TMS for Anxiety

Anxiety and TMS: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Everyone gets anxious from time to time. They may be worried about a test at school, or a problem at work. It’s important to recognize that the difference between every day, “normal” worry and anxiety is at once subtle, and also quite large. Anxiety is an excessive fear or worry that lasts. The distressing feelings associated with an anxiety disorder will severely impact a person’s ability to function. They may become avoidant and miss out on important events and responsibilities. Anxiety can also cause someone to become irritable and depressed. Anxiety disorders are very common, with one in five adults in the U.S. affected. Fortunately, anxiety is a treatable condition. 

What are the physical symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety is considered a mental health condition, and it causes a range of painful and distressing physical side effects that significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. The human body is equipped with a “flight or fight” response in the face of danger. This response is a survival mechanism, triggering the body to release adrenaline so the person can either flee from danger or fight if needed.

For those with anxiety, this biological mechanism goes haywire. Certain things that would not be considered a threat to someone’s life will trigger the flight or fight response, such as the thought of a confrontation with a loved one or the idea of being late to an appointment. When someone with an anxiety disorder is triggered, they go on high alert and experience a range of symptoms related to the fight or flight response. Many of these symptoms are physical.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Tension and restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or muscle twitches
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Insomnia
  • An upset stomach

Panic attacks are also common in severe anxiety disorders. These episodes are incredibly distressing and cause a range of intense physical symptoms that can terrify people with the condition. Panic attacks are sometimes mistaken for heart attacks and include:

  • Chest tightness and trouble breathing
  • Sense of being choked
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Feeling hot and cold
  • Feeling detached
  • Intense fear of dying

Experiencing panic attacks can be incredibly disruptive. People with this condition will often avoid things that trigger their attacks. For those who cannot fully identify what’s triggering their panic attacks, they may completely isolate themselves. This side effect of an anxiety disorder can also increase the risk of depression. While the physical side effects of anxiety are painful, so are the emotional and mental effects of the disease. 

Psychological Anxiety Symptoms

People with anxiety will also experience a range of painful emotional symptoms. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their symptoms and start to isolate themselves from situations that may trigger these feelings. Other common psychological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of dread and worry
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Hypervigilance
  • Racing thoughts
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Feeling compelled to repeat certain behaviors

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a form of anxiety disorder. In OCD, patients will perform certain rituals or activities as a way to prevent anxious feelings. For example, a person with OCD who has an excessive fear of germs may wash their hands three times in a row as a way to calm their feelings of dread and racing thoughts.

Can therapy help people with anxiety?

A combination of medications and talk therapy is usually sufficient for treating anxiety disorders. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, and certain treatment methods may help one subtype of the disorder better than the other. In most cases, depression medications are often useful for anxiety. Many of the same neurotransmitters involved in depression symptoms are also thought to be present in anxiety disorder. Depression medicines impact these neurotransmitters chemicals, offering patients relief from depression or anxiety symptoms. Talk therapy is also an effective way to address anxiety disorders. Patients can learn their triggers and develop healthy ways to cope with stress.

Is TMS approved for treating anxiety?

About half of all patients diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder. TMS has not yet been officially approved for treating anxiety disorders explicitly. However, TMS has been approved for treating depression. 

While the majority of depression patients respond to medications, some will not. Either the medicines will not have a noticeable effect on their symptoms, or they will experience unpleasant side effects to the drugs. Deep brain stimulation techniques like TMS can help people who fit these categories. 

So, TMS is an effective treatment option for depression, and depression and anxiety are closely related and often diagnosed as co-occurring disorders. Simply put, TMS can be a useful treatment measure for people who haven’t found anxiety relief from medications and therapy alone.

Scientists don’t fully understand how depression and anxiety disorders originate in the brain, but what is understood is that both depression and anxiety come from the same parts of the brain. These emotional centers for regulation in the brain become disrupted in depression and anxiety disorders. With TMS treatment, these specific areas of the brain are targeted with electromagnetic pulses. The energy delivered in TMS treatment can stimulate the brain to produce neurotransmitter chemicals that can alleviate symptoms.

Is TMS invasive?

Many deep brain stimulation techniques are considered invasive and require sedation. Treatments like electroconvulsive therapy can also cause a range of distressing side effects, such as memory loss. During TMS treatment, patients do not have to be sedated due to the non-invasiveness of the method. Another significant benefit of TMS is that side effects are typically rare and minimal. The most common side effects seen in TMS treatment are headaches, scalp tingling, lightheadedness, and facial muscle twitches. These side effects are usually short-lived. 

Most TMS patients will receive treatment in daily sessions, five days per week, for up to six weeks. Depending on the severity of symptoms, some patients may need more or fewer sessions to find symptom relief. 

If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety symptoms, TMS can help. Contact Pulse TMS today to see if you’re a candidate for non-invasive TMS treatment.