TMS for Bipolar Disorder: How It Works

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-invasive, non-drug, and FDA-cleared treatment with zero downtime that is safe and effective for a range of conditions affecting mental health and cognition. TMS was FDA-cleared for major depressive disorder in 2008, for migraine in 2013, for OCD in 2018 and for cigarette cessation in 2019. Research documents TMS to also be helpful for bipolar depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a real, treatable mental health disorder. There are four types of bipolar disorder. Depending on the type, patients may experience a combination of:

  • Manic episodes: Intense feelings of euphoria
  • Hypomania: Less severe manic episodes
  • Depressive episodes: Feelings of depression or loss of interest

Signs of mania or hypomania include:

  • Excessive excitement
  • Difficulty with falling and staying asleep
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors
  • Easily irritated

Signs of depressive episodes include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty with falling and staying asleep
  • Memory loss

Bipolar disorder often co-occurs with other mental health conditions like anxiety and substance use disorders.

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

The four types of bipolar disorder include. 

  • Bipolar I – This type of bipolar disorder is where at least one of the mood swings between mania and depression is rather severe. The severity of the episodes usually means at least one lasts for a week or longer or becomes so severe that hospitalization is required. 
  • Bipolar II – This type of bipolar disorder is where the episodes are milder. The person switches back and forth between episodes but never experiences the highly-intensive, severe episodes found with Bipolar I. 
  • Cyclothymia – When someone suffers from cyclothymia, their bipolar episodes are briefer. As they move between episodes, they can go weeks or even months feeling normal. 
  • Rapid-Cycling – Rapid-cycling is where someone cycles through mania and depression episodes over the course of a week or two. Some people can experience both cycles in a matter of days. The extent of their symptoms when rapid-cycle depends on the severity. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The signs and symptoms experienced depend on whether one is having a manic episode or a depression episode. A person will usually experience 3 or more symptoms during a specific episode.

Mania Symptoms

  • Extreme Energy
  • Euphoria
  • Impulsive Decision Making
  • Engaging in Risky Behaviors
  • Extremely Talkative
  • Sleeping Very Little
  • Overly Confident
  • Constantly Active

Depression Symptoms

  • Excessive Sleeping
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Changes in Eating Habits 
  • No Energy
  • Feeling Worthless
  • Isolation
  • Feeling Irritable
  • No Enjoyment in Hobbies and Activities
  • Refusing to Make Decisions or Being Indecisive

What Is TMS for Bipolar Disorder?

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but its symptoms are treatable with TMS therapy. TMS uses magnetic pulses to target brain structures affected by bipolar disorder. Specifically, TMS stimulates the prefrontal cortex of the brain to increase neuronal activity and stabilize mood. As a result, symptoms of bipolar disorder may become more controllable.

How Does TMS Help Treat Bipolar Disorder

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses gentle magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain responsible for mood. TMS is non-invasive (does not require surgery), non-systemic (does not affect the entire body) and well-tolerated. TMS therapy can be used alone, or in conjunction with talk therapy and medication.

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.

TMS is well tolerated. Sometimes patients experience mild scalp discomfort or mild headache during treatment.

How Fast Does TMS for Bipolar Disorder Work?

Some people with bipolar disorder are able to achieve symptom remission with medication alone. However, it may take up to 10 weeks after starting an antidepressant to notice improvement, and even then, symptom improvement only occurs in about one third of patients.

TMS therapy is an alternative treatment for bipolar disorder that can be used with patients who are on a mood stablizer. Most people experience noticeable symptom relief after two weeks of TMS treatment (8-10 sessions).

TMS Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Los Angeles, CA

For more information about TMS for bipolar disorder or to schedule your initial consultation, please contact us or call at 1-877-847-3984 today.

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