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The Benefits of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy for Persistent Symptoms

This entry was posted in Mental Health on by .

Like the heart, we must remember that the brain is both a chemically and electrically responsive organ. 

For years, the best-known practice to adjust electrical signaling in the brain was electroconvulsive or “shock” therapy (ECT), which is both invasive and rather unappealing to many. However, as most people with depression are treated with medications to adjust the chemistry of the brain, what option do they have when those medications are less effective or one’s improvement is insufficient?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy (TMS).

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy?

According to the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, “Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a neurophysiological procedure for noninvasive stimulation of the nervous system. It involves the application of a rapidly changing magnetic field to the superficial layers of the cerebral cortex.”

In lay person’s terms, TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to “jump-start” the neurons of the brain. Ultimately, these magnets target and focus on specific parts of the brain that control emotions and decision-making. TMS has been highly effective in helping those struggling with persistent symptoms.

What Does Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy Treat?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved TMS for four specific conditions:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Tobacco use/dependence
  • Severe migraines

Additional research shows TMS can treat substance use disorders (SUDs), bipolar disorder, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even some cases of schizophrenia.

However, because it has only been fully approved for MDD and OCD, it is important to note that TMS is an appropriate option for patients who have had limited results from medication and psychotherapy. Even for MDD and OCD, it is recommended that it be used as part of a customized recovery plan.

What Are the Benefits of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy?

Benefits include (but are not limited to):

  • A reduction in feelings of depression, loneliness, and lack of self-worth
  • In some instances, a reduction in the use of mental health-related medications
  • Improvement in challenging OCD symptoms that have been resistant to medication and psychotherapy.
  • A non-invasive treatment that can be relatively easily scheduled and administered

Compared to these upsides, the risks of TMS are minimal. They may include slight headaches, scalp discomfort, short-term facial tingling or twitching, and a low risk of seizure (less than 0.01%), which often decrease over the course of treatment.

In contrast to ECT, TMS is less intense, does not require as much medical support, and

has fewer side-effects. Moreover, for people with medication-resistant depression, it represents a very promising tool to improve difficult mood and behavioral symptoms.

Utilizing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy Holistically

We strive to incorporate TMS with courses of Residential, Partial Hospitalization or Intensive Outpatient treatment at SunCloud Health.

In this fashion, patients may engage in daily psychotherapeutic activity while receiving TMS several times per week. Thus, a combination of dynamic, evidence-based psychotherapy and medical treatment is often the best strategy for people struggling with challenging mood or anxiety disorders.

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