TMS & Other Therapies

TMS Therapy Presents Possible Solution to Pandemic Depression

May 7, 2021

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Image courtesy of HelpGuide.

It’s been a year since the whole world changed due to COVID-19, and during that time mental health has never been more of an issue. It’s currently at an all time low.

Though things are beginning to look up with the creation and distribution of vaccines, lots of people are still struggling with depression and anxiety due to how long they’ve been stuck inside or unable to see their loved ones.

Sometimes it can be hard not to feel hopeless with everything going on in the world today, but it’s important to remember that things will get better, and we’re starting to see the world begin to heal from the catastrophe of a global pandemic now, a year later.

Even if things appear as though they’ll start getting better, soon, it’s not only difficult to build up hope for that, but to actually believe it after everything that’s happened that no one would’ve ever thought possible. The world truly seems to have turned upside down.

Still, there are plenty of remedies that exist to help those who may be struggling with their mental health. It’s always important to look into those options and know what each has to offer.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, therapy may be a wonderful option to help with depression and anxiety you may have as the result of the pandemic that you haven’t heard of before!

What is it?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy is definitely a mouthful, but what exactly do these words mean? What does it entail?

Well, if therapy and medication aren’t helping a patient’s mental health, TMS therapy is an alternative method that more and more medical health professionals are beginning to use as it gains in popularity.

In the 1980s, research began to reveal that stimulating different parts of the brain could have a positive impact on mood disorders. TMS has stemmed from those studies— it stimulates nerves in specific regions that are negatively affected by depression with an electromagnetic coil placed on the patient’s head.

A computer generated image that shows the brain through the skull. Purple lines are moving toward a section of the brain that is highlighted in red. A second, zoomed in image of the brain shows the area in purple.
While the idea of creating a magnetic field within your brain may seem scary, the risks associated with TMS therapy are very rare, while side effects from antidepressants are much more common, and also more unpleasant than the common side effects of TMS therapy. Image courtesy of Mana Medical Associates.

It’s not an invasive or painful procedure, and it’s a very easy process as it doesn’t require anesthesia. Around half of patients may have a headache following the procedure, but very few patients experience side effects

People who are doubtful about TMS therapy should note that it has absolutely nothing to do with ECT, or Electroconvulsive Therapy —and that your doctor will only recommend it to you if they think the benefits would outweigh the risks. The risk of a seizure is 1 in 10-20,000 cases.

The treatment takes no longer than an hour, and patients can go right home after treatment. There’s no preparation necessary for before the treatment, either.

TMS therapy is currently used to treat depression, though medical professionals are still looking into its effectiveness in combating other disorders, such as OCD, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

Is it safe?

TMS doesn’t typically doesn’t result in any major or dangerous side effects and reactions, but is the procedure safe to get with the world still in a state of a global pandemic? After all, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way medical professionals operate.

Well, every step is being made to ensure that TMS therapy is safe to get even under the current, unprecedented circumstances, but as with going out for any reason during the pandemic, the proper precautions must be taken.

Many medical and dental facilities have closed except for absolutely necessary or emergency treatments, and so it’s opened up a discussion about which treatments are necessary.

For TMS therapy specifically, some places have determined it counts as an essential mental health treatment, and others claim it’s not because it’s a choice that not everyone pursues.

It’s definitely decided on a case-by-case basis by both the medical professionals and patients involved, but if you’re choosing to start TMS during this time it’s important to keep your safety at the forefront of your mind.

An image of a doctor giving a patient TMS therapy treatment with a machine labeled NeuroStar. Both doctor and patient are wearing COVID safe masks.
It may still be a little scary to leave the house these days, especially when it’s not for something “essential” like getting groceries. But if there’s anyone that you should trust to take COVID-19 seriously it’s medical health professionals, who are sure to be very careful about taking precautions. You shouldn’t put your health on a back burner to avoid going to a doctor’s office. Image courtesy of LVHN News.

Complete decontamination for TMS is difficult as it is for many other medical procedures, so if a patient with COVID-19 were to come in, they would also expose their doctors and other patients in the facility. This is such a problem due to the high number of people who get the virus and are asymptomatic.

There’s also an issue with the lack of easily accessible testing, and now vaccines are beginning to circulate as well but are still unavailable to the majority of the population.

It will take a while for the world to go back to “normal,” and if TMS therapy facilities were to shut down completely to wait for everyone to be vaccinated, many of them would likely go out of business as it’s not a procedure that can exactly transfer over online. 

Patients are welcome to start consulting and thinking about the process from home, though. And telehealth services— or online medical resources —are available to you. 

As it stands, all medical facilities must be following the necessary CDC guidelines in order to operate, so if you do find somewhere that’s offering in-person TMS therapy treatment, you can be confident that a lot of safety measures will be taken.

How can it help?

Why is TMS therapy a great solution for depression and anxiety that have been caused by the pandemic? Well, new and innovative methods of mental health treatment are more necessary now than ever before, since changes in lifestyle as a result of the pandemic have everyone feeling more than a little bit down.

A specialist psychologist named Alptekin Aydin in London has completed the TMS Certification Course— recognized both by NICE in the UK and the FDA in the US —and has personally had a hand in treating over 1000 patients with TMS during these difficult times.

TMS has been known to have minimal side effects and impact on the body, unlike many antidepressants. The first treatment should provide noticeable results fairly quickly as well, and it’s very easy to work into one’s schedule.

There are multiple different kinds of TMS therapy, though the most popular is rTMS, or repetitive TMS, with rapid, repeating signals. Deep TMS or dTMS sends deep signals, while the signal of traditional TMS is continuous.

On the other hand, TMS therapy has been found to help with many different kinds of depression, so it could help a wide variety of people. This includes, but is not limited to, depressive episodes, clinical depression, manic depression, psychotic depression, pre or postnatal depression and seasonal affective disorder.

An image of a man receiving TMS therapy with a machine positioned at the front and slightly to the left side of his head.
Getting treatment for mental health is a very important and impressive big step, and to take that step and admit you need help when everything in the world seems to always be going wrong is something to be proud of. Don’t be scared to pursue the solutions you know or think you may need, which may include TMS therapy. Image courtesy of South Tampa Psychiatry.

There are plenty of people dealing with mental health challenges due to many different reasons, but TMS therapy is a very versatile option that you might want to look into for yourself or a loved one that’s been struggling lately.

While pills or weekly therapy appointments may seem like a big commitment, TMS is easy to try and also easy to stop doing if you realize it’s not for you. However, it goes to the root of the problem that mental illnesses such as depression cause by directly stimulating your brain.

It is, of course, important to remember to stay physically healthy and safe during this global pandemic by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, but you should also remember that you need to take care of your mind, too. Checking in with yourself and your mental state during difficult times like these is absolutely vital.

And, if you find yourself struggling, considering a new method of treatment like TMS therapy could be just the answer you’re looking for. After all, most people haven’t tried it, so it’s very possible that TMS therapy could work for you where other methods unfortunately haven’t.

After all, how will you know if transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy is right for you if you don’t try it?

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