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Depression is a complex and often debilitating mental health condition, affecting approximately 280 million people in the world. Depression can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Depression can affect all aspects of your life. There are a variety of treatment options with the intention of helping to improve or alleviate the symptoms of depression, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Both treatments are intended to help alleviate the effects of depression, but differ in the terms of impact, patient experience and methodology. Both treatments have their merits, but TMS presents as the effective alternative choice to the more invasive ECT treatment. 

TMS vs. ECT: What’s the difference?

In treatment for depression, TMS and ECT can both address the effects of the complex symptoms of this condition. They differ significantly in how they work and what they can offer to patients. By diving into their features and benefits, you can gain a fully informed understanding of these two treatment choices for helping with depression. Armed with this information and with the guidance of your health care or mental health provider, you can make the decision for the most effective treatment for your depression. 

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is often referred to as “shock therapy.” It involves creating controlled seizures by administering electrical currents to the brain. ECT is typically conducted under anesthesia. It is sought after due to its rapid effects and is still considered the “gold standard” for severe and treatment-resistant depression. However, this procedure requires anesthesia and muscle relaxants, and can result in short-term memory loss. 
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses focused magnetic pulses to stimulate specific brain regions associated with depression. TMS is a noninvasive, outpatient procedure and does not require or involve anesthesia. Patients remain awake through the session and can resume normal activities immediately after the session ends. TMS targets localized areas of the brain and doesn’t have any cognitive side effects. With TMS therapy for depression, 79% of our patients show a reduction of their symptoms, and 33% of our patients no longer experience depression symptoms. 

The science behind TMS and ECT

TMS and ECT use different mechanisms to administer treatment to the brain. This leads to distinct effects and potential side effects. ECT induces seizures that can trigger neurotransmitter release and alter brain chemistry. 

TMS therapy uses magnetic energy to stimulate specific regions of the brain that are linked to depression. This influences specific neural circuits without causing seizures. Due to the targeted approach, there is a minimized chance of side effects, making it the safer and more effective choice. 

Why TMS is the effective alternative to ECT

In the search for improved depression treatments, TMS is an effective alternative to ECT. TMS is a gentler approach to ECT. As the effective option to consider, TMS can offer hope for those dealing with the challenges of depression through factors such as:

  • Minimal daily life disruptions — While ECT can require anesthesia and hospitalization, TMS therapy does not have the same impact on one’s daily life. After a TMS therapy session, patients can immediately return to their normal routines. 
  • Noninvasiveness — TMS holds the advantage over ECT with being a noninvasive treatment option. Without needing sedation or other anesthetic medications, TMS allows patients to retain their cognitive function without side effects. This is beneficial for those concerned about memory disruption or disorientation. 
  • Long-term management — TMS provides a noninvasive approach for long-term management of depression. Regular treatments over time can promote stability and help reduce the chance of recurrence of depression symptoms. 
  • Treatment precision — TMS therapy’s magnetic pulses can be directed to the specific brain regions connected to depression. This precision can enhance the therapeutic benefits of TMS while minimizing the risk of affecting other cognitive functions or emotions. 
  • Reduced stigma — As a noninvasive treatment, TMS isn’t surrounded by the same dramatic elements as ECT is. ECT has a stigma surrounding it and can lead to a hesitancy of choosing it for a treatment option. 

Patient experience can be a determining factor in seeking treatment. The invasiveness of ECT can be a deterrent in seeking it as a treatment choice for depression. TMS offers an outpatient treatment with minimal disruption to your daily life. It can provide convenience and comfort for your session. 

TMS can provide hope by offering a more gentle and effective alternative to ECT. TMS can represent a step forward in the progression of mental health treatments. 

Active Path can treat your depression with TMS

At Active Path, our team is committed to providing top-tier mental health care to all. Our use of TMS therapy can provide you with a safe, personalized and noninvasive path that can help you to begin healing from depression. TMS can target key brain areas related to depression, tackle the symptoms, and can help you regain control and strive for a brighter future. 
If you believe TMS would be a good fit for you or a loved one, please contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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