What Is TMS?

By: Stuart Porter, NP


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive, drug-free treatment  that is mainly used to treat the symptoms of depression and OCD. It works by delivering magnetic pulses directly to certain areas of the brain.  

TMS for Depression 

Depression can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including hopelessness, loneliness, fatigue, G.I. issues, aches and pains, and other mental and physical symptoms. These symptoms can make it hard for someone to even get out of bed in the morning.  

Traditionally, the symptoms of depression  are treated with antidepressant medications and therapy. However, these treatments may not fully relieve symptoms and in some cases, may not even work at all.  

The FDA approved TMS as a treatment for major depression in 2008. Many patients who receive TMS have reported that they are symptom-free after completing their course of treatment. Others report up to an 80% reduction in their symptoms.  

How it Works  

Depression patients have decreased activity in parts of their brain, so the magnetic pulses delivered by the TMS are believed to reactivate those dormant areas and even repair damaged neurons. In other words, TMS “reboots” or “wakes up” the brain and helps it work even better than it did before.  

If you struggle with depression and haven’t found relief from medication and therapy, TMS is a great next step. The treatment will directly target the areas of your brain that need stimulation. 

TMS for OCD  

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a severe form of anxiety that c an make it impossible for some people to hold a job, go to school, and participate in other necessary activities. OCD patients often deal with obsessive, unwanted thoughts and fears that cause them to develop compulsive behaviors.  

OCD is usually treated with a form of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Unfortunately, these treatments may not provide much relief from OCD symptoms. However, studies show that TMS is much more effective at treating OCD, with patients reporting a significant reduction in their symptoms.  

TMS became an FDA-approved treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in August of 2018. Studies showed that TMS was two to three times more effective at treating the symptoms of OCD than the traditional methods of medication and therapy.  

How it Works 

Unlike depression patients, who have underactive parts of their brain, OCD patients have overactive parts of their brain, which could be what causes their severe symptoms. But the magnetic stimulation delivered by the TMS can help regulate these overactive areas of the brain just as it reboots the underactive areas found in patients with depression.  

TMS as an Off-Label Treatment  

TMS is only approved by the FDA to treat OCD and depression. However, doctors can prescribe TMS as an off-label treatment  for many other physical and mental health conditions, including: 

  • Anxiety 
  • ADHD 
  • PTSD 
  • Bipolar disorder  
  • Addiction 
  • Alzheimer’s  
  • Autism  
  • Chronic pain  
  • Schizophrenia  
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) 

In Europe and other countries around the world, TMS has even been approved to treat some of these conditions. Hopefully, the U.S. can continue to study the effects of TMS on these conditions so that TMS can be used to help as many people as possible.  

How it Works  

All these disorders affect different areas of the brain. So the doctor can place the helmet at a different angle or deliver the pulses at a different frequency to treat a variety of illnesses.  

If you struggle with depression, OCD, or another illness that could benefit from TMS, ask your doctor about your options for treatment. Or contact us  at Serenity Mental Health Centers to schedule a consultation.

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