Every year, more than 17 million individuals in the United States deal with depression. Depression, characterized by disruptions in a person's emotions, behavior, and thoughts, deprives a person of their ability to experience pleasure in life. Patients often experience a state of near-total numbness or persistent grief. The psychiatrist will typically recommend the proper treatment…
How TMS May Help With Anxiety
TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a non-invasive, FDA-approved therapy for serious depression. It uses magnetic pulses to target a particular brain region. TMS is an outpatient technique gaining traction in the behavioral health field as a viable therapy option for medication-resistant depression.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most often-diagnosed mental condition in the United States, impacting more than 18% of the adult population each year. Depression and anxiety are often found simultaneously in clinical presentations. Around half of all people who are diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety problem.
Why TMS may help with anxiety
It is common for people with anxiety disorders to have co-occurring mental or physical health issues. For example, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to occur concurrently with general anxiety disorders. In other words, patients run the risk of experiencing the symptoms of both illnesses at once.
Major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are the most prevalent co-occurring mental ailments. Nearly half of patients with one diagnosis also have the other. This situation may lead to an increase in severity and unresponsiveness to treatment. Patients need to discuss every illness and symptom with their doctor to get treatment for complete relief and a healthy life.
If TMS is an effective treatment for depression, it should also be a successful therapy for anxiety because depression and anxiety are interrelated and likely caused by a dysregulation of the same neurocircuit in the brain.
Mood and anxiety disorders are believed to be due to a disturbance in the balance of activity in the brain's emotional regions. The recognized TMS therapy regimen for depression involves the use of quick, high-frequency pulses on the side of the head, focusing on the brain's prefrontal region. If depression and anxiety are linked, anxiety symptoms should improve along with depression symptoms.
This is indeed often the case with TMS. Many patients notice improvements in their symptoms due to the stimulatory pulses. The dysfunctional brain regions due to depression and anxiety are restored to their normal functional levels, which are visible on functional imaging.
Anxiety sometimes follows a different rule, though. It is hypothesized to be caused by a misfiring of electrochemical signals in the brain caused by both hyperactive and hypoactive regions, resulting in excessive anxiety or dread and physical symptoms such as racing heart, shortness of breath, GI discomfort, and muscular tightness.
The idea of using TMS to treat anxiety was founded on the fact that the right half of the brain is known to transmit inhibitory signals to the left side. So, if the right side of the brain is repeatedly exposed to slow, inhibitory, low-frequency pulses, it should reduce activity in the hyperactive portions of the brain, resulting in a calming impact on a brain affected by anxiety.
TMS employs concerted magnetic fields to reach specific brain regions. Due to the relationship between magnetism and electricity, scientists can control the level of neuronal activity occurring in various parts of the brain. By focusing on the brain's dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, TMS can increase or decrease the activity level around the amygdala.
Doctors can help their patients better control their stress and anxiety by increasing or decreasing the activity in the amygdala and other parts of the brain. The chances are that the hypothalamus will not produce the chemicals that trigger feelings of heightened tension and anxiety if the amygdala has lower sensitivity to the fight-or-flight situation.
Research on the treatment of anxiety with TMS
There is now increased confidence that TMS may be an effective therapy for different anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hundreds of small trials are being done all over the globe with extremely encouraging findings.
There is still much to learn, though, and greater consistency across research is required to agree on an approved anxiety protocol, including better specifying the treatment target region, the number of pulses administered, and how many treatments are required for the patient to get complete relief from anxiety symptoms.
Additional points to note
One may develop anxiety for many other reasons apart from the underlying brain chemistry. The mental health doctor will consider a person's entire life history while addressing their mental health. Hyperactive anxiety may occur due to exposure to persistent or severe stress. There is also a link between anxiety and personality attributes like shyness. Doctors assist patients in identifying, analyzing, and addressing the factors that worsen their anxiety.
The bottom line
The good news for those suffering from severe anxiety is that innovative new treatments are available. TMS may be a viable option for treating symptoms when other options, such as psychotropic medications, have failed.
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