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Having depression, or major depressive disorder, can make every day a struggle, from the lack of motivation to isolation away from your loved ones. But it’s not always easy to seek help for your depression symptoms either. It can be scary to start the path on your mental health journey because you don’t know what to expect.

When you speak to your mental health provider about a depression treatment option, there can be comfort in knowing what to expect beforehand. If you’re unsure about what a treatment option like TMS therapy involves, we’re here to ease your nerves so that you can be excited about the next step toward a happier future.

What is TMS therapy?

TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a noninvasive depression treatment that has been around since the 1980s, though it wasn’t used to treat depression until the following decade. TMS therapy works by sending magnetic pulses to stimulate the nerve cell activity in areas of the brain that regulate mood. 

TMS is an effective depression treatment option. Clinical studies show about 67% of patients have positive results from the therapy, with 45% of those patients experiencing lasting results up to a year after finishing treatment.

Benefits of TMS for depression include:

  • Noticeable improvement for most cases in four weeks.
  • Non-medication treatment option.
  • No anesthesia required.
  • Short sessions that are easy to work into your schedule.
  • Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Fewer side effects than other options, such as antidepressants.

Different types of TMS therapy devices

Two of the most common TMS devices that may be utilized for major depressive disorder are deep TMS and repetitive TMS. 

The main difference between the two methods is that while repetitive TMS involves magnetic pulses that gradually increase in strength, deep TMS emits pulses that stay at the same strength for the entirety of the session.

The other difference between the methods is the stimulation depth. Repetitive TMS focuses on stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is about 1.5 centimeters into the brain. This cortex is in charge of cognitive and executive functions, such as working memory and abstract reasoning.

As the name would suggest, deep TMS targets a bit deeper than repetitive TMS. The deep TMS emits pulses about 4 centimeters into the brain to target the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, which is the location of the reward and motivation pathways.

At Active Path Mental Health, we use both types of devices and both are proven to be effective for reducing depression symptoms in patients.

What to expect during TMS therapy sessions for depression

TMS therapy takes place in an outpatient mental health clinic. It’s administered by a specially trained technician under the supervision of a psychiatrist. You will receive a total of 36 treatments over the course of six weeks, with five sessions per week and then a taper. Since there is no anesthesia required for TMS therapy, you will be able to drive yourself to and from your sessions. 

The first appointment, called a mapping session, lasts about 45 minutes to an hour so that you can be properly measured for the coil. 

The sensation is usually described as a tapping on the side of your head. There are some potential side effects, but they don’t linger very long. You may experience mild headaches or discomfort around the treatment site. You may also feel like your scalp, jaw, or facial muscles are tingling.

Types of depression that can be treated with TMS therapy

Even though TMS therapy can benefit most cases of severe depression, it is the most effective for people who have treatment-resistant depression. Your provider may determine that you have treatment-resistant depression if you haven’t experienced relief after at least two trials of antidepressants.

Anxious depression can also be treated with TMS therapy. This refers to anxiety symptoms present in someone suffering from major depressive disorder. It’s important to note that anxious depression isn’t the same as a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, that can trigger depressive symptoms.

Active Path Mental Health can help you prepare for TMS therapy for severe depression

At Active Path, we’ll be with you every step of the way along your mental health journey. We’ll determine what type of TMS will best suit your depression symptoms and make sure that you’re ready for your sessions.
If you have treatment-resistant depression or anxious depression, TMS therapy may be just what you need to get you back to yourself. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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