TMS for Veterans

TMS for Veterans: Treating Depression and Trauma

One in three U.S. veterans who visit their primary care physician exhibit signs and symptoms of depression, and another one in five display severe symptoms of the disorder. Depression can impact anyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve served in the military. But for veterans, the trauma and stress associated with serving in the armed forces may contribute to their risks for the disorder. Depression is a chronic condition, but it is not impossible to treat. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, might be a viable treatment option for veterans with depression.

Depression in Veterans: Signs and Statistics

Statistically, the differences between the rate of depression in veterans versus non-veterans are not too significant. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders that impact people of all ages and demographics backgrounds. Unfortunately, depression comes with a massive, heavy burden. It’s considered one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. 

Depression impacts every aspect of a person’s life and well-being. People with depression will experience changes physically, mentally, and behaviorally. These changes are significant and make it much harder for someone to function in their daily life. The most common signs and symptoms of depression are:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Increased feelings of sadness, guilt, and low self-worth
  • Aches and pains
  • Irritability
  • Loss of enjoyment in usual activities
  • Inability to go to work or school
  • Social isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed movement
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation

What are the treatment options for depression in veterans?

There are many effective treatment options for depression, but what works for one person may not offer relief to another. The most common types of treatment for depression are a combination of talk therapy and medication. In cases of mild depression, one or the other may suffice. For moderate to severe depression, patients often need some form of treatment coupled with a prescription to find relief. SSRIs and SNRIs are some of the most common medications used to treat the disorder.

Unfortunately, up to 30% of patients with depression will not respond to medications for the disorder. This is called treatment-resistant depression. Treatment-resistant depression is a severe form of the disorder since depression significantly impacts a person’s quality of life and ability to function. Furthermore, depression comes with a risk of self-harm and suicide. For these patients, deep-brain stimulation (DBS) techniques are recommended. Some forms of this treatment method are more invasive than others. Fortunately, TMS is the least invasive and comes with a low risk of side effects.

Treating Trauma in Veterans

Trauma left unresolved can lead to an increase in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and severe depression with suicidal thoughts. PTSD is a form of anxiety or panic disorder that is triggered by trauma. Severe PTSD in veterans is associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts and suicidal plans. Also, people with PTSD often worry that their personalities have changed or they don’t think normally, which increases feelings of anxiety. 

Researchers have also uncovered a relationship between PTSD, anxiety, and homelessness among veterans. A study on 300,000 veterans who had been referred to anxiety or PTSD treatment found that 5.6% became homeless within a year. Over five years, homelessness rates among veterans with PTSD were 3.7%. Unmarried veterans and veterans with a history of substance abuse were twice as likely to experience homelessness than veterans without these particular risk factors. 


PTSD Symptoms

  • Panic attacks
  • Re-experiencing trauma with intrusive thoughts of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional numbness
  • Severe avoidance of people, places, and things that remind the person of the trauma
  • Increased jumpiness, irritability, and anger
  • Trouble sleeping and concentrating

How TMS Can Help Veterans with PTSD and Depression


The FDA has recently approved TMS treatment for depression. This type of deep brain stimulation technique is considered non-invasive. Patients don’t need to be sedated and are fully awake during the procedure. TMS uses a powerful magnetic coil is placed over the patient’s head. 

Electromagnetic pulses are then delivered through the coil. These pulses help to stimulate areas of the brain beneath the coil that play a role in depression and anxiety symptoms. The magnetic pulses are used to compel the brain to produce neurotransmitter chemicals that can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. While TMS has explicitly been approved for treating depression, researchers believe that it may also help treat PTSD symptoms, too.

One of the most significant advantages of TMS treatment is that it comes with few side effects, and patients don’t need sedation to undergo treatment. Instead, patients are fully awake. They can listen to music, talk, or read a book while undergoing treatment. Patients are also free to return to work, school, or home after a TMS session. TMS sessions last from a half-hour to an hour and most patients will undergo a session of TMS once per week during the course of treatment.

Side Effects of TMS

No form of treatment is 100% free of side effects. With TMS, patients can experience scalp tingling, headaches, or lightheadedness right after treatment. These side effects go away within a few hours. As patients continue with treatment, side effects tend to lessen and may go away completely. 

Recent changes in TMS technology have made the treatment more comfortable as well. Before, the magnetic pulses delivered to the brain were loud. Fortunately, new developments in the way treatment is administered have made the coil quieter, which is beneficial to veterans with PTSD who may be upset by loud noises. 

TMS for Veterans Conclusion

TMS alone is typically not enough to address and treat the underlying triggers of depression and PTSD in veterans. Usually, a combination of talk therapy along with TMS is most useful for bringing relief to patients with these disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression and PTSD symptoms, PulseTMS can help. Contact our experienced technicians today to see if you’re a candidate for TMS treatment.