In a world where depression is more frequently treated with prescription medication, TMS therapy stands out. That is because this non-invasive, painless procedure can help to treat even the most resistant of depression cases without creating long-term side effects like some medications can. However, some people may wonder what the long-term side effects of TMS therapy are.
Each and every person who is diagnosed with depression receives their own treatment plan from their provider, and that may include prescription medications, therapy, or a combination of both. Some might even recommend TMS therapy. The truth is, when treating depression, each individual is unique and can benefit from certain treatments more than others. Those who look to TMS therapy often find that they are able to achieve relief from their symptoms without having to deal with the impacts that medication can cause.
What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a type of therapy that is used to help treat treatment-resistant depression. This type of depression is just that — treatment-resistant. This means that individuals with depression have been unable to obtain relief from traditional treatments like prescription medication and therapy. TMS therapy has also proven to help treat symptoms of anxiety disorders that, like some cases of depression, are treatment-resistant.
TMS therapy works by sending waves to specific areas of the brain in an effort to stimulate those areas. The waves are able to help these parts of the brain become stimulated, which in turn helps to reduce symptoms of depression such as pervasive feelings of sadness and lethargy. In order for waves to penetrate these areas of the brain, medical professionals will place a coil on the head (usually on the forehead) of the patient and secure it by putting a cap on the patient’s head. The waves can then be sent from the coil to the targeted areas of the brain to help minimize prominent, stubborn symptoms related to depression. This type of therapy is non-invasive, can be done in an outpatient setting, does not require hospitalization, and does not usually cause any long-term side effects.
Who Qualifies for TMS Therapy?
If you’ve exhausted all other treatment options and can’t find relief for your symptoms in your current depressive episode, you may be a good candidate for TMS therapy. Patients will need to have a clinical diagnosis and be able to show that they’ve tried other medications and therapies in the past to qualify for treatment.
Some patients may not qualify for TMS therapy if they have metal implants above the shoulders, as the metal can cause a dangerous reaction with the magnetic device. Similarly, patients with a neurological condition, seizure disorder or substance use disorder may not qualify for treatment.
For patients that don’t qualify for TMS therapy, My TMS has a range of other services and resources, like My Psychiatrist, to help you.
What to Expect During TMS Therapy?
TMS is a safe and effective treatment that is available by prescription only. It’s tolerated well and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Your treatments are delivered in a doctor’s or clinician’s office under the supervision of a board-certified psychiatrist.
Typically, treatment sessions last between three and 20 minutes. These sessions are delivered five days a week for about four to six weeks. Because of how short the sessions are, it’s easy to incorporate TMS therapy into your schedule.
Throughout your TMS treatment, you’ll be awake and alert. Patients will be able to speak to their team of medical professionals and read, watch TV or simply relax in the comfortable treatment chair.
As the noninvasive device delivers the magnetic pulses, you’ll hear a clicking sound and feel a gentle tapping. While this sensation may take some getting used to, it should not hurt. To help ease you into it, your doctor will start off at a lower dose and then slowly increase the stimulation to keep you comfortable. Once your session is complete, you’ll be able to drive and resume your daily tasks and activities like normal.
TMS therapy offers a high success rate and positive outcomes that generally last for the long term. Many patients experience a significant decrease in their symptoms, with some seeing life-long results.
What are the Long-Term Side Effects of TMS Therapy?
There is, undoubtedly, a negative stigma associated with TMS therapy and other therapies similar to it. One of the primary reasons for that is because TMS therapy, in appearance only, seems to do what electric shock therapy did for patients in years past. It is a common misconception that TMS therapy will be painful and will cause damage to the brain. Today, what used to be called electric shock therapy is now electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and it is completely safe to receive. However, the stigma still remains due to the nature of this treatment, as many people think they will be left with long-term side effects of TMS therapy.
The good news is that there are not long-term side effects that typically develop as a result of TMS therapy. As with most treatments and therapies, there are some short-term effects that can develop in patients but, being short-term, they tend to go away rather quickly. Some of the most common short-term side effects associated with TMS therapy include:
- Headache – It is not uncommon to experience a headache after receiving TMS therapy, as this type of therapy does impact your head directly. However, these headaches are often minimal and fade quickly, allowing patients to continue on with their daily lives.
- Hearing problems – Some patients report hearing problems after they receive TMS therapy, such as ringing in the ears. Again, this side effect tends to go away fast and there is no evidence that suggests that hearing is damaged during TMS therapy.
- Facial twitching/tingling – After receiving a TMS treatment, some patients report facial twitching or tingling. This is actually a common side-effect of TMS therapy, but again, does not last long nor does it cause any long-term problems or damage.
An Important Note:
It is important to note that while TMS therapy is an FDA-approved form of therapy that is highly beneficial for those with treatment-resistant depression, there is an extremely mild risk of seizure. In order to prevent seizures, medical professionals will ensure that the patient is fully cleared to receive TMS therapy and that they do not have any conditions (such as having a metal plate in their head) that could trigger a seizure.
In many ways, TMS therapy is regarded as being safer than traditional prescription medications, specifically because many antidepressants produce long-term effects such as low libido, weight gain, suicidal thoughts, or gastrointestinal problems. Despite the extremely low risk of seizure, TMS therapy continues to be one of the safest forms of depression treatment available today.
How to Prepare for TMS Therapy to Limit Long-Term Side Effects
There are several ways you can limit some of the effects of TMS therapy. Before getting started, your healthcare provider will offer an evaluation to learn more about your depression.
During this time, it’s important to let your doctor know if you have any metal devices or medical implants in your body. Examples include:
- Aneurysm clips or coils
- Bullet or shrapnel fragments
- Cochlear implants
- Electrodes for monitoring brain activity
- Facial tattoos that have metallic ink
- Implanted medication pumps or pacemakers
- Implanted deep brain stimulators
- Metal plates
- Permanent piercings
- Stents in your neck or brain
The magnetic field produced by the device will interact with implanted metallic devices, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you have anything in your body that may represent a concern.
It’s also important to let your doctor know if you have a personal or family history of seizures, brain damage from either an injury or illness, or another mental health disorder, as those with neurological conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or brain tumors are at an increased risk of seizure. Similarly, patients with bipolar disorder could potentially experience a manic episode.
Being as transparent and detailed as possible with your team of medical professionals can help them develop a tailored treatment plan that meets your needs and reduces long-term side effects. Throughout treatment, keep them updated on any changes as well. TMS therapy can be adjusted based on changes in results and symptoms.
Depression Treatment in Florida
Depression is an extremely painful disease that can impact all areas of your life as well as the lives of those around you. And while depression cannot be cured, it can be effectively treated.
For your convenience, My TMS by My Psychiatrist is proud to offer top psychiatric care at four Florida locations; My TMS Oakland Park, My TMS Hollywood, My TMS South Miami, and My TMS Boca Raton. Not only do we provide TMS Therapy, but we offer premier mental health services at My Psychiatrist such as outpatient, substance abuse, and telemedicine services to our patients.
To make sure therapy is as affordable as possible, at My TMS, we always verify your coverage before we start developing a treatment plan. Most insurance plans do cover TMS treatment, making it an accessible solution for major depression.
At My TMS, our trained professionals can provide TMS therapy that can free you from the weight of your depression symptoms. If you are not responding to traditional methods of depression treatment, contact us by phone at (954) 332-0740 or reach out to us today. We can help.