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…
TMS Treatment as an Alternative to Antidepressant Medication
Psychiatrists may recommend TMS as an alternative treatment for depression. This is possible if antidepressants do not work for the patient anymore. TMS uses magnetic pulses to reach certain areas of the brain. It is a non-intrusive method that relieves depression symptoms. Keep reading to find out how TMS helps as an alternative approach.
The reason for using TMS
In 2008, the U.S. FDA approved TMS as a treatment for depression. Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) tend to develop resistance to these treatments. Psychiatrists can use TMS if standard solutions are not helping the patient anymore. Some even combine TMS with conventional methods like antidepressants.
Patients who do not achieve progress from psychotherapy or antidepressants can get TMS. This method is also for patients who are not healthy enough for more aggressive treatments like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Those that are allergic to anesthesia or have histories of seizures should have TMS, as well. Patients could request this alternative treatment if there are alcohol or substance use problems. Since TMS is not a primary treatment for depression, patients should prepare for other approaches first.
This non-intrusive method lasts for 30-60 minutes. The patient sits on a recliner as the psychiatrist places the electromagnetic coil on the patient’s head. This coil should be on the part of the head that controls mood. Pulses from the coil reach the patient’s brain. There is no pain at all. The patient may just feel some tapping or knocking sensations.
These pulsations reach the patient’s neurons and produce electric currents. The prefrontal cortex of the brain receives these currents. Low activities in this part of the brain increase. The patient’s depression eases. After the session, the patient can go home and go back to daily activities.
The possible adverse effects and complications
TMS is not intrusive. Yet, it can result in some mild or moderate side effects. Some patients have mild headaches after the session. The slight pain usually fades with more treatments. Others experience lightheadedness and tingling sensations in the scalp, face, or jaw.
Some patients experience facial twitching and scalp pain with the pulses during treatments. Ear discomfort can also happen. The doctor can provide earplugs to block the loud noises from the machine. There is a low risk for seizures.
TMS session effects
Studies show that there are still no exact causes of depression. Even so, specific factors contribute to the development of this condition. Substance abuse, genetics, and stress can trigger depression. Each individual is exposed to different sets of factors.
These factors influence every patient’s depression symptoms differently. That is why the results of this treatment have no definite period of effectiveness. Most people who complete the treatment experience improve for at least six months. Some of them even experience complete remission.
People who should not receive TMS
This treatment is not for everyone. People who have metal plates, cochlear implants, stents, and permanent piercings cannot have this treatment. The same applies to people with aneurysm coils, electrodes, and embedded bullet pieces. These metal pieces may move or heat up during the treatment. People who take stimulants cannot take this treatment. Those with a history of seizures or epilepsy should not receive TMS either.
TMS is different from shock therapy
Some people confuse this therapy with ECT or electroconvulsive therapy. Each TMS session uses short magnetic pulses for brain stimulation. The treatment provides a steady flow of electrical charges. These impulses are too soft for the patient to even notice. The charges activate the neurons and improve the patient’s mood.
ECT is an invasive therapy. The doctor will conduct this in a hospital setting. The patient will be under general anesthesia. The machine will pass electric currents through the brain tissue. This results in a quick minor seizure. This may seem intense, but the treatment does not damage the brain at all.
Comparing TMS with antidepressants
Since TMS does not use antidepressants or anesthesia, patients do not experience any side effects. SNRIs and SSRIs cause myriad side effects like agitation and sexual dysfunction. TCAs cause dry mouth, weight gain, and excessive sweating. Even if the patient experiences side effects, the patient must endure and still go on. The effects of antidepressants will only start to show after several weeks. With TMS, patients experience relief from depression symptoms after finishing the treatment series.
TMS is an alternative to antidepressants
Diligence and persistence in finishing the TMS sessions can relieve your depression symptoms. It does not have lingering side effects such as agitation and sexual dysfunction. This procedure does not even need anesthesia or surgery. It does not alter your internal chemistry at all. If there is a bit of discomfort like a light headache, it can go away with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers.
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