If you are ready to take control of your depression symptoms, one of the first steps in your mental health journey is exploring the potential treatment options. Whether you are doing your own research, or you are seeking out the insight of a mental health provider, learning about the many treatment options can feel overwhelming.
The key to finding the right treatment for you is by comparing the options to each other. Comparisons can help you see which ones better suit your specific needs. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a potential course of action, but how does it compare to other options? That’s what we’re here to discuss.
We’ll talk about transcranial magnetic stimulation and how TMS compares to other depression treatments, such as antidepressants and ECT.
The basics of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
Let’s start off with the basics. TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a FDA-cleared neurostimulation therapy. It is used to help treatment-resistant depression. Depression is deemed as treatment resistant if the symptoms have not improved after at least two trials of antidepressants. TMS can also be used to treat anxious depression, which refers to anxiety as a symptom of a major depressive disorder diagnosis.
TMS involves pulses of magnetic energy that are emitted from a coil into the brain. The pulses stimulate cell activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in mood regulation. Increasing brain activity in this area of the brain can help alleviate depression symptoms.
Comparing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to ECT
TMS is often confused with what is commonly known as “electroshock therapy” or more accurately known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). While TMS involves the use of magnetic pulses to decrease depression symptoms, ECT uses electric currents.
When comparing TMS to ECT, it is important to look at the potential side effects. The list of possible side effects for TMS is short. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can cause patients to experience mild headaches, discomfort around the treatment site, and contracting muscles in the jaw, face or scalp. Not only are the side effects mild, but they are short-term as well. ECT side effects tend to be more severe, such as short-term memory loss and confusion.
Comparing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to antidepressants
One of the first courses of action for depression treatment by mental health providers is often prescription drugs. Antidepressants are often first-line recommendations for treatment of major depressive disorder. They are believed to help decrease depression symptoms by increasing neurotransmission of serotonin and norepinephrine. These are hormones that are involved in mood regulation.
People who are prescribed antidepressants for their depression will often continue taking the daily medication for months, or years, at a time to continuously manage symptoms. TMS is a short-term commitment — typically six weeks, followed by a taper — that for some patients can have benefits that last for a year or even longer. When looking at our past patients, 33% experienced remission from depression symptoms after a positive response to TMS.
Much like the comparison to ECT, the side effects for antidepressants can play a large factor in choosing which treatment is best. While we already mentioned that TMS has just a few mild side effects, taking antidepressants for depression can potentially lead to:
- Blurred vision.
- Headaches or migraines.
- Weight gain.
- Sexual dysfunction.
It is important to note that TMS is recommended for those who have already tried medication but did not experience any improvement, leading to treatment-resistant depression.
Active Path Mental Health offers effective TMS therapy
Depression treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution to your symptoms. When you are trying to compare and contrast different options, it is important to look at factors such as time frame, side effects and comfort level. Now that you see how TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, stands out from other options, you can see why it is an effective alternative for many patients.
At Active Path Mental Health, we make sure that you have all the information about TMS before you start your sessions so that you can feel confident in your decision and look forward to progressing in your mental health journey.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.