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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has become increasingly popular as a groundbreaking solution for managing depression. Although the principles behind TMS go back at least 50 years, TMS is a relative newcomer in mental health care in the U.S., having received FDA clearance for depression treatment in 2008.

With any new treatment, concerns regarding its safety can arise. So, let’s address the burning question: Is TMS dangerous? Spoiler alert — the evidence overwhelmingly suggests it is not. Read on to learn more about why TMS stands out as a particularly safe and effective depression treatment.

Understanding TMS

Warning sign in the woods. Is TMS dangerous?If you are considering TMS for depression treatment but are concerned about its safety, you’re not alone. It’s natural to feel hesitant about unfamiliar treatments, especially when it comes to matters of mental health. TMS, being a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of depression treatments, may cause uncertainty simply due to lack of familiarity. While it’s easy to buy into a fear-inducing headline along the lines of “How TMS Ruined My Life,” the truth is that there’s no reason to believe that TMS is dangerous.  Understanding the science behind TMS can help alleviate these fears.

TMS involves the non-invasive use of magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells within the brain. During a TMS session, an electromagnetic coil is gently positioned against the patient’s scalp. This device emits focused magnetic pulses, stimulating specific areas of the brain associated with mood regulation, particularly the Left Prefrontal Cortex.

The procedure is non-invasive and non-systemic, and the magnetic pulses penetrate only a few centimeters into the brain with no impact on deeper structures, making it a revolutionary treatment alternative for individuals who haven’t shown positive responses to conventional approaches like antidepressants or talk therapy.

Research consistently supports the safety and efficacy of TMS for treating depression. Clinical studies have demonstrated its effectiveness, and the side effects reported are generally mild and temporary. As with any medical procedure, individual responses may vary, but the overall safety profile of TMS is exceptional. Moreover, advancements in TMS technology continue to refine the treatment, ensuring an even more precise and comfortable experience for patients seeking relief from stubborn depression symptoms.


Addressing Concerns

Despite TMS being FDA-approved for depression treatment since 2008, concerns about whether or not TMS is dangerous persist. For context, keep in mind that any medical treatment – even very safe medications or procedures – can produce side effects. It’s important to evaluate the risk and severity of potential side effects.

With TMS, these side effects are generally mild and temporary, with the most common experiences being mild discomfort in the scalp or headaches that may persist for around 24 hours post-session. These sensations typically diminish over time as the patient’s body adjusts to the treatment.

While some may worry about the long-term effects of TMS, the procedure has been in use for more than 15 years, and extensive and ongoing studies have failed to identify any substantial long-term risks associated with the treatment. This strong track record demonstrates the safety of TMS.


TMS Safety vs Other Depression Treatments

When compared to antidepressants and ECT, TMS stands out as a safer and more tolerable option to traditional treatment methods, offering equal or better levels of relief with far fewer potential side effects.

TMS vs. Antidepressants

Antidepressants often come with a long list of potential side effects, ranging from mild issues like weight gain and nausea to more severe side effects such as suicidal thoughts or increased risk of bleeding. These side effects can be minor irritations or potentially dangerous complications, especially for individuals with certain health conditions.

In contrast, TMS has far fewer and far less severe potential side effects. The most common side effects with TMS are mild, generally short-lived, and far less onerous than the potential complications associated with long-term antidepressant use. A mild headache is the most commonly reported side effect, and it typically diminishes in time as the body becomes more used to TMS treatment.

TMS vs. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

While TMS can often be confused with ECT, another often-used treatment for depression, the two could not be more different. ECT is an invasive procedure involving anesthesia and electrically induced seizures, with a risk of side effects such as memory loss.

While both TMS and ECT are interventional psychiatry procedures, TMS is a much safer alternative to ECT. It is entirely non-invasive, and does not rely on electric shocks or induced seizures to produce its result. The targeted magnetic pulses used in TMS stimulate targeted areas of the brain without affecting the entire neural network, minimizing the risk of cognitive side effects. This process ensures a more comfortable and reassuring treatment experience.

TMS Treatment in Utah

For those seeking a safe and effective alternative for managing depression, Ampelis Health offers TMS treatment for depression at two convenient locations in Highland and South Ogden. Our dedicated professionals provide personalized care, tailoring treatment plans to the unique needs of each individual. Our clinics use state-of-the-art TMS technology, ensuring that patients receive the most advanced and effective treatment available in a comfortable, supportive environment.

Contact Ampelis Health today to see if TMS treatment may be the right option for you. Our experienced mental health providers can give you a full evaluation and determine if you are a good candidate for TMS.

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