Just in the US, over 21 million adults – or over 8.4% of the adult population – have experienced at least one major depressive episode. And, today, the rising prevalence of depression is the main culprit behind the increasing number of suicides across the nation.†
According to the Lancet, traditional treatments such as antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can lead to improvements in 54-66% of patients with depression.†
But new studies have now put Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on the map as an alternative therapy for those with treatment-resistant depression.†
What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)?
The first studies on the relationship between electrical energy and magnetic fields date back to 1831. However, electromagnetic induction for transcranial stimulation as we know it today has only been around since the late 1980s, when it began to be used as a therapy for a range of disorders, including epilepsy and motor disorders.†
More recently, TMS has been seen to be an effective neuropsychiatry tool to ease treatment-resistant depression.†
TMS is a noninvasive therapy that uses powerful magnetic fields applied to the specific areas of the brain that are involved with depression to influence how the central nervous system works.†
Unlike other types of therapies for depression (i.e.: antidepressant drugs), TMS has limited side effects, is almost painless, and is suitable for most people.†
The Effectiveness of TMS in Treating Depression
Over half of individuals undergoing traditional treatments for depression, including antidepressant and CBT therapy, report a 50% reduction in symptoms.†
However, for the remaining 34-46% of people who struggle with treatment-resistant disorders, TMS can be a valid alternative.†
Today, estimations by Harvard Medical School show that around 50-60% of individuals with depression who have not seen improvements through antidepressant medications display a positive response to TMS. And, of these, around 30% were able to recover from depression fully.
Pro tip – while TMS can be an efficient solution for people experiencing treatment-resistant depression, if someone in your life shows signs of depression, the first step is always to talk to a specialized therapist who can recommend the best kind of treatment for their needs.
How Is TMS Delivered?
TMS – or Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) – is delivered by specialized providers, usually within clinical settings.†
During a standard rTMS session, a healthcare provider will place an electromagnetic coil near the forehead, on the scalp. Once activated, the coil will deliver magnetic pulses to the areas of the brain involved with depression, stimulating the nerve cells that influence mood control and depressive activity.†
While much is yet to be understood about how TMS works, a growing number of individuals with depression are reporting positive results, such as improved depression symptoms and better mood.†
If you are experiencing a major depressive episode, consulting a specialized clinic can help. For example, Root’s team can help you prevent mental health issues, reduce the risk of relapse, and deliver TMS in combination with other treatments to ensure the best outcomes.†
Who Can Benefit From TMS?
TMS isn’t recommended for every patient battling depression. While treatment options vary from one person to another, generally, you are considered to be a candidate for this type of treatment if you tick the following boxes:
- Have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and are currently experiencing a depressive episode
- Your depressive disorder is resistant to multiple medication trials, including antidepressants and CBT
- The side effects of your antidepressants are too severe or you canít take these medications because of pre-existing conditions
- Your depressive or anxiety disorder is severely affecting your life
You might not be a viable candidate for TMS if you carry implanted or non-removable metallic objects in the area of the head or implants that interact with physiological signals (i.e.: ICDs). Your therapy provider might also recommend alternative options if you are a high-risk individual with a history of head injury and epilepsy.†
What To Expect From rTMS Therapy
rTMS therapy is non-invasive and pain-free. Each session will last between 40 and 60 minutes, and you might hear clicking sounds around your head and a tapping feel on your forehead. You will remain awake and conscious throughout the session.†
The amount of magnetic energy delivered will be determined by your doctor according to variables such as your motor threshold and might be adjusted during the course of the treatment.†
If you are unsure that this therapy option is the best one for your needs, speak to a specialized healthcare provider who can help you put your doubts to rest and prepare for your first TMS session.†
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