Anxiety disorders are more commonly diagnosed than any other mental illness in the U.S. An average of 40 million Americans suffer from one or more forms of anxiety every year. Because it is so widespread, any treatment that promises relief and improved quality of life captures attention. Such has been the case with TMS treatment.
TMS treatment has been around for years. You may have heard about TMS in major depression treatments. But what exactly is TMS? Does it work for anxiety? What does the FDA say about using TMS to treat anxiety? The answers are explained below.
What Is TMS Treatment?
TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It is a procedure that uses electromagnetic pulses to activate parts of the brain to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. You can tell from the name that the treatment stimulates the brain by bypassing the cranium (the skull bone that protects the brain) to reach the targeted part of the brain. The treatment is non-invasive. The electromagnetic coil that releases the pulses is placed near the forehead of the patient.
Anxiety and depression result from dysregulation of a neurocircuit in the brain. So the coil delivers repetitive magnetic pulses that help calm the brain and ease the symptoms.
TMS is painless, so no anesthesia is required. It’s an outpatient procedure that consists of 30-36 brief sessions lasting 6-9 weeks. Your psychiatrist will decide how many sessions you need. Because of the comfortable, painless, and non-invasive nature of the treatment, some patients can take two sessions in one day. You may be able to drive or operate other machinery between sessions.
As with any mental health procedure, you need a psychiatrist who will take the time to listen to you and know you well before starting the treatment. They should also be able to address any concerns you may have, including a thorough explanation of the process and any possible side effects.
Does TMS Help with Anxiety?
For years, doctors have used TMS to treat the symptoms of major depression. The successful results are well documented. However, many Americans wonder if the same treatment can work with anxiety. Those concerns are valid.
The simple answer is yes, TMS treatment should improve anxiety symptoms. Considering many depression patients exhibit anxiety symptoms, TMS can easily cross the boundaries and work for either case. But what are the proven facts?
TMS has helped patients who suffer from anxiety disorders resistant to traditional medication. The treatment helps activate parts of the brain that are underactive in anxiety. TMS has been proven to help with:
- General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Anxious Depression
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The success rate of the treatment depends on individual patients. Some notice an improvement within the first few sessions, while others begin to see changes from the fourth or fifth week of treatment.
Because of the comfortable nature of the procedure – you will be seated on a comfy chair the whole time – TMS is sometimes preferred over medication. Knowing how safe the treatment is, reduces anxiety before and during the sessions.
Is TMS FDA Approved for Anxiety?
Yes. TMS has been used for treating depression for over two decades. In 2008, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the treatment for depression. The FDA protects the public by ensuring human drugs’ safety, efficacy, and security. They conduct studies on every treatment method to confirm that it works and is safe for you.
The use of TMS in treating anxiety was approved a little later. On August 18, 2021, the FDA approved using TMS to treat anxiety. So you should feel safe going in for a TMS session. That said, not every treatment procedure is suitable for everyone. Always talk to your doctor before undergoing TMS to ensure that the treatment is right.
The most common situations when TMS may not be a good idea are if:
- You have metallic devices or implants in or around the head
- Have other serious neurological issues
- Have other implants like pacemakers, ICDs, and VNSs.
To be safe, please talk openly with your psychiatrist. Ask every question you have and take as much time as you need to feel comfortable going in for your first TMS session.
Anxiety disorders affect more than 18% of the U.S. population. While these conditions are largely treatable, some patients experience medication-resistant anxiety and depression. TMS treatments can provide the alternative that such patients need.
If you’re looking to get TMS in Boston or the surrounding area, contact Arcara Personalized Psychiatry for a consultation to determine if TMS is what you need. We spend up to an hour listening and learning about your unique situation on your first appointment.