TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) FAQ


What is TMS?

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is an alternative treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, but it is most commonly used to treat major depression and anxiety. This noninvasive therapy involves using a magnetic field to stimulate underactive neurons in specific parts of the brain. TMS therapy typically takes about 6 weeks and is over 70% effective for providing long-term relief from depression symptoms.

What does TMS treat?

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is most commonly used to treat major depression and anxiety. It is also an FDA-approved alternative treatment for OCD, bipolar depression, and nicotine addiction. Research shows that TMS can also effectively treat PTSD, insomnia, chronic pain, memory impairment, and ADHD in adults.

Who is eligible for TMS therapy?

Most TMS providers will conduct psychiatric evaluations to determine if you are a good candidate for TMS therapy. Most patients use TMS for treatment-resistant mood disorders such as major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions including PTSD and OCD. You shouldn’t do TMS therapy if you have epilepsy or certain types of metallic implants in your head.

How quickly does TMS work?

Patients typically do 36 sessions of TMS therapy over about 8 weeks. TMS starts working within the first week or two for about 20% of people, but most people notice progress gradually throughout the full treatment course. About 10% of people are “late responders,” who don’t notice any changes in mood until after six weeks.

How long do the effects of TMS last?

The results of TMS therapy are different for everyone, but most patients who complete the full TMS treatment experience significant improvement of depression symptoms for 6 months to a year or longer.

Can TMS treat depression?

Yes, TMS is an FDA-approved and highly effective therapy for treatment-resistant depression. About 92.5% of patients experience significant symptom relief after full TMS treatment.

Can TMS treat anxiety?

Yes, TMS is a highly effective alternative treatment for anxiety disorders. It is most effective for comorbid anxiety and depression and major anxiety disorders that are resistant to other forms of treatment.

Can TMS treat PTSD?

Research shows that TMS therapy is an effective treatment for individuals with PTSD. It is a safe and noninvasive alternative to other medications and treatments and can offer relief from PTSD symptoms or make symptoms more manageable.

How much does TMS cost?

TMS therapy is now covered by almost all major insurance companies. Some companies have requirements for coverage, such as the patient having taken prior antidepressant medications in the past. Without insurance, TMS can cost around $250-400 per session, with a series of at least 36 sessions required for full treatment. However, most major TMS providers report that their average patient cost is around $30 per session.

Does insurance pay for TMS?

Yes, TMS therapy is covered by almost all major insurance companies, depending on your insurance plan. Most companies also have requirements for coverage, such as previous antidepressant medications or treatments.

What does TMS therapy feel like?

During TMS treatment, you can sit comfortably and perform passive activities like reading a book, watching TV, or listening to music. Most patients report that TMS treatment feels like a tapping on the skull. Some patients experience a tingling or scalp sensitivity at the stimulation site during treatment, which can be mitigated by placing the device at a different angle.

Is TMS therapy safe?

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a safe, noninvasive therapy for depression and anxiety, as well as other mood disorders and neurological conditions. The risk of seizures during TMS is the same as any other antidepressant medication, and the most common side effect is mild headaches that subside after the first week or so, or no side effects at all.

Where can I get TMS therapy?

TMS & Brain Health has 2 office locations, in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. TMS therapy is typically conducted in a doctor’s office or at a TMS clinic. The treatment usually requires six weeks of repeated sessions five times a week.

Can TMS damage your brain?

No. TMS therapy does not damage your brain; it is a safe, noninvasive treatment. Most patients report no side effects or mild side effects such as a light headache that subside shortly after the session.

Can TMS make you worse?

No; there is no evidence that TMS therapy worsens depression. Clinical trials have shown TMS to have a success rate of about 70-80% for providing significant symptom relief.

Does TMS change your personality?

TMS therapy does not alter your personality. Patients may notice changes or improvements in their brain function, which is often a result of experiencing relief from depression symptoms.

What is the dip in TMS Dip? How long does the TMS dip last?

Just as with other types of depression treatment, a small percentage of patients experience a temporary ‘dip’ or worsening of depression or anxiety symptoms. In the few patients who experience it, this dip typically occurs three to four weeks into treatment as the brain is adjusting to new changes. It is important to continue treatment even if you experience a dip, because the symptoms will subside over time.

Can TMS worsen anxiety?

In clinical trials, TMS therapy has not shown to worsen anxiety or depression symptoms. The majority of patients experience symptom relief within four to six weeks with mild to no side effects.

Can TMS affect memory?

TMS can actually be used to increase memory and strengthen parts of the brain responsible for memory storage. New research has suggested that TMS is even an appropriate treatment for early stage Alzheimer’s Disease and mild cognitive impairment.

What are the side effects of TMS?

The most commonly reported side effects of TMS therapy include mild headache, scalp discomfort during stimulation, and lightheadedness, all of which are typically resolved shortly after the treatment session or within the first week. Many patients report no side effects at all.

What is the difference between TMS and ECT? Is TMS better than ECT?

TMS means transcranial magnetic stimulation, which involves creating a magnetic field outside the skull to stimulate neural activity in some regions of the brain. ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, involves sending electric currents directly into the brain to activate neurons and induce seizures. ECT was once thought to be generally more effective, but recent research has shown that the two treatments are equally effective after about six months. ECT has higher risks, requires sedation by anesthesia, and often has more severe side effects such as acute confusion and memory loss. ECT is typically only administered for severe cases of depression that show no improvement from other forms of treatment, while TMS can be effectively administered for severe, moderate, and even mild depression.

Can TMS make you manic?

For individuals with bipolar depression, TMS has about the same risk of inducing a manic episode as SSRIs and other depression medications. TMS is most commonly used to treat major depression and anxiety, and there is no risk of experiencing mania for individuals who do not have bipolar disorder.

Does TMS help bipolar?

TMS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for bipolar depression with a high rate of effectiveness and little to no side effects.

What does TMS do to the brain?

TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, involves using a magnetic field to stimulate the neural activity in certain areas of the brain where neurons may be inactive or underactive. This is done by gently applying a wire rod to the outside of the skull.

How long is TMS therapy?

The standard duration for TMS treatment is 30 sessions. Typically, patients attend 5 sessions per week, so the full treatment lasts six weeks. Each TMS session will last about 20-40 minutes, and some of this time is used to calibrate the machine.

How effective is TMS?

TMS therapy is over 70% effective for treating mood disorders such as major depression, anxiety, and bipolar depression. It is most effective for patients with conditions that are resistant to other forms of treatment.