How TMS Treatment May Help Treatment-Resistant Depression

TMS Treatment May Help Treatment
As with many mental health conditions, prescription medication is the go-to treatment for minimizing and alleviating depression symptoms. Across the globe, there are more than 350 million people who suffer from depression[1]and the condition stands as the leading cause of disability amongst children and adults.

While prescription medications work for some patients, they aren’t 100%. In those who have treatment-resistant depression, there are alternative treatment options such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Using TMS treatment for depression may help treatment-resistant patients overcome their symptoms.

The Problem with Antidepressants

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, around 11 percent of Americans 12 and older have taken antidepressants. [2] In 2008 more than $10 billion was spent on these prescriptions and they were only second to cholesterol-lowering drugs. Though these medications are highly prescribed, they don’t work for everyone.

In fact, studies have found that 10%-30% of patients [3]who have been diagnosed with major depression don’t respond to antidepressants. For these patients, other forms of treatment are often prescribed.

One of the top options for patients who are resistant to antidepressants is TMS. This form of depression treatment targets abnormalities within the brain that are known to cause depression.

TMS Treatment

What is TMS?

While you may have never heard of TMS, this treatment is safe, effective, and is FDA approved for helping those with major depression disorder. The treatment works by stimulating a specific region of that brain known as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

This region of the brain is often underactive in those with depression. Depression also impacts other interconnected regions of the brain. These areas create a mood regulatory network that is dysfunctional in those with depression.

How it Works?

TMS works through the creation of a strong and highly concentrated magnetic field that is turned on and off rapidly. The magnetic field that is created is quite similar to the one produced by an MRI machine.

The energy created targets the prefrontal cortex and other impacted areas of the brain. By stimulating these areas using strong electromagnets, TMS attempts to restore normal functions to certain regions of the brain as well as the mood regulatory network.

What to Expect During Treatment?

Expect During Treatment
Before treatment begins, you’ll have to take off any objects that are sensitive to magnets such as credit cards and jewelry. You will be required to wear earplugs during treatment to protect your hearing from the loud clicking noise that happens with each pulse.

During your first session, your doctor will take measurements to ensure that the TMS coil is positioned properly. Once fitted, the coil is suspended over the scalp.

Your doctor will then determine how much power is needed to meet your motor threshold. With this, the doctor can pinpoint how much energy is required to stimulate the brain cells.

With the right levels, your doctor will position the coil right above the front region of your brain. Treatment then begins. Most treatment sessions last around 30 minutes and sessions should occur at least 5 times a week.

In total, patients can expect to undergo treatment for 4-6 weeks. Of course, treatment is tailored to your specific needs to ensure that your depression symptoms are cured.


Though the idea of magnetic and electric currents can seem a bit scary, TMS treatment is very safe. In fact, there are many benefits of using TMS for depression treatment including:

  • Non-invasive
  • Minimal side effects
  • Non-systemic
  • Works for severe cases of depression

With TMS, patients remain awake and alert during each treatment session. This highly minimizes the recovery time needed to get back to your daily life. Another benefit is that the side effects are localized. Since the treatment doesn’t travel through the blood like antidepressants, there’s no worry of fatigue, weight gain, or low libido.


Facial twitching
TMS is typically well-tolerated in most patients. While there are risks, side effects are minimal and only occur in a small percentage of patients. The most common side effect is headaches. About half of all patients suffer from mild headaches after treatment, but they are easily treated with over-the-counter medication. Patients may also suffer other side effects including:

  • Facial twitching
  • Painful scalp sensations
  • Hearing problems

The most serious risk to be aware of is seizures. If you suffer from seizures or have a family history of them, it’s important to share these details with your doctor.

Read Next: Super Foods That Fight Depression


Those who have tried common depression treatment with no impact to their symptoms, TMS treatment may help minimize symptoms. If you suffer from severe depression and haven’t found relief in prescription antidepressants, discuss the option of TMS therapy with your doctor.

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Author: Amy

Amy is a freelance writer in the Midlands who writes specifically about health & well being on her own blog, After suffering from Bulimia for a few years, she taught herself the nutritional value of food and wanted to share her new found passion. By starting PurelyAmy, she now offers personal insights into general healthy eating habits through her qualifications in; nutrition and sports recovery. Follow Amy on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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