Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can be triggered by single or multiple traumatic events. Common symptoms of PTSD include having flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling on edge and hypervigilant, avoiding situations or people associated with the trauma, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and being easily startled or irritable. While there are various treatments available for PTSD, such as therapy, medications, or a combination of both, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is also showing promise in helping to alleviate PTSD symptoms.
In this article, we will take a closer look at TMS for post-traumatic stress disorder and explore its potential to help those suffering from this condition.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is a debilitating mental health disorder that can be caused by a traumatic event or series of events. Symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years after the event and may include intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling on edge and hypervigilant, avoiding situations or people associated with the trauma, and being easily startled or irritable. PTSD is a very common diagnosis in veterans.
When someone is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, their brain is not functioning optimally, and there are changes in the activity of certain regions. This can lead to difficulty managing emotions, concentration, and sleep.
Why is PTSD Difficult to Treat?
When a person has experienced traumatic events or even a single traumatic event, they can form new core beliefs and thoughts that may be difficult to change. Traumatic events or prolonged psychological distress that result in PTSD can be difficult to treat due to the complexity of the condition and its effects on an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Furthermore, many sufferers often feel ashamed or embarrassed about their symptoms and may refuse to talk about them or seek help. When left untreated, post-traumatic stress disorder can worsen and have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or CPTSD, is another form of PTSD that can be even more difficult to treat. CPTSD is typically diagnosed in patients who have experienced trauma over a long period of time, as opposed to PTSD, which can develop after a singular event.
What Treatment Options Are Available for PTSD?
The most common treatment options for PTSD include psychotherapy, medications, and a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns, while eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been shown to be helpful in reducing the intensity of traumatic memories. Medication is also used to treat PTSD, but it is not considered a long-term solution and can have side effects.
Some of the most common treatment options include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anticonvulsants, and atypical antipsychotics
- Relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and deep breathing
- Exposure therapy
- Lifestyle changes, such as exercise and getting adequate sleep
What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation TMS?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses gentle magnetic pulses to treat mood at the source. These pulses help “reset” the brain in order to improve mood, reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, and increase energy levels.
TMS has been approved by the FDA for use in treating major depressive disorder and is now being studied as a potential treatment for PTSD patients, as several have experienced a significant reduction in anxiety, negative emotions, and depressive symptoms after receiving therapy.
What Makes TMS For PTSD Patients Different?
TMS is different from other treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder in that it is non-invasive, painless, and has little to no side effects. Additionally, the treatment only takes about 20 minutes to complete, making it a relatively quick and convenient treatment option, and patients typically begin to notice an improvement in 2 weeks or 10 sessions. In contrast, therapy or medications can take months to exert their full effect and can be accompanied by unpleasant side effects.
Furthermore, TMS is thought to be more specific than other treatments since it targets a particular area of the brain that may be involved in PTSD symptoms, such as fear and avoidance. Additionally, PTSD and major depressive disorder often go hand in hand, and when antidepressants and therapy aren’t doing enough, TMS can be very effective for treatment-resistant depression.
What Is “Off-Label” TMS For PTSD?
Many patients with PTSD also experience depression. TMS is FDA-approved for major depressive disorder and is covered by most insurance companies. Many patients with PTSD can benefit from TMS using their insurance if they are also experiencing depression.
In contrast, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy has not been approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, but studies have shown that it could be potentially effective in treating PTSD as an “off-label” treatment. Off-label use refers to the use of a drug or device for unapproved medical purposes. In this case, it means using transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat a condition that the FDA has not approved it for—in this instance, PTSD.
Though off-label treatments are generally safe and widely practiced by doctors, they may not be covered by insurance companies as they have not been approved by the FDA. Therefore, it is important to talk with your doctor or insurance provider to determine what your coverage options are before seeking TMS treatment for PTSD.
What Are The Potential Benefits Of TMS For PTSD?
The potential benefits of using TMS as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder include improved mood, reduced anxiety, and depression symptoms, increased energy levels, improved sleep quality, and improved concentration. Additionally, some studies have found that TMS can reduce the intensity of traumatic memories and help individuals to cope better with their symptoms.
Though more research is needed to firmly establish the efficacy of TMS for PTSD, the available evidence suggests that it may be an effective treatment option for those who do not respond to other treatments.
Can TMS make Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxiety Worse?
Though TMS has been relatively well-tolerated, there are some potential risks associated with the treatment. In rare cases, the treatment can cause temporary headaches; however, these side effects have not been linked to any long-term adverse effects. Additionally, it is important to note that for those who already struggle with anxiety and PTSD, TMS may exacerbate these symptoms in some cases. There are several reports online of patients saying TMS has caused them more harm than good, but be sure to discuss the potential risks of TMS with a certified psychiatrist to see if TMS is right for you.
Therefore, it is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of TMS therapy with your doctor before beginning treatment.
Can you do TMS and EMDR together?
There is no evidence to suggest that TMS and EMDR should not be done together. In fact, some studies have found that combining the two might lead to greater symptom reduction than either treatment alone.
However, it is important to note that both treatments require careful consideration and a thorough assessment by a qualified healthcare provider. Therefore, it is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of each treatment with your mental health professional.
How long does it take for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to start working?
The length of a TMS treatment regimen varies depending on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. Typically, patients receive treatments five days a week for six weeks followed by three weeks of ‘taper’ treatments.
Most often, patients experience a reduction in symptoms in 10 sessions or 2 weeks of TMS. Typically, patients first notice improvements in their sleep and energy.
How long does the effect of TMS last?
The durability of TMS treatment depends on the individual. Typically, the effects of TMS can last for about a year or more after treatment has ended; however, this may vary from person to person, depending on their specific situation. Additionally, some people may need booster sessions in order to maintain their improved symptoms. Therefore, it is important to talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Final Thoughts On TMS For PTSD
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a cutting-edge treatment option that uses gentle magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain. TMS may be an effective treatment option for those with PTSD who do not respond to other forms of treatment, such as cognitive processing therapy.
At Neuro Wellness Spa, we are proud to offer TMS therapy as an option for those struggling with PTSD. If you think that this treatment might be right for you, we recommend talking to your doctor or insurance provider to determine what your coverage options are.
For more information on TMS, please visit our website or give us a call today! We look forward to helping you find the relief you need.