A Guide: How Effective is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression

Keegan Warrington
October 25, 2021

Technology has opened up so many doors in terms of mental health support, advocacy, and data collection. Your smartphones, tablets or iPads give way for your doctors and researchers to monitor your progress, enable you to get help, and increase the understanding of your mental well-being.

An example of a new breakthrough in treating the different kinds of mental health issues include Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS. This is a non-invasive, FDA-approved medical procedure that uses magnetic pulses to activate your brain’s neurotransmitters’ natural function. It will stimulate your scalp that would reach your brain’s mood center and automatically alleviate and improve any symptoms of anxiety and depression. TMS treatment is used when other forms of medications and treatments aren’t working.

So, if you have been feeling depressed and have tried everything else, TMS might be something you could consider. Discover how effective transcranial magnetic stimulation is for depression and other mental health issues.

Depression Defined

Depression is among the most common mental health disorders affecting people around the world. According to NAMI.org more than 19 million adults in the United States or nearly 8% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

You might confuse or associate depression with sadness, which happens a lot, but it is more than just that. Depression is a form of mental disorder defined as:

  • Feeling down or having a depressive mood
  • Uninterested with activities you usually enjoy
  • Weight loss or weight gain but totally unrelated to your diet
  • Having issues with sleep
  • Increased fatigue or loss of energy
  • Amplified purposeless physical activities like; pacing, or hand wringing, or slowed movements, or speech
  • Feeling guilty and worthless
  • Having difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Having suicidal thoughts

What Is TMS Therapy Like?

During an rTMS session or repetitive TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), an electromagnetic coil is placed on your scalp closer to your forehead. This electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse to the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression and stimulates it —like what its name suggests. It is said to activate these regions in your brain that have slowed down or decreased during your depression.

Although how rTMS works is not completely understood, the process is said to impact how the brain works and eventually eases depression symptoms and improves your overall mood.

Benefits of TMS include:

  • It is non-invasive – which means, it can activate your brain’s functions without cutting into it.
  • It is targeted – meaning, it only targets what needs to be treated– -which is the part of your brain associated to depression, and nothing else.
  • It has no side effects – case in point; unlike other treatments or antidepressants which can be absorbed by the blood, TMS’ harmless and painless magnetic pulses go straight where it needs to go.

Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Effective For Depression

TMS therapy was created to treat major depressive disorder or depression. It uses MRI-strength magnetic pulses that activates the part of the brain that has been inactive in people who are depressed.

TMS is perfect for people whose depression has not been treated even after they have undergone different types of treatments and medication. If you want to get off medications and want something without side effects and is way more effective, then TMS is for you. There are many people with depression symptoms that have significantly improved after 4-6 weeks of treatment.

woman sitting on wing chair

It is said that major depressive disorder is seen in at least seven percent of the general population. There are many known effective treatments but almost 30 percent of these depressed patients do not respond to treatment. Brain stimulation techniques are possible treatment methods for patients with treatment resistant depression. There are over 20 random, controlled trials investigating TMS’ efficacy, most of these studies used sample sizes less than 20.

Twelve patients with depression were given either active rTMS or sham treatment in a double-blind crossover design. The study suggested that the rTMS treatment showed antidepressant activity.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessing the efficacy of rTMS or sham rTMS in 70 patients with major depression. It was shown that patients given active rTMS had shown great improvement in their depression scores compared to those given the sham treatment.

What Other Conditions Can TMS Cure?

Since the introduction of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in 1985, it has been studied for its effectiveness in diverse psychiatric disorders. It has been hyped to be an effective treatment for people with major depression, OCD, Tourette syndrome, and even in reducing auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Twelve patients with obsessive compulsive disorder received rTMS to a right or left lateral prefrontal and midoccipital site in random order. The twelve candidates’ mood and symptoms were rated for eight hours afterward. Their compulsive urges definitely decreased after right lateral prefrontal rTMS.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Ten patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD were given one session of slow TMS. It was discovered to be effective in lowering the core symptoms of PTSD: anxiety, avoidance, and somatization. The said patients also exhibited a general clinical progress as measured by the Clinical Global Impression Scale, but the effect was short-lived.


Four patients in a pilot study having stable deficit syndrome of schizophrenia were treated with high frequency rTMS over their left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These four patients showed a significant reduction in negative symptoms and improvement in function.

Anxiety Disorders

TMS works with treating anxiety by accessing your limbic system. It regulates the emotional center of your brain. The amygdala is a crucial part of your brain that works to process your emotions; it controls your fight or flight response. So, for example, if you are suffering from anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), that means that your brain is hyperactive in the amygdala. This is what causes your extreme symptoms to come out as an anxiety disorder. TMS treats anxiety by getting the neurons in your brain back to a healthy level and therefore relieving stubborn symptoms of anxiety. A recent study of TMS for patients with GAD entailed six sessions over three weeks (twice a week) of low-frequency stimulation over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). TMS resulted in noticeable improvements in the patients symptoms of anxiety. These developments remained consistent over a six-month period upon follow up.

man standing on sand while spreading arms beside calm body of water

Imagine that after three months of follow ups, the positive effects were sustained in the patients that received an active TMS procedure. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is just one example where medical technology is making mental health services a little more accessible for everyone.

Here at Roots TMS, giving patients with the highest level of safety and support. It is hard to fight depression as it is, let alone when done alone. That’s why Roots TMS will make sure that your journey to wellness will be treated with utmost care and love.

Give us a call at 562-526-1791 or email us at info@rootstms.com and let your TMS journey begin today!

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Keegan Warrington