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TMS: How Does It Work and How Long Does It Last?

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Published: April 26, 2022
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If you have been diagnosed with depression or think you have signs of depression, you may believe your treatment options are limited to antidepressant medications or therapy. However, there are other options to consider, including for people who haven’t responded well to common depression treatments.

One of these options is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy. While many people are unaware of this treatment option, it has actually been FDA-cleared since 2008 as a treatment for major depressive disorder. How long does it take for TMS to provide benefits, and do they last?

When does TMS start working?

TMS therapy usually takes a few weeks before results are noticeable. This varies for each person, just as results vary with other treatment types. Some patients notice benefits sooner, after just a couple of weeks of treatment, while it takes four to five weeks for others to notice results.

How many sessions does it take for TMS to work? 

These therapy sessions generally take place five days per week for four to six weeks, with 30 or more sessions within that time frame. Patients tend to gain benefits within this treatment period, while the point at which you first notice results may vary.

Which signs do you notice first with TMS treatment?

Once you start TMS therapy, you’ll probably wonder what to look for to know if the treatment is helping. There are certain signs that might indicate the treatment is starting to work. Generally, patients begin to notice small changes in their everyday lives.

Common experiences are to find it easier to work and interact socially. Patients notice they sleep better and have a better start to the day, which could mean getting up at a set time and feeling alert in the morning. Also, patients notice they do better at decision-making. These signs may vary, but ultimately, they have to do with a lifting of the symptoms experienced due to depression.

Do results last?

It’s understandable to want to know whether the results of treatment are long-lasting before you commit to the treatment. TMS does tend to provide long-lasting results and has a good success rate for treatment-resistant depression.

That said, it’s possible you may need maintenance therapy to continue your results over time. This is often true of other types of treatment as well, and not everyone will need maintenance therapy with this treatment. This depends on the person and various factors, including your mental health situation, age, lifestyle, and more.

It’s also possible that you may only need maintenance if something in your life happens to trigger a depression relapse. In this type of case, TMS is available to help you address the depressive symptoms again should you ever need it. It can become part of a toolset to turn to for managing depression long term.

Will TMS Work for Me?

It’s a personal decision whether to try TMS, and it’s something you can discuss with a mental health professional. You may decide it’s a good choice for you to try if you have treatment-resistant depression or are looking for an alternative to other treatments like antidepressants.

This is a non-invasive treatment option that is well-tolerated by most people. As for downsides, it requires a lot of treatment sessions each week during the treatment duration. Some people find the treatment uncomfortable, and you may need to try antidepressant medication first in order for insurance to cover this treatment.

Overall, transcranial magnetic stimulation has a high success rate for treatment-resistant depression, and patients who try it tend to notice positive results. Therefore, there is every reason to believe it could provide benefits for depression. Nonetheless, the only way to know for sure is to try it and attend all of your sessions for the best chance at success.

Get a better idea if TMS could work for you

Contact us to connect with a mental health professional and see if TMS is a good option for you.