Can TMS Worsen Depression?

Can TMS Worsen Depression?

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is an FDA-approved method of brain stimulation that is safe, effective, and non-invasive. TMS has been demonstrated to achieve impressive remission rates of patients in clinical trials and has even higher efficacy rates in naturalistic clinical practice settings. Its side effects are mild and have not been proven to worsen symptoms of depression in studies or clinical trials.


Depression is an illness that results from chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as abnormalities in brain structure and neurological connectivity. Antidepressant pharmaceuticals are typically prescribed as the first line of treatment for depression. This approach, however, can be associated with a multitude of side effects that are not a concern with TMS therapy.



TMS Is Safe and Effective

A significant body of evidence has demonstrated the safety and efficacy of TMS for the treatment of acute depressive symptoms.


A multisite, naturalistic, observational study examined the effectiveness of TMS in real-world clinical practice settings and found that TMS is an effective treatment for those who cannot benefit from initial antidepressant medication.


A meta-review of studies that tested TMS as a treatment for depression found that it was an “effective and safe brain stimulation technique for the treatment of medication-refractory depression.”


In a survey of Mid City TMS patients, over 70 % have had a substantial reduction in depressive symptoms following TMS treatment. Mid City TMS patients have reported positive impacts on mood and sleep, increased alertness and energy, and more frequent feelings of optimism and joy.



Remission Of Treatment-Resistant Depression

TMS is often the most promising option for patients who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. Frequently, these patients do not respond to antidepressants or psychotherapeutic strategies such as cognitive/behavioral therapy. In the long run, TMS may save treatment-resistant patients time and money.


In a 2015 study that compared the cost-effectiveness of TMS and pharmacological therapy for treatment-resistant depression, results showed that TMS outperformed antidepressants for patients who failed two courses of medication.


In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, younger and older patients with treatment-resistant depression were found to benefit from TMS therapy regardless of age. The depression response and remission rates were similar across age, and the results of the study suggested that TMS effectiveness for depression is not differentially modified by age.



Maintaining Remission With TMS

Multiple studies have shown TMS to be an effective maintenance therapy for preventing a depressive relapse. The studies have demonstrated that TMS is effective as a sole maintenance therapy, as well as when used in conjunction with antidepressant drugs. Improved outcomes while using TMS as a sole maintenance therapy were observed with as little as one maintenance session per month.



Side Effects of TMS

It has been anecdotally noted that TMS patients can experience a temporary dip in mood during treatment. This is not necessarily an indicator that the treatment is not working. As Toby Watcher described in a personal essay about his experience with TMS, “It’s not always a straight shot towards getting better.”


The side effects of TMS are mild and relatively uncommon.  They include headaches, scalp tingling, or twitching of facial muscles. The intensity of the magnetic pulses can be adjusted by your doctor to prevent these side effects from occurring.



Mid City TMS Can Help

At Mid City TMS, we coordinate with each patient’s psychiatrist, therapist, and/or primary care physician to ensure that patients are getting the most out of their care. We also provide progress updates to the providers with whom we coordinate, as well as a written report to the referring clinician at the conclusion of treatment.


To learn more about what to expect during TMS therapy, visit our FAQ page or contact us today. We’re happy to help you figure out whether TMS is right for you.

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