TMS for Depression

TMS for Depression: How Does it Work and What Are the Side Effects?

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. Anyone can be at risk for depression, and people from all walks of life can experience the disorder. Depression is also divided into different subtypes of the disease, and some people are more at risk for a particular subtype than others. As a chronic mental illness, people who’ve been diagnosed with depression will need some form of treatment, depending on the severity and type of the disorder they have. For most patients, medications, and therapy help alleviate symptoms. Unfortunately, some may not respond to medication. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can help these treatment-resistant patients find relief.

What are the symptoms of depression?

It’s common for people to feel sad from time to time. In those who aren’t familiar with the disease, they may think depression is just “sadness.” The reality is that the disorder is much more than that. Depression is a prolonged and profound sadness, along with a range of other symptoms that are severely disruptive to daily life and functioning. Different forms of depression will also have various symptoms. Depression symptoms often include the following signs:

  • Overwhelming sadness and feelings of guilt or shame
  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability
  • Inability to enjoy once pleasurable activities
  • Changes in appetite and sleep
  • Sudden change in weight, either a loss or gain
  • Social isolation
  • Trouble upholding responsibilities
  • Self-harm
  • Use of drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation

The symptoms of depression impact a person on behavioral, emotional, and physical levels. The way depression affects all aspects of a person’s life makes it an incredibly disruptive and debilitating disorder. Also, depression increases a person’s chances of self-harm and suicide. For people with this serious disorder, getting help from medical professionals and therapists is critical. 

How is depression usually treated?

Treatment plans vary for depression. Certain factors will influence what course the treatment will take. For example, the type of depression someone has, the severity of their symptoms, medical history, and preferences will all impact their decision for treatment. Depression can range from mild, to moderate and severe.

For mild cases of depression, talk therapy, and simple lifestyle changes may help. Increased exercise, changes in diet, and supplements may work to give patients with mild symptoms, some relief. Talk therapy can also help patients uncover what’s triggering their depression. In many instances, stress will trigger the disorder, and the depression triggers can vary significantly from one person to the next. An experienced therapist can help patients identify their specific triggers, and develop coping mechanisms and healthy avoidance techniques to reduce the chances of triggers and thus, episodes of depression.

How do medications for depression work?

Scientists still don’t fully understand how the brain forms depression symptoms, but there have been some research-based theories. It is believed that a combination of neurological changes in brain chemistry can influence the appearance of depression symptoms. As such, medications for depression typically affect the brain to create new neurochemicals to give patients relief. The most common neurotransmitters impacted are:

  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine

While most depression patients respond favorably to treatment, some patients won’t find relief from medication and therapy. This is what’s called “treatment-resistant depression”. For these patients, they often need more additional techniques to rid themselves of depression symptoms. Deep brain stimulation techniques are typically used. Electroconvulsive therapy, vagus nerve stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) techniques are commonly used to alleviate treatment-resistant depression. Aside from TMS, these other techniques can come with a risk of severe side effects.

How does TMS help treat depression?

The brain is a complex organ, but what’s been discovered is that TMS can help stimulate the brain to produce neurological changes in neurotransmitters that are thought to be responsible for depression symptoms. In this way, TMS is similar to popular depression medication techniques. 

With TMS treatment, patients are fully awake and do not have to undergo any form of sedation, and no IVs are required. Patients can even listen to music, talk, or read while undergoing treatment. During treatment, a strong, magnetic coil is placed over areas of the patient’s head. A powerful electromagnetic pulse is then delivered through the coil. This pulse is used to stimulate portions of the brain underneath where the coil is applied.

Treatment is swift and painless. Patients can return to work, home or school after a session. For most patients, they will undergo sessions daily, five times per week, from four to six weeks. It’s possible to see a change in symptoms within the first few TMS sessions.

Are there side effects of TMS treatment?

No medication or treatment option is free from side effects, but with TMS, side effects are short-lived and dissipate quickly. In contrast, electroconvulsive therapy can lead to permanent memory loss. TMS does not cause memory loss, and the most common side effects are tingling on the scalp where the coil was placed. Headaches may also occur, but it’s rare. 

Are you suffering from depression that hasn’t responded to medication and therapy? TMS might be the right choice for you. Contact our experienced clinicians at Pulse TMS today to see if you’re a candidate for TMS treatment.