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What Does Deep TMS Feel Like?

Jun 25, 2020

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TMS. If you’ve read our blog, you’ve probably heard of it. If you haven’t, TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

TMS. If you’ve read our blog, you’ve probably heard of it. If you haven’t, TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It’s an incredible, cutting-edge technology that is FDA approved for treatment-resistant depression and OCD, and has been shown to be effective as an off-label, drug-free treatment for many other mental illnesses as well. It works by stimulating the electrodes in your brain to signaling them to be more active.

At Serenity Mental Health Centers, we use the H1 coil (or Deep TMS) machines by BrainsWay. These machines are designed for deeper stimulation of the brain for further optimized results, as opposed to the less expensive and more common figure-8 coil machines. There are some major differences between the two machines. While the figure 8 coil machines are still effective, they target a smaller area of the brain, and therefore the results of the treatment are often less significant.

So what does deep TMS feel like? Every treatment is a little different because they target different parts of your brain and use different magnetic pulse patterns based on what needs to be treated. Today we would like to share a few firsthand accounts of what some of our most common TMS treatments at Serenity are like.

The Depression Protocol

“I’ve been doing the depression protocol, so far I’ve had 26 treatments. To me it feels comfortable, just like tapping on the side of my head. Sometimes there are stronger pulses. If it feels too strong, the tech will lower it for me. It never hurts.

You come to the sessions Monday-Friday for approximately one and a half months. Staff are all very friendly and professional. They understand your diagnosis symptoms and encourage you.

I have noticed a great improvement. I have taken every type of antidepressant, have had years of therapy, and still continued to suffer from severe depression. I do not feel depressed at all and my family notices a great difference.

I feel TMS is a great treatment especially for people who suffer from treatment resistant depression. You start to enjoy life again, and the staff are all so great and supportive.”

-Betty

“I first became aware of TMS back in Oct 2019 when I was living in the St. George area. The place I received TMS used the NeuorStar (figure 8 coil) TMS machine. I was only able to complete 15 or so treatments before moving away from the area but I noticed there was improvement with my depression and I felt good about what I had gained. I had decided that would be good enough. 

A few months after getting settled in our new home in Utah County, I decided to look more in to TMS treatments because of how impressed I was with the improvements. I had the opportunity to learn more and educate myself further on TMS and the importance of finishing all 36 treatment as well as the differences in the type of TMS machines used. I read studies that compared the NeuorStar TMS vs the Brainsway TMS machines. I was excited to find Serenity Mental Health Centers and discovered they use the Brainsway H1. The H1 covers a deeper more broad area of the brain, bringing even better results. I wanted to make sure I was able to gain the best results possible so I decided to pursue treatment through Serenity Mental Health Centers, and was committed to completing all 36 treatments.

I began treatments in April 2020 through Serenity Mental Health Centers, being treated for depression and anxiety. I was so impressed right of the bat that the treatment seemed more comfortable than my previous experience. I was a little leery of the idea that this TMS machine uses a helmet (unlike the NeuroStar TMS machine I had used the first time.) The helmet along with the magnetic pulses being delivered over a broader area of the brain seems to lessen the discomfort making every treatment more comfortable. 

An additional benefit I found from using Serenity Mental Health Centers, unlike other places that offer TMS is that the TMS technicians that work with you throughout your treatments talk and interact with you during each session. They help you work on goal setting, gratitude, and help in directing your thought patterns in a more positive direction. I can honestly say when I knew they wanted to talk to me about gratitude and setting goals, I didn’t really want to have to think about that stuff. It had been difficult to turn my thoughts to the things that I used to enjoy, or to focus on being grateful and setting goals. Things had gotten better since my first TMS experience, but I thought that was as far as I might actually progress. When starting out with the techs working with me, not only did it help the time go by and lessen any discomfort the treatment might bring, but it has also been so helpful in helping my thought patterns to naturally process things in a more positive way.

To date, I believe I have received 33 of my 36 treatments. It has made a huge difference in my life. The depression is slim to none. The anxiety has lessened so much. I have not had any panic attacks since treatment at Serenity. I have anxiety creep up from time to time, but there is a level of clarity in my mind to where I am able to process my thoughts, and I am able to work through them. I have been able to go off all depression and anxiety medications. I care about doing things I love to do again. I am able to get myself out for walks, setting goals for running again, got myself to the gym again, I actually have the desire to ride my bike again and have goals to do so (this afternoon after TMS.) I am excited about sewing and decorating again. I care about talking to friends, and I am even putting myself out there again by visiting friends and hanging out with family. I am happy and fulfilled at work. I feel like I am actually taking my life back!”

-Jodi 

The Anxiety Protocol

“As of today, I have received 10 TMS treatments for my anxiety. For me, the anxiety protocol feels like a light, rhythmic tapping from inside my head on the left side. Personally, I think it’s soothing and could easily fall asleep during it (if that were allowed). According to my TMS technician, some people find it mildly annoying. At Serenity they use a combined approach of promoting solution based-thinking through conversation and brain stimulation by the TMS itself. The machine is fairly loud, so the technician has to speak loudly to talk to you during the treatment, but even with the increased volume, they come across as friendly, judgement-free, and easy to talk to.

The treatment takes about 25 minutes, give or take, and while the treatment goes you talk about things you’re looking forward to, things you’re grateful for, goals you have, and what steps you’re going to take to reach your goals. For me, I’ve been eating healthier and avoiding naps (to keep my sleep schedule consistent).
Serenity offers extended hours to allow for people with all sorts of schedules to still be able to come in to receive treatment, whether that is TMS, Ketamine therapy, or medication management. For me that means getting ready a little earlier to come in for treatment, which is probably my least favorite part of the treatment overall.

As a whole, I enjoy the session. It’s nice to start the day just talking about positive things instead of beginning the day by immersing myself in work first thing. Not only that, but I can tell that it’s helped my anxiety spike less, which is great.”

-Sierra

Anxiety Theta

A theta protocol is a concentrated series of stimulus that takes place over a condensed period of time, resulting in higher intensity. These protocols are not recommended for people prone to migraines, but are helpful for those with multiple conditions who have limited time.

“I did the depression standard protocol and the anxiety theta protocol. I have gone through all 36 sessions. To me, the treatment is very tolerable, even though it makes my jaw clench. The tech is very pleasant, and has been a bright spot in a lot of dark days. I think it must be working, because I’m not emotionally tanking like I used to even though I’m going through a divorce.

Everyone at Serenity is really friendly and overall, it seems to be run well. I like my psychiatrist, too. I’ve had a lot of psychiatrists over the years and this one listens.”

-Nathan

If you’ve been looking into TMS and felt unsure if it was worth looking into, we hope that this will help you with your decision. If you’ve had TMS and want to share your experience, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. There is always hope to take back your life! Learn more at serenitymentalhealthcenters.com.