Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is an innovative, noninvasive treatment for clinically diagnosed depression. This unique therapy is frequently used with people who’ve tried other depression treatments with no results and those who cannot tolerate depression medications.
TMS therapy is highly effective, but like any form of psychiatric treatment, it has its pros and cons. If you’re considering TMS therapy for yourself or a loved one, understanding the advantages and drawbacks of the treatment will help you make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.
The Pros of TMS Therapy
Although TMS therapy is most commonly used as a depression treatment, it can also be effective for anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, smoking cessation, and other mental health conditions. Aside from its wide variety of uses, TMS also offers patients other distinct benefits.
TMS Is Effective When Other Depression Treatments Don’t Work
Currently, TMS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) in people who haven’t responded to antidepressant medication. In one study, 42 separate clinical practices analyzed the results of TMS treatment on their patients who had MDD. Nearly 60% of patients in the study reported a reduction in depression symptoms, while nearly 40% of study participants experienced full remission.
TMS Therapy Has Very Few Side Effects
Most people tolerate TMS therapy well. The treatment has a low risk of side effects, with the most common adverse reactions being scalp discomfort and a transient headache after treatment.
In contrast, depression medications can cause numerous side effects, including weight gain, sexual dysfunction, constipation, nausea, and others. People who take these medications and experience side effects often have a difficult time with medication compliance and, therefore, symptom improvement.
TMS Requires No Downtime
Unlike certain depression treatments, TMS therapy doesn’t involve any medications that may make a person drowsy. Patients can safely drive themselves to and from their appointments and can return to their daily routine after treatment.
While the therapy does involve a time commitment over several weeks, TMS can fit into almost anyone’s schedule, even with daily treatment sessions.
TMS Therapy Is Typically Covered by Insurance
Most insurance companies recognize TMS therapy as an essential form of care for people who do not respond to other depression treatments. As such, most insurance policies will cover TMS treatments, provided the patient meets the conditions set forth by their specific insurance plan.
The Cons of TMS Therapy
While TMS therapy can be a lifeline for people with treatment-resistant depression, it’s not right for everyone. The therapy isn’t recommended for some people, and others have trouble meeting their insurance company’s criteria for coverage. Here are some of the disadvantages of TMS therapy.
TMS Requires a Daily Time Commitment
TMS treatments don’t take long to administer — usually about 20–40 minutes. However, everyone who receives this therapy must be treated five days per week for a total of four to six weeks. While TMS does require a time investment, results from the therapy typically last.
Insurance Criteria Can Be Strict
Although most insurance companies cover TMS therapy, they require patients to try antidepressant medication first. Since TMS costs more than medications, insurance plans don’t typically authorize payment for the therapy as a first-line treatment for depression.
Each insurance company has different criteria for TMS coverage, and some may require patients to try some form of talk therapy as well. At Prime Behavioral Health, we’ll help you determine whether you’ve met your plan’s criteria if you’re interested in TMS treatments.
TMS Therapy Isn’t Recommended for Certain People
Because TMS uses magnetic fields, the therapy can cause problems for people who have metal inside their body near their neck or head. Since the magnetic field cannot pass through metal, it may cause the metal to heat up, which can be highly uncomfortable. Anyone with medical implants that contain metal, aneurysm clips, metal stents, or cochlear implants may not be eligible for treatment.
TMS therapy can also cause complications in people with a history of seizures and those who have brain tumors. If you’re interested in treatment, you’ll need to have a consultation, during which a specialist will determine if you’re a good candidate for the therapy.
Treatments Can Cause Scalp Discomfort
Although most people report only mild scalp irritation during TMS sessions, some people may find the treatment uncomfortable. Muscle twitching and headaches after treatment have also been reported, but again, these side effects are typically mild.
Because the body is highly adaptive, many patients find that any mild discomfort they experience tends to become less pronounced as treatment progresses.
If you believe you or someone you love can benefit from TMS therapy for depression, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Prime Behavioral Health in Southlake. Our compassionate providers will help you determine whether TMS is right for your needs.