If you suffer from treatment-resistant depression and oral antidepressant medications have provided little relief from your depression symptoms, then you should ask your psychiatrist if transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is right for you. Unlike medications you must take every day, TMS is a treatment you obtain in a physician's office on a regular schedule until your depression symptoms have diminished.
While there are various TMS treatment schedules, TMS is often performed for 30–40 minutes, five days a week for four to six weeks or until their depression symptoms have eased up.
Read on to learn two additional facts you should know about TMS therapy for depression.
1. TMS Differs Greatly From ECT
Many people with depression confuse TMS therapy with ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, which is another treatment for many types of mental health disorders, including severe depression. However, these two depression treatments differ greatly.
To perform ECT, a patient is typically placed under general anesthesia before a special treatment device sends mild electrical currents through their skulls and into specific areas of their brains. While effective, ECT can lead to some unwanted side effects, such as temporary memory loss or confusion after the procedure and an increase in blood pressure and/or heart rate that can worsen some existing heart problems.
When obtaining TMS therapy, a patient is not placed under any form of anesthesia and is fully awake during the entire procedure. Instead, a special coil is simply placed on their head that delivers magnetic pulses into a specific area of the brain believed to be connected to depression symptoms. Then, magnetic impulses are sent through the coil during the treatment session. After the non-invasive TMS session, most patients can drive home on their own.
Unlike ECT, TMS therapy rarely produces severe side effects. However, some patients may notice a mild headache, lightheadedness, scalp pain, neck pain, or other mild side effects after their first few treatments.
2. You Do Not Have to Stop Taking Other Antidepressants to Obtain TMS
If you currently take a prescription antidepressant that provides slight relief from your depression symptoms, then you may be hesitant to stop taking this medication before trying a new depression treatment due to fear that your symptoms will return with a vengeance when you stop your current medication. The good news is that you can obtain TMS therapy while taking a prescription antidepressant and/or over-the-counter supplements that are providing partial depression symptom relief. In fact, TMS is often prescribed as an adjunctive treatment, which is a second treatment added when one is already partially working, to prescription antidepressants.
If you suffer from depression and prescription antidepressants have not worked for you in the past or only provide partial symptom relief, then ask your psychiatrist if TMS therapy for depression may be right for you.