TMS as an Eating Disorder Treatment

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


An eating disorder is a psycholog ical disorder that involves an unhealthy relationship with food. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge–eating disorder (BED), and bulimia nervosa. Traditionally, eating disorder treatment has consisted of professional counseling and antidepressants. However, research has shown that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS therapy) is also a promising option.  

In this blog, we will discuss how TMS may be a successful treatment option for people who struggle with binge-eating disorder and bulimia.  

Binge Eating Disorder 

Binge eating disorder is a disorder where one has recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food without regularly using unhealthy ways to compensate, such as purging.  

Warning Signs of BED 

Binge eating disorder has many warning signs , including:  

  • Appearing uncomfortable eating around others or in public 
  • Stealing or hoarding food 
  • Creating a schedule in order to make time to binge eat 
  • Showing extreme concern with body image 
  • Frequently checking mirror to look for flaws 
  • Fluctuations in weight 
  • Feelings of guilt, depression, or disgust after over-eating 
  • Feeling a lack of control over ability to stop eating 

People with binge eating disorder may try their best to hide their behavior, so pay attention to the little details when you are worried someone may have an eating disorder. 


Bulimia, like BED, involves over-eating, but the over-eating is followed by an unhealthy attempt purge the calories consumed. Like most people with eating disorders, bulimics tend to have a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight. 

Warning Signs of Bulimia  

  • Stealing or hoarding food 
  • Creating schedules to make time for binging and purging 
  • Following fad diets or cutting out food groups 
  • Skipping meals or taking small portions 
  • Avoiding eating in public 
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water or non-caloric beverages 
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals 
  • Purging after a binge by means such as vomiting or abuse of laxatives 
  • Discolored or stained teeth 
  • Calluses on the back of hands or knuckles from self-induced vomiting 
  • Signs and smells of vomit 
  • Excessive use of mouthwash, mints, or gum 
  • Unusual swelling of cheeks or jaw area 
  • Maintaining an excessive exercise regimen 

Any eating disorder is dangerous, but bulimia has very serious and dangerous side effects. Self-induced vomiting can deteriorate the enamel on your teeth as well as damage your stomach, throat, and mouth. Purging by using laxatives is also very dangerous because it can cause improper functioning of the colon and heart, severe dehydration, laxative dependency, and other serious health issues. 

TMS as a Treatment for Bulimia and Binge-Eating Disorder 

Up until recently, eating disorder treatment options were limited to therapy and antidepressants. However, studies suggest that TMS therapy might be a successful eating disorder treatment option as well. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, also known as TMS therapy is a non-invasive procedure in which repetitive magnetic waves are used to stimulate the brain.  

In studies on TMS as a treatment for bulimia and binge eating disorder , after just 20 sessions, about half the patients saw a 50% drop in the behavior, and one-third of the patients saw an 80% drop. In some cases, the patients’ eating disorder behavior even disappeared completely. These results are promising because it means that people with eating disorders may have more options for treatment than originally thought.  

Hopefully, doctors and scientists will continue to research the effects of TMS on eating disorders so people who struggle with the symptoms can get the help they need to take back their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with binge eating disorder, don’t be afraid to reach out and find help. If you would like to learn more about TMS as an eating disorder treatment option, contact us  at Serenity Mental Health Centers.  

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.