. Learn more about the pros and cons of TMS therapy here.

Both ECT and TMS are typically used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, particularly those that have not responded to medication and talk therapy. TMS and ECT can both treat depression also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) and clinical depression. TMS is also used to treat anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), cigarette cessation, and migraines while ECT is used for bipolar depression.

If you’re considering either of these treatments, it’s important to talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.

Key Takeaway: TMS and ECT are both used to treat mental health conditions that haven’t adequately responded to conventional treatments, but TMS has fewer side effects and does not require hospital time.

What Disorders Do ECT and TMS Treat?

ECT is most often used to treat major depressive disorder, but can also be used to treat other disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis.

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is FDA-approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), migraines, and cigarette cessation.

TMS is a non-invasive treatment, administered in a psychiatry office that uses gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain. Both ECT and TMS are effective treatments for mental disorders, but they each have their own risks and benefits.

It is important to talk to a mental health professional to see if ECT or TMS is right for you.

Side Effects of ECT and TMS

If you or a loved one are considering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects of each treatment.

ECT may cause cognitive side effects including confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. These side effects are usually short-lived and resolve within a few days or weeks.

TMS treats the depression at the source and poses little to no side effects. Some patients report temporary side effects including headache and scalp discomfort during active treatment. These side effects are short-lived and resolve immediately when active treatment is stopped.

If you have any concerns about the side effects of ECT or TMS, be sure to discuss them with your doctor or mental health care provider.

Effectiveness of ECT and TMS

Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall well-being. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 44 million people live with a mental health disorder. Mental illnesses do not have a singular cause. Instead, they can be influenced by a variety of factors, including biology, genetics, environment, history, and lifestyle.

There are many different types of mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mental illness, there are many effective therapies and medications available. One of the most controversial and debated treatments for mental illness is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

ECT is a psychiatric treatment that involves passing electrical currents through the brain to induce a seizure. It’s also known as electroconvulsive therapy, electroshock therapy, shock therapy, or simply ECT.

ECT has been used for over 70 years, and it’s still one of the most effective treatments for certain mental illnesses, like severe depression. However, ECT is associated with a number of risks and side effects, including seizure, pain, memory loss, confusion, and headaches.

Another treatment option for mental illness is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate the brain. TMS is FDA-approved to treat depression, and it’s been found to be effective in treating a number of other conditions as well.

Both ECT and TMS are effective treatments for mental illness, but they both come with risks and side effects. It’s important to talk to your doctor about each treatment’s risks and benefits before deciding.

Patient Satisfaction with ECT and TMS

From our expertly trained clinical teams to our thoughtfully designed centers, we’re committed to delivering innovative treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, ketamine therapy, Spravato, and IV nutrition to the highest clinical standards for the best possible outcomes.

We understand that medication and talk therapy aren’t the only options. Patients who receive care at Neuro Wellness Spa report high satisfaction rates with their experience and results. We are proud of the many positive reviews and testimonials that confirm this.

Why choose Neuro Wellness Spa?

Innovative treatments:

Antidepressants can be life-changing, but they don’t work for everyone. Our world-class psychiatrists and nurse practitioners use cutting-edge treatments and specialty tests to create a personalized plan to heal. We offer cutting-edge treatments like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), ketamine therapy, Spravato, and more to help our patients ditch the side effects and feel all the way better.

Comprehensive care:

Our team approach ensures that each patient receives care tailored to their specific needs. We offer psychiatric evaluations, medication management, and talk therapy in addition to our innovative treatments. Plus, we’re in-network with every major commercial insurance provider and have appointments available in days, not weeks.

Commitment to quality:

Wellness is in our company name and it reflects our goal to help patients go beyond short-term symptom reduction to achieve total, long-lasting well being. Our thoughtfully designed centers, curated music playlists, and aromatherapy facilitate a relaxing and intentional space for profound self-healing to occur.

Key Takeaway: Neuro Wellness Spa makes it exceedingly easy, convenient, and affordable to access excellent mental healthcare.


Overall, TMS poses fewer side effects than ECT and many patients prefer the convenience of TMS over a hospital-based treatment, like ECT.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder, be sure to ask your doctor about all of your treatment options, particularly if you’re experiencing unwanted side effects or lingering symptoms after trying an oral antidepressant.

At Neuro Wellness Spa, we provide cutting-edge treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), ketamine therapy, spravato, and IV nutrition to help you achieve the best possible outcomes.

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