TMS For Depression: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Can Help You Heal

Keegan Warrington
August 30, 2021

As humans, it’s normal for us to feel emotions, which include sadness and grief. While we all feel down from time to time, major depression is much more than that and can lead to other more serious symptoms if left untreated.

As a matter of fact, depression is one of the most common mental disorders and the leading cause of disability in the country. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2017, about 17 million adults (7.1% of all American adults) had at least one major depressive episode.

Luckily, there’s a whole range of ways to treat this mental illness. This includes TMS treatment.

What is TMS for depression?

A non-invasive procedure, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) stimulates nerve cells in the brain using electromagnetic pulses to help symptoms of neurological or mental disorders, i.e., depression.

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Devices used in TMS operate outside of the body and apply powerful magnetic fields to certain areas of the brain that are known to be associated with depression.

Because this type of brain stimulation uses repetitive electrical impulses, it’s sometimes referred to as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.

What happens in a TMS session?

Physicians or technicians who specialize in transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression conduct the session. Being an outpatient procedure, you can have it done in a medical clinic or hospital, and you don’t have to stay the night.

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It’s important to remember to remove anything on your person that may be sensitive to magnets, like jewelry, belts, and watches.

What to expect during TMS

  1. You’ll sit in a comfortable share and be awake throughout the treatment. The technician will let you wear earplugs to minimize the magnetic impulses’ clicking sound.
  2. During the first session, the technician will take measurements:
  1. of your head to know where to place the coil; and
  2. to customize the settings on the machine.
  1. They’ll then place the coil above the front of your brain and then start the treatment.
  2. When the magnetic impulses start, you’ll hear a clicking sound and feel a knocking or tapping where the coil is.
  3. Sessions can last 30 to 60 minutes. The treatment does not require anesthesia, so you can drive yourself out and continue with regular activities.

While the exact length of your treatment would depend on your condition and response, you’ll have the treatment five days a week for four to six weeks.

Why do people choose TMS for depression over other treatments?

People with depression are usually treated with antidepressant medication and certain types of therapy (e.g., psychotherapy). Medication alone is enough for some to get some relief.

On a higher or more severe level, “shock therapy” or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been the optimum treatment for depression for many decades. To this day, it’s considered to be “the most potent and effective treatment for this condition,” as mentioned in a blog article by Harvard Health Publishing.

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However, these treatments don’t always work. According to an article published in BMC Psychiatry, about 30% of people with depression don’t respond to the treatments. And not everyone chooses to go through ECT due to its difficulty to tolerate and its memory and cognition side effects.

In cases where first-line treatments do not work (ECT and medication), patients may opt for TMS to treat their depression. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even approved this type of therapy for that purpose.

Does TMS really work for depression?

The same Harvard article says that about 50% to 60% of people struggling with depression who have taken medication and failed to receive its benefits get a “clinically meaningful response with TMS.” More than that, about a third of these people experience complete remission.

In addition to that, a 2015 study found that there is a link between depression and reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is involved with symptoms of depression, such as changes in appetite and low energy levels.

With TMS, the nerve cells may be stimulated and increase activity in that area.

The TMS depression success rate looks promising, with response rates between 30% to 64%. This is because TMS therapy has been mainly studied as a depression treatment. On the other hand, more research is needed to understand its effectiveness for other conditions.

TMS and Other Mental Health Conditions

While TMS is primarily used to treat depression, further research is being conducted on it in relation to other conditions. Here are some that TMS may help with.

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

One study found that there is often increased activity between the prefrontal cortex and striatum in people with OCD, which is associated with severe OCD symptoms. TMS can reduce OCD symptoms by inhibiting activity in that part of the brain.

Similar to treating depression, TMS is recommended if medication and psychotherapy do not work.


TMS may treat anxiety because disorders like depression and OCD often cause anxiety symptoms.

It’s often that nerve cell activity increases in the prefrontal cortex in anxiety. According to a study in 2019, TMS decreases activity in that region.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A 2019 review showed that TMS could be effective for PTSD. The prefrontal cortex regulates how to process worry and fear. In turn, TMS can target that area.

Furthermore, a trial in 2018 found that using TMS with cognitive processing therapy was an effective treatment for PTSD. The combination’s therapeutic effect lasted for six months.

There is always another way

Depression is among the most common mental disorders today, and it’s also one of the hardest things people go through. It’s natural to want to find cures and treatments to make yourself feel better. But if what is typically out there doesn’t work for you, there is another way. Before giving up, you may want to give TMS a shot.

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Are you looking for a place that offers TMS for depression and has people committed to your long-term recovery? Roots TMS is here for you. You can visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave Suite 102, Long Beach, CA 90807, United States. You may also contact us at 562-203-0567 or schedule a consultation with our compassionate team.

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Keegan Warrington