Some patients have reported on Reddit that TMS “ruined my life”, blaming TMS therapy for making their symptoms worse, and even attributing new issues to the treatment.
These cases involve increased anxiety, changes in mood or personality, or a sense of detachment. Acknowledging that these experiences are rare but significant for those affected is crucial.
In this article, we explore statements such as “TMS gone wrong” and “TMS causes permanent damage”. We’ll also discuss why people might say “TMS damaged my brain”.
Why Might Someone Say, “TMS Ruined My Life”?
Here are three reasons why someone might feel TMS ruined their life:
- TMS dip
- Incomplete treatment cycle
Each reason is explained in more detail below.
What Is the TMS Dip?
Symptoms: During the TMS dip, patients might notice their depressive or anxious symptoms becoming more intense, which can be concerning if unexpected.
Occurrence: The TMS dip typically occurs around the second or third week of treatment. It’s not a universal experience, but it is significant enough to warrant attention.
Prevalence: Estimates suggest that about 20% of TMS patients may experience this dip.
What causes a TMS Dip?
- Brain activity changes: TMS works by using magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain. This stimulation can cause changes in brain activity and neurotransmitter levels. As your brain changes, your symptoms may temporarily get worse.
- Neurotransmitter fluctuations: The dip may result from the brain adjusting to these changes, particularly in how neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain, are released and used.
- Adjustment period: The brain’s response to TMS treatment is complex, and the dip can be seen as a part of the adjustment or “resetting” process as the brain adapts to the new patterns of stimulation.
Managing the TMS Dip
- Temporary phase: It’s important to recognise that the TMS dip is almost always temporary. Most patients report that their symptoms begin to improve after the initial dip period.
- Communication with healthcare providers: Patients experiencing a dip should always discuss it with their healthcare provider. Adjustments to the treatment or additional support may be necessary during this phase.
Risks of Misdiagnosis in TMS Therapy
Misdiagnosis of the patient’s mental illness can cause TMS therapy to be ineffective and potentially exacerbate the patient’s condition.
TMS therapy is primarily approved for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and its efficacy is well-documented for these particular conditions. However, if a patient with a different underlying disorder, such as bipolar disorder, is misdiagnosed with MDD and undergoes TMS, the results can be counterproductive.
For instance, in bipolar disorder patients, TMS therapy may trigger manic or hypomanic episodes, leading to a worsening of their overall mental health condition.
Study: Augmentative repetitive navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in drug-resistant bipolar depression. (B. Dell’Osso, E. Mundo, N. D’Urso et al, 1 Feb 2009)
Key takeaway: “Augmentative low-frequency rTMS of the right DLPFC combined with brain navigation was effective and well-tolerated in a small sample of drug-resistant bipolar depressive patients.”
Study: Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Treatment-emergent Mania and Hypomania: A Review of the Literature. (F. Rachid, 1 Mar 2017)
Key takeaway: “Given these findings, it is highly recommended to prescribe mood stabilisers to patients with bipolar disorder who are experiencing a depressive episode. It is also recommended that patients diagnosed with MDD be reevaluated to consider the possibility that they might have bipolar disorder before rTMS treatment is initiated.”
How Can TMS Help Me?
Take the TMS Quiz to find out more.
Can Incomplete TMS Treatment Make You Feel Worse?
There could be negative outcomes if TMS treatment is incomplete or discontinued abruptly. Some individuals might experience a relapse of their symptoms or feel worse, while others might not notice any significant change. The specific effects can depend on several factors, including:
- Individual response: Each person’s brain chemistry and response to TMS therapy can vary, so the effects of incomplete treatment can differ from person to person.
- Underlying condition: The severity and type of the mental health condition being treated both play a significant role. For instance, individuals with severe depression might experience a more noticeable change if the treatment is interrupted.
- Duration of treatment: How much of the treatment course was completed before it was interrupted can influence the outcome. Typically, a full course of TMS therapy is recommended for the best results.
- Psychological factors: Psychological expectation and the placebo effect can also influence how someone feels after an incomplete treatment.
- Other treatments: If the individual is receiving other forms of treatment like medication or talk therapy, this might mitigate or exacerbate the effects of incomplete TMS therapy.
Reddit TMS Ruined My Life – Fiction or Reality?
Reddit is filled with diverse personal experiences about TMS therapy, and people often seek advice from others with similar experiences.
These discussions range from successful depression transformations to unmet expectations and adverse reactions.
However, it’s crucial to recognise that individual experiences with TMS therapy can vary significantly and one person’s experience does not predict your outcome.
Doctors worldwide advise against doing health research on unreliable or untrustworthy websites, particularly social media. Good alternatives include Google Scholar and Consensus.app, where you can read peer-reviewed medical articles.
This way of doing research is much more reliable, as independent university researchers publish their findings and then other medical professionals review these articles before they are published.
How Can TMS Help Me?
Take the TMS Quiz to find out more.
Can TMS Cause Permanent Brain Damage? What can go wrong?
The short answer is no, TMS cannot cause permanent damage brain damage.
Current research and clinical experience have shown that TMS is generally a safe procedure with a low risk of serious side effects. The most common side effects are typically mild headaches or slight discomfort at the treatment site.
The concern about brain damage stems from a lack of understanding of how TMS works. TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific brain areas; it is a non-invasive and largely well-tolerated treatment.
The intensity and frequency of these magnetic pulses are carefully controlled and are within safe limits. It’s crucial to note that while the risk of severe side effects, such as seizures, is present, it is exceedingly rare. This risk is similar to the risks associated with taking antidepressant medications.
Our team at Neuralia TMS personally knows TMS providers who have tried the TMS treatment on themselves without negative side effects. So, if the people providing the treatment feel confident using TMS on their own brains, then you can trust that the treatment is safe.
TMS therapy will not typically cause any pain. TMS is a non-invasive treatment method that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, primarily used for treating depression. The procedure is generally considered to be painless, but a few patients may experience some discomfort.
Here are some points to consider regarding the sensation experienced during TMS:
- Scalp sensation: Patients may feel a tapping or knocking sensation on the scalp where the treatment coil is placed. This sensation is due to the electromagnetic pulses generated by the TMS device.
- Mild discomfort: Some patients might experience mild discomfort or a slight headache during or after the first few treatments. These symptoms are typically short-lived and can often be alleviated with over-the-counter pain medication.
- Individual sensitivity: The level of discomfort can vary from person to person. Some patients might be more sensitive to the sensation than others.
- Adjustments during treatment: If a patient experiences discomfort, the TMS technician can adjust the treatment settings to increase comfort. For example, the technician may reduce the strength of the magnetic pulses.
Does TMS have long-term side effects?
Most studies and patient reports indicate that TMS does not have significant long-term side effects. The treatment is generally considered safe, and its use has been approved by regulatory bodies like the FDA in the USA and TGA in Australia.
Concerns about potential long-term effects on brain function have been studied, and no evidence suggests that TMS adversely affects cognition or brain health in the long term. In fact, some studies indicate potential cognitive benefits, especially in patients with depression.
Continuous research is being conducted to understand the full spectrum of TMS’s effects. Currently, no substantial evidence suggests that TMS causes any severe long-term side effects.