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How close is TMS to Shock Therapy?



There's been a lot of confusion about TMS therapy, and people are often skeptical due to its similarities with electric shock treatment. This post will answer some common questions you might have before deciding whether or not this form of therapy could help your mental health issues!


Repetitive TMS is a noninvasive form of brain stimulation used for depression. Unlike vagus nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation, rTMS does not require surgery or implantation of electrodes. And, unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), rTMS doesn't cause seizures or require sedation with anesthesia.


While TMS and ECT have some similarities, there are more distinct differences between the two. First, ECT uses electric currents to induce a seizure, while TMS uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain in a non-invasive way. The procedures are also vastly different.


How does TMS compare to ECT?

TMS patients report minor and short-lived side effects. Treatment specifics – ECT requires general anesthesia and may necessitate a hospital stay, but TMS can more easily fit into a person's daily schedule. Cost – ECT is typically more expensive than TMS, though both may be covered by insurance.


How Does It Work?

During an rTMS session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression.


TMS is very different from electroshock therapy or TENS, which are considered psychiatric treatments that use electric shock. TMS uses no anesthesia, and people undergoing the procedure may discuss their thoughts with a therapist throughout the session.


Treatment sessions typically last 30 to 60 minutes once daily for four to six weeks during an eight-week period. Some TMS patients receive TMS treatment for more than eight weeks.


For some people, TMS offers relief from depression symptoms when other therapies have failed. TMS is not a permanent cure and may need to be repeated in order to maintain its effect on depressive symptoms. Some research indicates that TMS may also help with migraines, pain syndromes, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), and other neurological disorders. TMS has been studied in children as young as 12 years old who have treatment-resistant depression.


TMS is not a replacement for medications or behavioral therapy but rather an adjunct to these treatments that may help reduce symptoms when used along with them. TMS is a treatment that is recommended by the TMS Therapy Service, which was created as part of a TMS research study. It's important to note that not all TMS facilities have been approved by this organization and may not provide you with safe or effective TMS therapy treatments.


What Does TMS Feel Like?

Treatment sessions are painless and TMS does not cause seizures, so there is no risk of a TMS patient having an "electrical seizure." TMS also does not require anesthesia or special needles.


Some TMS patients compare the sensation to that feeling when your foot falls asleep or when you get poked with something sharp briefly. Others describe it as more like a woodpecker pecking on their head.. TMS also does not make you feel like electricity is running through your body, which is what happens during electroshock therapy.


TMS treatment sessions are safe and side effects are generally mild. Some TMS patients have reported feeling brief headaches after TMS treatments that typically go away in one or two days. TMS therapy has been found to be safe and well tolerated in pregnant women.


FAQs About TMS


Q: What is the difference between rTMS and ECT? A: TMS uses a magnetic pulse to stimulate nerve cells, whereas ECT uses electric shocks. TMS does not require anesthesia, and people undergoing the procedure may discuss their thoughts with a therapist throughout the session. TMS is also painless and does not cause seizures, so there is no risk of a TMS patient having an "electrical seizure." TMS also does not require anesthesia, and people undergoing the procedure may discuss their thoughts with a therapist throughout the session. TMS is also painless and does not cause seizures, so there is no risk of a TMS patient having an "electrical seizure." TMS therapy has been found to be safe and well-tolerated in pregnant women.


Q: How long does the treatment last?

A: Treatment sessions typically last 30 to 20 minutes once daily for four to six weeks during an eight-week period. TMS Therapy Service recommends that TMS treatments are repeated as necessary—typically every three to four weeks, but not more than once a day or five times weekly. Some TMS patients receive TMS treatment for more than eight weeks.


Q: How many sessions does it take? A: TMS has been found to be safe and well-tolerated in pregnant women. Most TMS patients receive TMS treatment for four weeks or more, but there is no set number of sessions that a patient must have. Some people find they don't need additional TMS treatments after having 30 TMS therapy sessions over the course of several months, while others may benefit from TMS treatment for as long as six months.


Q: What happens during a TMS session? A: TMS is administered by a trained professional and the patient remains awake throughout the TMS therapy procedure. A TMS psychiatrist or neurologist will work with you to establish an exact protocol that's best for your TMS treatment. You will be asked to sit or lie down on a couch so that the TMS coil can be held against the forehead without touching the skin—this is important because TMS patients are awake during their TMS therapy sessions and have been found to experience discomfort if they feel pressure from the electrodes, according to TMS Therapy Service. TMS is administered by a trained professional and the patient remains awake throughout the TMS therapy procedure. A TMS psychiatrist or neurologist will work with you to establish an exact protocol that's best for your TMS treatment. You will be asked to sit or lie down on a couch so that the TMS coil can be held against the forehead without touching the skin —this is important because TMS patients are awake during their TMS therapy sessions and have been found to experience discomfort if they feel pressure from the electrodes, according to TMS Therapy Service. Side Effects and Risks to consider • mild headaches (most common) • lightheadedness • scalp pain • neck pain • tingling • facial twitching • sleepiness • altered cognition during treatment


Who should NOT get TMS treatments? The TMS procedure is not recommended for patients who have a history of seizures. Those who have a metal plate in their head, or any other metal in and around their head should not have the procedure done. Braces and fillings will not interfere with the treatment.


TMS is a safe and effective treatment for depression that has been shown to be comparable to ECT. TMS may be the right choice for you if you are struggling with depression and have not found relief from traditional treatments. Contact us today to find out more about TMS therapy and how it can help you overcome your depression.

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