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TMS Therapy and Mental Health

Keep reading to learn more about brain stimulation therapy and how it can help mental health better than ever before.

Brain stimulation therapy

Article Contents

Understanding Mental Health

In the past, mental health has been treated secondary to physical health. However, through years of research and study, we have found that mental health often works with physical health and even influences it. By understanding the brain’s part to play in all of this, researchers can seek to improve the lives of people through treatments like brain stimulation therapy. Keep reading to learn more about one therapy in particular.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

Mental health is highly important, but it is also highly individualized. The warning signs of mental illness may not be the same for everyone, and they certainly are not the same for illness. Before knowing what the illness is, though, some warning signs are commonly seen. These signs include:1

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively low
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Perceiving reality in an altered manner
  • Substance abuse and overuse
  • Physical ailments without obvious causes
  • Inability to function normally

For the most part, these symptoms should be observed over a period. Mental illness is not a singular event in most cases. Examples of the above issues will happen often.

Common Mental Health Conditions

There are several common mental health conditions that you may be familiar with by name. Of the most common, there are five that occur relatively frequently. These five disorders include:2

  • Anxiety Disorders: Disorders where individuals respond to situations with fear and dread, as well as physical signs of anxiety. These issues can include increased heart rate and sweating. Anxiety disorders are often comorbid with other mental health conditions.
  • Depression: A condition that causes individuals to feel persistent sadness or low feelings. Depression also comes with a loss of interests or activities and causes significant impairment in daily life.
  • ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is characterized by an inability to focus, and can cause impulsive behaviors. This disorder is often seen in children.
  • OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a condition that is defined by excessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. Individuals suffering from OCD often feel that they have no control over their unreasonable thoughts and fears.
  • Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. Individuals with schizophrenia may appear to be out of touch with reality.

Brain Stimulation Therapy

Brain stimulation therapy refers to different methods or techniques of stimulating the brain to alleviate mental health conditions seen by a patient. Brain stimulation can be traced back to the 1930s, with one of the primitive forms of brain stimulation therapy being electroshock therapy.

Since then, however, it has grown into a more developed practice, with real-world results in the patients undergoing treatments. TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, was developed as recently as the 1980s. These practices continue to be refined and developed, made better for the patients that rely on them. By stimulating the brain, healthcare professionals seek to alter the way that it works, reducing the symptoms that affect patients most when it comes to mental health conditions.3

Different Brain Stimulation Therapies Used for Mental Health

Since its first inception in the early 20th century, brain stimulation therapies have come a long way. There are a number of different brain stimulation therapies available to patients today. The ones most commonly used for mental health treatments are below.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a therapy in which an electric current is deliberately applied to the brain, causing it to have a short seizure. It is used for severe mental illnesses, like depression, when other treatments do not work.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is similar to ECT, as it applies an electrical current to the vagus nerve deliberately. It is used to treat epilepsy, depression, and pain.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgical procedure. In DBS, electrodes are implanted into the brain where they will regulate abnormal impulses. It is most often used for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST)

Magnetic seizure therapy (MST), as the name implies, involves inducing a seizure by applying a magnetic stimulus to the brain. It is used for treatment-resistant depression, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) also uses magnetic stimulus to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. However, it is not used to induce seizures. Rather, it stimulates inactive nerve cells, helping to alleviate many mental health conditions.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy for Mental Illness

Brain stimulation therapy
Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy is often sought by patients who have not had favorable outcomes from traditional therapy techniques. It is used to treat many different mental illnesses.

How TMS Therapy Works

TMS therapy works by placing an electromagnetic coil against the head. This coil delivers an electromagnetic pulse, altering the magnetic fields around it. When it does so, it alters the electric impulses in the brain, stimulating the nerve cells that may have decreased activity. When activity increases, the symptoms of mental illness are reduced.4

Benefits of TMS Therapy

TMS therapy has a number of benefits. However, the most significant benefit is that it is noninvasive. There is no surgical procedure needed, and there is no damage being done to promote treatment, which makes it very appealing for treatment.

Side Effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

As with any other medical procedure or therapy, there may be side effects seen during TMS. However, these issues are rarely seen in patients. If they are seen, they only last the first few sessions. Side effects include headaches, drowsiness, and discomfort or mild pain.4

How Much Does TMS Therapy Cost?

The average cost of TMS therapy is around $300 per session. The total cost, depending on the patient, can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000 for the full course.

What You Can Expect from a TMS Therapy

Here is everything you can expect from TMS therapy, should you choose to undergo it.4

Expectations From First Treatment

The first treatment normally lasts about an hour. You’ll be taken to a treatment room. In the room, you’ll have the coil placed against your head. The first treatment takes longer than the others because the doctor is going to be mapping your brain.

Medical professionals will dial in where the pulses need to be sent, and how strong the electromagnetic energy should be. You will have a conversation about your symptoms and sensations during this process, to help determine the power needed.

During Each Treatment

Every treatment after the first will last about forty minutes. You will sit in a comfortable chair, and remain awake and alert as the coil emits the necessary energy. It’s as simple as that.

After Each Treatment

Daily activities can resume as normal after every treatment. The first two may result in the side effects listed prior, but they won’t interfere with your regular life.


Results can be noticed within two weeks at the earliest, with most patients seeing noticeable results within four to five weeks. It is highly dependent upon the individual, however. It may take longer, but only in rare cases.

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