TMS For PTSD: Fighting Traumatic Memories to Live a Better Life


Everyone goes through their ups and downs in life, but sometimes traumatic experiences or events can trigger people and cause them more stress than others. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychological condition that starts with one tragic event. Whether this is from someone who has been in a bad car accident, fought in the military, cases of rape or sexual assault, or any other tragic events, this is a very common condition that affects millions of people every single year. 

PTSD comes with a lot of different side effects, fears, anxieties, stress, and so much more that can be troubling to an individual and make living in the world even more challenging. People who fall under the troubling spell of PTSD can have a hard time trusting people, refuse to go out in public, or even push people away from them in order to protect themselves. With the help of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), it can turn around the life of someone who suffers from PTSD to help them move on from their traumatic situation and overcome their condition.

Continue reading this article to learn:

  • What is PTSD?
  • How Does TMS Help People With PTSD?
  • Life Changing Results for TMS on PTSD
  • One Woman’s TMS Journey to a Better Life
  • What Does the Future Look Like for TMS?

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short can be characterized as a mental health condition after a life-changing and terrifying event that someone has gone through where they internally have a hard time coping. Trying to move on from a situation, such as the one they have gone through, can be extremely troubling and they can find it difficult to trust others. Or they isolate themselves from others in order to protect themselves. Terrifying incidents, or events that could trigger the development of PTSD can include fighting in the military at war, sexual assault, life-threatening car accidents, physical assault, work related accidents, and so much more. 

While PTSD is usually identified with war veterans, it can affect anybody, not discriminating against anyone of a different age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, or even sexuality. PTSD can affect anyone after any kind of life-changing event and cause them a lot of pain in their lives. While it may be hard to cope with the situation and living in the everyday world, it is possible to get better and recover, slowly, but surely.

military men walking
While it is most common for veterans to be diagnosed from PTSD, the mental health condition does not discriminate and can affect anybody after a traumatic event. 

Are There Any Symptoms of PTSD?

Actually yes, there are many different symptoms of PTSD. While they may not be physical changes, they can have a devastating impact on someone’s emotional and mental stability. There are three main types of symptoms when it comes to PTSD and they can include re-experiencing the event through flashbacks or nightmares, emotional trauma where someone avoids people, places, or activities where they could encounter a flashback, and even becoming angered easily, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or feeling jumpy.

There is also the idea of emotional abuse that can result in someone’s diagnosis of PTSD. Someone that can cause emotional abuse can be a significant other, family member, or even a friend that can cause years of abuse to make someone develop PTSD, even once they get away from them. 

Someone that can cause emotional abuse on someone can withhold attention from others, threaten their loved ones, lack someone’s privacy, and so much more. Emotional abuse doesn’t always lead to PTSD, but it can play a factor in how people diagnosed with the condition like to isolate themselves from others to protect themselves from more mental, emotional, or physical abuse. 

Is There More Than One Type of PTSD?

There are five different kinds of PTSD and they go from the most minor form of it, to the most extreme. These can be considered reactions to trauma and they include the normal stress response, acute stress disorder, uncomplicated PTSD, comorbid PTSD, and complex PTSD. Normal stress response is how someone responds to a discrete traumatic event, which usually takes up to a couple weeks to recover. Acute stress disorder is a little more severe, which includes extreme anxiety panic reactions, disassociation from people, and usually takes treatment, such as therapy or even medication to treat anxiety or stress.

normal brain vs ptsd brain
PTSD alters the way that the human brain works, making it harder to cope and can cause someone to have flashbacks, or even recurring nightmares. Image courtesy of WebMD.

Now, when it comes to the more severe forms of PTSD, the first one is uncomplicated PTSD. This form of PTSD where the person experiences persistent flashbacks of the trauma, emotional numbing from the situation, and more, but the person can undergo psychological therapy treatments to improve. Comorbid PTSD is the most common type of PTSD where it is paired with depression, alcohol or substance abuse, panic disorder, or something else to go alongside the effects of the trauma, making it worse for the person.

The most difficult form of this horrible mental health condition is complex PTSD. Someone with this form of PTSD has possibly experienced abuse during their childhood, or another kind of trauma for many years of their life to the point where they are in extreme stress. This person can also be identified as having dissociative, or antisocial personality disorder as well and it can be the hardest form of PTSD to recover from. 

What is TMS?

PTSD can be extremely difficult to live with, and with transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, this can be a life changing procedure to help many people throughout the world. TMS is a non-invasive procedure that can be performed on many different brain health issues, mainly being used for depression. TMS is completely safe and has been FDA-approved for other brain issues such as PTSD, OCD, anxiety, and is in the process of being used for other brain related health issues as well.

TMS procedure
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, has helped to improve the lives of many people who have suffered from mental health conditions, such as PTSD, depression, OCD, and even anxiety. Image courtesy of California Mental Health Helpline. 

