What is TMS Used For?

What can TMS Treat?

Mental health disorders are unfairly stigmatized even though they are quite common. An estimated one in five adults will struggle with a mental illness at some point in their lives. Some of the most frequently diagnosed mental health disorders are depression and anxiety. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a type of anxiety disorder, impacts an estimated 2.3% of the population in the U.S. While most people who seek treatment will go on to recover, therapy and medication may not offer adequate relief. For these patients, undergoing a procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, can help treat their symptoms.

What are the symptoms of depression?

When most people hear the word “depression,” they may think it means sadness or feeling down. While this is somewhat true, clinical depression is more than sadness or a low mood. Depression refers to a cluster of different subtypes of the disorder, and depression symptoms can range from mild to moderate or severe. The symptoms of depression also impact different areas of a person’s life. Symptoms can change their mood, behavior, and how they feel physically. 

A lot of people who aren’t familiar with depression don’t understand that on a physical level, it can hurt. Untreated depression also increases someone’s chances of committing suicide. Treating the disorder is critical to keeping the patient safe and improving their quality of life. Some of the most common symptoms of depression are the following and can vary from one person to the next:

  • Random aches and pains
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue and slowed speech and movement
  • Feelings of sadness, low self-worth, and guilt
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Trouble getting motivated
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Irritability 
  • Self-harm and substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation and/or attempts

In most cases of depression, a combination of techniques can treat the condition. Many patients respond favorably to lifestyle changes, talk therapy, and medication. There are some patients who won’t find relief from these traditional treatment methods. These patients may be a candidate for TMS. 

What are the symptoms of OCD?

OCD symptoms can start in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Most people who develop OCD experience their first symptoms as young adults. OCD is similar to many other anxiety disorders. People with the condition will experience intrusive, obsessive thoughts that give them distress and anxiety. To avoid these feelings, they will form rituals or compulsions, to prevent the thoughts from occurring and alleviate their worry. 


If someone has OCD, they aren’t delusional. Most recognize that their obsessive ideas and worries and compulsions are irrational. Patients often want to rid themselves of obsessive thoughts without having to perform a ritual. They understand the rituals are excessive, but they can’t stop no matter what. The intrusive thoughts and urge to stop them with a ritual is too strong.

In essence, OCD causes a person’s brain to get stuck on a specific thought or urge. An OCD patient may check a doorknob several times to make sure the door is locked because they are terrified of intruders. People with OCD and an excessive fear of germs may wash their hands several times in a row until the skin is raw. One hallmark of the disorder is that patients don’t enjoy the rituals, but the rituals offer them fleeting relief from anxiety. 

Common OCD Compulsions and Obsessions

Every OCD patient is different and will have different triggers, obsessions, and rituals. But for the most part, the majority of OCD patients fall into one or more of these categories:

Arrangers and Counters

These patients are obsessed with symmetry and order. They may believe that certain numbers, shapes, or colors are bad or good. As a result, they will compulsively count and arrange things in a specific order to alleviate their anxiety.


These patients are terrified of germs and contamination. They often have rituals that center around cleaning and washing to excess.


People who are obsessed with checking things to make sure they are working or in the right order. For example, if doors are locked, lights are turned off, or other items are disengaged from potentially causing harm or danger. These patients may obsessively worry that they’ve left a burner on.


These patients are horrified at the thought of things being imperfect or done incorrectly. If they don’t perform an activity the “right” way, they fear they will be punished. In some cases, intrusive thoughts about religion and the idea of sinning are common in these patients.


Hoarding disorder is thought to be related to OCD. Patients who hoard believe something terrible will happen to them if they throw an object away. Hoarders often collect things they don’t need or will never use. Depression is common in people with hoarding disorder.

How Therapy and Medication Help OCD and Depression

SSRIs and SNRIs are commonly used to treat both depression and OCD. Medications may relieve anxiety and depression symptoms, but they don’t address triggers and stress that can worsen mental health symptoms. With therapy, OCD and depressed patients can learn their triggers. A therapist can also help guide the patients on ways to cope with stressful situations without resorting to harmful coping mechanisms, like rituals or self-harm.

How TMS Helps Depression and OCD

Medications don’t work for everyone. In some cases, a patient may not find adequate relief from medication, or they may have trouble with the side effects. TMS is non-invasive and won’t cause many of the side effects common in SSRIs and SNRIs, such as weight gain, dry mouth, drowsiness, and sexual dysfunction.

TMS uses pain-free, electromagnetic energy to stimulate certain regions of the brain. In depressed patients, these parts of the brain are underactive, and TMS activates them. For OCD, it’s a little different. OCD patients have overactive brain activity. Depending on the frequency of the magnetic energy, TMS can either activate or turn off certain neuronal activity in the brain. 

If you’ve tried medications for OCD or depression and couldn’t get relief, TMS might be able to help. Contact Pulse TMS today to see if you’re a candidate for the procedure.