can tms make depression worse

Mariah Brown

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Mariah Brown

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Welcome to this comprehensive guide on the topic of “Can TMS make depression worse?” Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive treatment that has gained popularity as an alternative therapy for depression. If you’re here, you’re likely seeking more information about the potential effects of TMS on depression. In this article, we will explore the topic from various angles to help you gain a better understanding of this treatment modality. With my experience in the field, I aim to provide you with valuable insights and answer the questions you may have. So, let’s delve into the world of TMS and its impact on depression, shall we?

can tms make depression worse

How does TMS Work?

The Underlying Mechanisms

Before we dive into the effects of TMS on depression, let’s start by understanding how this therapy works. TMS utilizes magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain implicated in mood regulation. By generating magnetic pulses, TMS can induce electrical currents in targeted brain regions, modulating neural activity and potentially alleviating depressive symptoms. The primary target for depression treatment is the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in emotional processing and regulation.

The Treatment Process

The TMS treatment process typically involves multiple sessions over several weeks. During each session, a medical professional places a coil against the scalp, delivering repetitive magnetic pulses to the prefrontal cortex. These pulses are harmless and do not require anesthesia or sedation. The entire procedure is non-invasive and well-tolerated by most patients. However, it is essential to discuss any concerns or questions with your healthcare provider before undergoing TMS treatment.

What Can TMS Do for Depression?

Evidence of Efficacy

Research on TMS as a treatment for depression has shown promising results. Numerous studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing depressive symptoms and improving overall mood. TMS has even gained approval from regulatory bodies like the FDA for treating treatment-resistant depression. However, it is crucial to note that individual responses to TMS can vary, and not everyone may experience the same level of improvement.

Possible Side Effects of TMS

While TMS is generally considered safe, like any medical procedure, it carries a certain degree of risk. It’s essential to be aware of potential side effects or adverse reactions that may occur during or after TMS treatment.

1. Scalp Discomfort

Some individuals may experience mild scalp discomfort or headache during or after TMS sessions. These sensations are usually temporary and subside on their own.

2. Muscle Twitching

During TMS sessions, the magnetic pulses used to stimulate the brain can cause muscle twitching in the face and scalp. Although this is a common occurrence, it is not a cause for concern and does not typically result in any long-term effects.

3. Seizures

While rare, there have been isolated reports of seizures associated with TMS treatment. However, it’s important to note that the risk of seizures is extremely low, and healthcare professionals take precautions to minimize this possibility.

4. Hearing Problems

During TMS treatment, the magnetic pulses create clicking sounds, which may cause temporary hearing problems or discomfort. However, protective earplugs are typically worn during sessions to mitigate this issue.

5. Cognitive Changes

Some individuals have reported temporary cognitive changes, such as difficulty concentrating or memory issues, during TMS treatment. However, these effects are typically mild and resolve after completing the treatment cycle.

Is TMS Right for Everyone?

Patient Selection

TMS is generally well-tolerated, but it may not be the ideal treatment option for everyone with depression. Healthcare professionals carefully evaluate each patient’s suitability for TMS before recommending the procedure. Factors such as treatment history, severity of depression, and individual medical considerations play a role in determining candidacy for TMS.

Effectiveness in Treatment-Resistant Depression

TMS has shown particular promise in treating individuals with treatment-resistant depression. If you’ve tried other treatments without success, TMS may offer you a new opportunity for improvement. However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider to discuss your specific circumstances and explore all available treatment options before deciding on TMS.


1. Can TMS make depression worse?

No, TMS is not known to make depression worse. In fact, the goal of TMS is to alleviate depressive symptoms and improve overall mood. However, individual responses to TMS may vary, and it’s essential to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

2. How long does it take for TMS to work?

Many individuals experience improvements in depressive symptoms after a few weeks of TMS treatment. However, the exact timeline can vary among individuals, and it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for a more accurate assessment based on your specific circumstances.

3. Are the effects of TMS permanent?

The effects of TMS on depression can vary among individuals. While some individuals may experience long-lasting improvements, others may require maintenance or follow-up sessions to sustain the benefits. It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you.

4. Are there any long-term risks associated with TMS?

TMS is generally considered safe with minimal long-term risks. However, since TMS is a relatively new treatment intervention, its long-term effects are still being studied. Regular follow-up visits with your healthcare provider can offer ongoing monitoring and ensure any potential issues are addressed promptly.

5. Can TMS be combined with other depression treatments?

Yes, TMS can be combined with other depression treatments, such as medication or psychotherapy. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that best suits your needs.

6. How many TMS sessions are typically needed?

The number of TMS sessions varies depending on individual needs and treatment response. Typically, a full course of TMS treatment consists of multiple sessions over several weeks. Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate duration and frequency of treatment based on your specific circumstances.

7. Is TMS covered by insurance?

Insurance coverage for TMS can vary depending on your location, insurance provider, and specific policy. It’s advisable to contact your insurance company directly to inquire about coverage and any associated requirements.

8. Can TMS be performed at home?

TMS is a medical procedure that should be performed under the supervision of a trained healthcare professional. Home-based TMS devices are not recommended, as they may not have undergone the same rigorous testing and may not be as safe or effective as clinical TMS systems.

9. How does TMS compare to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?

TMS and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are both treatment options for depression, but they differ in their approach. While ECT involves administering electric currents to induce seizures, TMS uses magnetic pulses to stimulate specific brain regions non-invasively. TMS is generally associated with fewer side effects and offers a more targeted treatment approach compared to ECT.

10. What should I expect during a TMS session?

During a TMS session, you will be comfortably seated in a chair. A medical professional will apply the coil to your scalp, and you may feel tapping or clicking sensations during the treatment. Each session typically lasts around 20-40 minutes, and you can resume your daily activities immediately afterward.


Congratulations on reaching the end of this comprehensive guide on the potential effects of TMS on depression. We’ve explored the underlying mechanisms of TMS, its benefits, possible side effects, and address common questions surrounding this treatment modality. Remember, if you’re considering TMS as a treatment option, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider to understand if it’s right for you. By working closely with your healthcare team, you can make informed decisions about your mental health and embark on a path towards recovery.

If you’re interested in learning more about mental health or other related topics, be sure to explore our other articles. We’re here to support you on your journey to well-being.


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