What Does a TMS Therapy Session Look Like?

Coping with depression can be extremely difficult and even more challenging when treatments like therapy and antidepressants don’t work. Statistics say that 10-30 % of people undergoing treatment for depression do not improve with medication and lead a life of poor quality, and might have suicidal ideations. One of the methods used to treat depression is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy.

TMS Therapy is an FDA-approved, non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate areas of the brain. It is used to treat people with treatment-resistant depression who haven’t found success with other therapies. It is also used to treat mood disorders and pain conditions such as migraines.

It is natural to have questions and potentially feel nervous when considering TMS therapy, so please make sure you talk to your psychiatrist about it ahead of time so you know what to expect and how best to prepare for it.

What to Expect During a TMS Therapy Session

The initial part of the first session involves explaining how TMS therapy works and answer any questions you have. In addition, a review of the upcoming week’s plans could be done so you know what to expect. In most cases, TMS therapy is performed, and the appointment lasts around 40 minutes. During this therapy, clients will be monitored for their level of comfort.

Before Treatment

Before beginning treatment, the doctor will perform physical or psychiatric evaluations to determine if anything can inhibit the treatment. You also must inform your doctor of any current medications or other pre-existing mental conditions apart from depression. You will have to remove any glasses with a metallic frame or jewelry which might have some magnetic metals. No sedation or anesthesia is administered for the treatment.

During Treatment

You will be seated in a special chair under the doctor’s supervision. After you sit, the doctor will place the magnet on your head using a helmet or an extension arm with a magnetic coil at the end. The process starts by sending magnetic pulses into specific brain regions, sometimes making you feel a tapping sensation in your head. Earplugs may be provided so the sound of the magnet does not damage your hearing. During the first session, your doctor will also try to identify your motor threshold—which helps them understand the amount of stimulation needed.

Usually, TMS sessions are not painful, but they may be uncomfortable for some. Make sure you let your doctor know about any discomfort you feel so the stimulation levels can be adjusted accordingly. Many people read or watch TV during the session, while others prefer to meditate or talk to the TMS technician.

After Treatment

Generally, recovery from this treatment is immediate, and you can drive back home/office and return to your usual activities. If you have unusual sensations in your head or face, let your doctor know, or wait for a few more minutes until you are comfortable. Some people might also feel tired after the session, but staying awake for one hour after the treatment is recommended.

If TMS therapy works for you, you should notice an improvement in your symptoms within a few weeks. Once TMS therapy is completed, the doctor may prescribe medication and therapy as part of an ongoing treatment plan.

How Does TMS Therapy Work?

TMS therapy combines the use of electricity and magnetism. It is based on the scientific principle that electricity is generated when a magnetic field is applied around an electrical conductor. In this case, the brain is the conducting element, as it contains electrically-charged neurons and transmits information via electric signals. Putting a magnet near your brain can affect its electrical activity.

TMS therapy targets specific parts of the brain, which can help with mood, emotions, and decision-making. TMS therapies are categorized according to the magnet’s strength and how the magnetic field is applied. Your doctor will recommend the best type for you based on your medical history and conditions.

Who Is Eligible for TMS Therapy?

TMS isn’t recommended for everyone who has depression and is generally used when other treatments have failed to help. TMS can be used to treat the following conditions:

• Major depressive disorder (MDD) – Major depressive disorder is a mental health condition that causes a person to feel sad, hopeless, unmotivated, and worthless for at least two weeks. It can interfere with your daily activities and affect your behavior, leading to many emotional and physical problems.
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – OCD is a long-lasting disorder where you can see a pattern of unwanted recurring thoughts which can interfere with all aspects of your life, including work and personal relationships.
• Migraines – Migraines are throbbing headaches with pulsating sensations usually occurring on one side of the head. Sometimes, you also experience vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
• Smoking cessation -TMS can promote smoking cessation and reduce nicotine dependence by stimulating the relevant nerve centers.

Most eligible patients are between 18 and 70 years old and have no serious acute medical problems or epilepsy that would make it unsafe to undergo TMS therapy. It is also important to note that TMS may not be advisable for people with an implanted or non-removable metallic object in some upper body regions, including pacemakers, implants for hearing, vagus nerve stimulators, or other metallic implants.

Every patient has a unique response to TMS therapy, but generally speaking, many patients see improvements within a few weeks of treatment.

To learn more about TMS therapy, contact Northwest Psychiatry & TMS. We understand how important mental health is in today’s world and are here to help you feel better in every way we can. Call us at (206) 933-0699 for more information.