PROs and CONs of TMS Therapy – Benefits, Risks & Downsides

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS therapy, is primarily used to treat mental disorders like major depression and anxiety. TMS therapy offers numerous benefits, making it a suitable choice for patients suffering from these conditions.

Medicare  & DVA covered*
No out-of-pocket fees**
Non-invasive treatment

* No-out-of-pocket fees for Medicare patients who meet the Depression eligibility criteria.
** Read more about the cost of TMS and Medicare coverage

Pro’s and Con’s of TMS Therapy:

Pros of TMS Therapy Cons of TMS Therapy
1. Non-invasive: Completely noninvasive brain stimulation, less invasive than traditional antidepressants and other treatments. 1. Time Commitment: Regular sessions are required, which could be demanding in terms of time.
2. Drug-Free: Safe to use with other medications, without the systemic side effects associated with classical antidepressants. 2. Risk Of Seizure (Low): Very low risk, but still present, especially for those with a seizure disorder.
3. Effective in Treatment-Resistant Depression: Offers an alternative for patients unresponsive to antidepressant medication. 3. Mild Scalp Discomfort: Some patients may experience discomfort or headaches, usually temporary.
4. Minimal Side Effects: Fewer side effects compared to other mental disorder treatments. 4. Insurance Coverage Criteria: Some insurers have stringent criteria for covering TMS therapy.
5. Long-Lasting Results: Shows long-term improvements in many patients. 5. Availability: Limited in rural areas, more accessible in metropolitan regions.
6. Reduced Dependency on Medications: No withdrawal symptoms or addiction risk. 6. Lack Of Public Awareness: Not as widely known or understood as other treatments.
7. General Mood Improvement: Stimulates specific brain areas to improve mood and energy levels. 7. Cost (Without Insurance): Can be expensive for those without insurance coverage.
8. Broad Treatment Scope: Effective for a range of mental health disorders.
9. Covered By Insurance: Recognised by most insurance companies as necessary for depression treatment.
10. Fits In Daily Routine: No sedation or anesthesia required; patients can continue daily activities.
11. Fairly Effective: Higher response rate compared to medication antidepressants.
12. Non-addictive: No habit-forming properties and no discontinuation symptoms.
13. No Memory Issues: Unlike ECT, TMS does not negatively impact memory; may even enhance cognitive ability.

8 Benefits of TMS Therapy

Here are a few of the main advantages of TMS therapy:

1. Non-invasive

TMS therapy provides completely noninvasive brain stimulation. This means that when you receive TMS treatment, it will happen externally to your body.

The most interaction that you’ll have with the TMS machine or practitioner is the placing of a magnetic coil against your head. This makes TMS one of the most comfortable treatments to receive.

2. Drug Free

TMS is a drug-free treatment, which makes it safe to use in combination with other medications and therapies.

3. Effectiveness in Treatment-Resistant Depression

Recent studies have shown that TMS is a useful therapy for depression in patients who have proven to be unresponsive to antidepressant medication. TMS thus provides a helpful alternative to patients who have exhausted conventional treatments for mental disorders.

4. Minimal Side Effects

Unlike most other treatments for mental disorders like major depressive disorder, anxiety, and ADHD, TMS has minimal side effects. There are no withdrawal symptoms should you decide to quit TMS treatment, and it won’t cause any major adverse effects.

5. Potential for Long-Lasting Results

According to research by Somani et al and Carpenter et al [1,2], 60-65% of patients who had tried at least 2 antidepressants with minimal responses, reported an improvement in their depressive symptoms following a  course of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). This shows that when taken over a long period of time, TMS can produce long-lasting results against the mental health disorders it targets.

To better understand these statistics, let’s compares the effectives of TMS with  antidepressants. The 2006 STAR*D trial remains one of the largest studies ever conducted that aimed to determine effectiveness of different treatments for treatment resistant depression. [3]

Here are some of its key findings:

  • Only 40% of people responded to their first antidepressant.
  • If the initial SSRI was ineffective after 6 weeks, switching to another resulted in a 25% response rate.
  • If the second SSRI didn’t work, switch to a third antidepressant or antidepressant combination resulted in a response rate of 16.8%. This performance is significantly lower compared to TMS, which its response rate of 60-65% at the same stage of treatment.

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  1. Somani A, Kar SK. Efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in treatment-resistant depression: the evidence thus far. Gen Psychiatr. 2019;32(4):
  2. Carpenter, L.L., 2012 et al. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for major depression: a multisite, naturalistic, observational study of acute treatment outcomes in clinical practice. Depression and Anxiety, 29(7), pp.587-596.
  3. Rush et al. STARD Investigators Group. Sequenced treatment alternatives to relieve depression (STARD): rationale and design.

6. Reduced Dependency on Medications

One of the major issues that comes with going on a course of antidepressant or antianxiety medication is the fact that dependencies can result. TMS has no withdrawal and patients are able to stop treatment cycles without feeling any physical or mental addictions.

7. General Mood Improvement:

TMS therapy, through targeting a specific part of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex, stimulates nerves and increases neural activity. This has proven to cause general mood improvements for people struggling with depression. This could even lead to increased energy levels and motivation.

8. Broad Treatment Scope:

TMS is primarily used to treat major depressive disorder. However, research has shown its efficacy in treating a much wider scope of mental health disorders. Let’s take a deeper look at the conditions TMS is suitable as a treatment.

Benefits of TMS Therapyc
Benefits of TMS Therapy Treatment

click on the image to enlarge

Side Effects or Downsides of TMS

TMS treatment has non-severe side effects that most patients are unlikely to experience. These potential risk or downsides include:

  • Slight scalp discomfort
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Tingling or twitching facial muscles
  • Lightheadedness

Some of the more severe, but extremely uncommon side effects include:

  • Seizures
  • Manic episodes (particularly in patients with bipolar disorder)
  • Hearing loss (only if ears aren’t properly protected during treatment)

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Is TMS Right for You?

There are a few things to consider when deciding if TMS is the right treatment for you:

  • Take into account the benefits mentioned and discussed above
  • Speak to a practitioner or medical doctor regarding your medical history, symptoms, and disorders.

Contact the helpful team here at Neuralia TMS to book a consultation and perhaps a treatment cycle for TMS.

FAQs

  • TMS is not suitable for those who have:

    • Magnetic implants
    • Bullet fragments
    • Aneurysm clips or coils
    • Stents
    • Implanted stimulators
    • Implanted vagus nerve or deep brain stimulators
    • Pacemakers or medicine pumps
    • Electrodes for monitoring brain activity

    This is because the magnetic fields produced by TMS therapy may interfere with implanted metal or magnetic devices.

  • TMS treatment sessions normally last anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes. Some TMS treatments, like theta burst TMS, are much shorter (3+ minutes) and more repetitious (rTMS).

  • TMS has proven to be an effective and helpful alternative to standard antidepressant medication. In fact, as mentioned above, it has been shown to be particularly effective for patients who are unresponsive to typical antidepressant drugs.

    However, TMS is also a useful treatment to combine with antidepressants in order to improve their efficacy.

Dr Shanek Wick – Author Bio

Dr. Shanek Wick, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, specialises in holistic mental health care with a focus on interventional psychiatry, neurostimulation, and addiction.

Neuralia TMS are the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) specialists in Perth, WA. TMS is non-invasive treatment for depression and several other conditions.

Phone: 6230 3996
Email: [email protected]
Fax: 6230 2231
Healthlink ID: neuralia

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