TMS for Adolescents

As teens move through adolescence, they face an overwhelming amount of change. Everything is changing—their bodies, friendships, their place in the world and even their brains. It seems as though the only constant is change. All the uncertainty can make teens more vulnerable to mental health issues.

Prior to the pandemic, teen depression had been on the rise. Following the pandemic, teens are still struggling, perhaps even more, with their mental health. It is estimated that around 20% of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. There are many factors that can play a role in the rise in teen depression including puberty, relationships, academic expectations and peer pressure. Family dynamics such as conflicts with parents, divorce and domestic violence can also contribute.

Signs of Teen Depression

What does teen depression look like exactly? Sometimes it can be difficult to know if a teen is just feeling down or if they are just “being a teenager” or if it is something more. When these low moods and abnormal behaviors are no longer temporary, your teen could be displaying symptoms of depression. Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Sleeping significantly more than usual
  • Spending most of their time alone
  • Unexplained anger that goes beyond normal teen mood swings
  • No longer partaking in once-loved activities
  • Changes in school performance
  • Changes in eating habits or weight
  • Experiencing aches and pains that have no apparent medical cause

Risks of Un-Treated Depression in Teens

Although depression is common and highly treatable, teens who are inadequately treated for depression often experience more problems with substance abuse, physical illness, and poor performance at school, work, or in psychosocial contexts. Left untreated or suboptimally treated, teen depression can increase risk of suicide, the third most common cause of death among adolescents.

In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration issued black box warnings about antidepressant drugs stating that they can induce suicide among adolescent patients, which resulted in fewer physicians prescribing these medications to adolescents who were depressed. Some teenagers with depression may be inadequately treated out of fear that they might become suicidal. However, poorly treated depression in teens and adolescents can increase the risk of depression in adulthood. 

What is TMS?

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a safe, effective alternative treatment that is FDA-approved for adults with depression. For many years, the initial response to mental health treatment has been psychiatric medications and therapy. Although these conventional treatments can be effective, they don’t work for everyone and medications can take weeks or months to exert their full effects.

Unlike other treatments, TMS is non-invasive (does not require surgery) and non-systemic (does not affect the entire body). TMS uses gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain responsible for mood— almost like physical therapy for the brain. Patients report that the pulses feel like taps on the head.

For adults (18 years and older), TMS is an FDA-cleared treatment that’s covered by most insurance. TMS therapy can be used alone or in conjunction with medication and has fewer side effects than other treatments, or in some cases, no side effects at all.

Is TMS Effective/Appropriate for Treating Adolescents?

Although TMS is not yet FDA-approved for teens and adolescents, studies have shown that TMS is effective and safe in adolescent patients with depression and works faster with fewer side effects compared to antidepressant medications. With more than 10,000 treatments performed in clinical trials, the most common side effect was 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.

TMS Therapy for Adolescents

During TMS treatment, patients recline in a treatment chair and remain awake and alert. A TMS magnet is positioned over the patient’s head to deliver gentle pulses to specific areas of the brain. Patients report that the pulses feel like taps on the head. Each treatment session lasts about 20 minutes, after which patients can immediately return back to their daily routines, including work or school.

To learn more about TMS therapy for teens, or to schedule a consultation, contact us with our online form or give us a call at (877) 847-3984.

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