TMS is performed by the use of magnetic pulses, similar to an MRI, and are stimulated to parts of the brain that affect someone’s mood. The pulses that are stimulated onto your brain will within a few weeks help someone with depression be able to see signs of remission within four weeks of the procedure. 

Are There Any Side Effects to TMS?

Even though this is a safe procedure that can be used on many different people with brain health related issues, there are some side effects that come with it. Someone that is considering the procedure shouldn’t worry too much though because for the most part, they are minor side effects. In very rare cases, they can be major, but this isn’t very often as TMS helps people recover and see results very quickly from the brain issue that they were initially diagnosed with.

Some of the minor side effects can include headaches, discomfort at the site of the stimulation, tingling, twitching of facial muscles, or even lightheadedness. You should also know the uncommon side effects as well, which can include seizures, mania, which is more common in patients with bipolar disorder, and even hearing loss from faulty ear protection during the procedure. 

man getting tms procedure
There aren’t any severe side effects to TMS, but someone can experience headaches, discomfort at the site of stimulation, tingling, twitching of facial muscles, or even lightheadedness. Image courtesy of Principium Psychiatry. 

To make sure that TMS is right for you, it is recommended that you undergo a simple physical exam and even get a psychiatric evaluation to ensure that you are qualified for it. Depending on your health and psychiatric evaluation, this can determine if TMS is right for you and help you understand the minimal side effects, or even the major ones, that you could potentially experience after the procedure. 

Life Changing Results for TMS on PTSD

Since PTSD usually affects war veterans, TMS has been approved and endorsed by the Veteran’s Affairs for people who aren’t experiencing any positive improvements from medication, like antidepressants. TMS so far has improved the lives of one million veterans to improve their symptoms of PTSD to battle it and be able to live in the everyday world more successfully. 

When looking at the parts of the brain that are affected by PTSD, they can consist of three different parts, the amygdala, the survival instinct and how you express emotions, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which affects the way we process emotions, and the hippocampus, which is important because it helps to store and remember your memories. 

parts of the brain that ptsd affects
There are three parts of the brain that are affected by PTSD. This includes the amygdala, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus. Image courtesy of Star Advocates. 

The three parts are all affected once someone is diagnosed with PTSD and it is said that the vmPFC loses control of the amygdala, which causes extreme anxiety and also the hippocampus helps you distinguish the past and the present, which ultimately shrinks when someone has PTSD. For someone with PTSD, it is hard to distinguish between the trauma that they have been through and the present, making it harder for them to move on from their past trauma.

Why is it good to know this information? Well, TMS helps to stimulate the vmPFC cells using an electromagnetic coil to bring someone with PTSD back to normal levels of brain activity. With restoring these crucial brain cells, it can help someone with PTSD move on from terrifying times or events in their lives and help to relieve their symptoms too. 

One Woman’s TMS Journey to a Better Life

Although it is quite common for TMS to be performed on veterans, it can also be performed on anybody else that suffers from PTSD. One woman’s journey through PTSD, finally finding TMS, and going into remission after suffering for many years puts faith into the fact that TMS has changed the lives of so many people, no matter what kind of brain health issue they may be facing.

After being sexually assaulted in 2004, Julie Kabat tried everything she could possibly do to help her overcome this extremely painful time in her life. After the traumatic event, she suffered with PTSD for many years and she relied on antidepressants for years with little to no results. It wasn’t until she turned to TMS that she noticed and achieved some terrific results that helped her mental stability and to be able to overcome her PTSD.

julie kabat going through a tms treatment
After being sexually assaulted, Julie Kabat started doing TMS treatments after deciding that her antidepressants weren’t helping her cope any longer. She has seen life changing results such as remission from PTSD. Image courtesy of Spectrum News. 

Kabat describes the pain that she went through as the worst pain she has ever had to deal with and explained that her daughters were her saving grace during this difficult period of her life. She stated that if she were to think about what would happen if she got into a plane crash or even a car accident that she would be completely fine with it killing her. She tried to overcome the feelings that she faced for so long because of the sexual assault, but it seemed to swallow her for so many years. 

Since starting TMS treatments, Kabat has gone 36 times and has sat there for twenty minutes each session. She describes the procedure as having little to no pain and she even described it as someone ringing a doorbell in your head. Even since going through the treatments, she takes antidepressants, but has narrowed her dose down to one a day. 

Kabot names her experience with TMS as “rewarding” as it has had terrific results on her to help her move on and come to terms with her abuse and has made her stronger in the process. She still continues to go through TMS treatments to help her overcome her PTSD symptoms little by little each time.

What Does the Future Look Like for TMS?

As TMS evolves to help more and more people every single day, with people like Julie Kabat, war veterans, or anyone else that suffers from PTSD, it can be a rewarding and helpful procedure to go through. It may have some minor side effects, but it has shown to help people significantly suffering from PTSD and other brain related health issues.

It is very hopeful to think that TMS can help more people suffering with other brain related disorders as the years come, but as of now, it only helps people that suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. As TMS becomes more well known, it can help save the lives of many people suffering from PTSD.

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