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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): Revolutionizing Treatment for OCD and Anxiety

By June 24, 2024July 1st, 2024No Comments

Anxiety is a normal part of life. It helps us stay alert, prepare for challenges, and react swiftly in dangerous situations. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming, persistent, and interferes with your daily life, it transforms from a helpful tool into a debilitating problem. If you find yourself constantly on edge, unable to relax, or frequently experiencing panic, it’s essential to recognize these signs and seek support. 

Your doctor may prescribe medications, recommend therapy, or suggest a combination of both. In other cases, they may use the latest treatment, like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to help treat your anxiety, particularly when it co-occurs with depression or is a part of your obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in specific brain areas. We’ll discuss more about TMS in this article, but first, let’s understand anxiety and OCD.

Anxiety and OCD

Health (NIMH), about 30% of adults in the U.S. experience an anxiety diagnosis at some point in their lives. This means they’ll experience either one of these types of anxiety: 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social phobia

The good news is that anxiety is the most treatable mental health diagnosis. In most cases, you may benefit from a combination of medications and therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, individual therapy, etc.

Many people have used these treatment modalities and have gone on to lead normal lives. Sadly, not everyone with anxiety symptoms will respond to conventional antidepressant medication. Others might respond better with non-traditional therapies like TMS or even IV ketamine.

What is TMS?

The TMS technique uses a magnetic coil to influence your brain’s natural electrical activity. It can treat OCD, depression symptoms, and other brain-related diagnoses. TMS is non-surgical, and therefore, the entire treatment is non-invasive. 

TMS relies on two principles of physics: magnetism and electricity. Every magnet has a magnetic field – and this is the space around it where the magnet has influence. While you can’t see it, the magnetic field interacts with conductive materials to generate electricity. This concept is crucial because your brain is electrically active, with neurons using tiny amounts of electricity to communicate.

TMS therapy uses a special magnet near your brain to influence electrical activity. For OCD treatment, this magnet primarily targets the medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Deep TMS™ to treat four issues, namely: 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxiety when it co-occurs with depression (Anxious Depression)
  • Major depressive disorder (including treatment-resistant depression) 
  • Smoking cessation

But Europe has many more approvals and there are numerous studies showing TMS effectiveness for:

  • Bipolar diagnosis
  • Chronic pain
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Addictions and substance use disorders (SUDs)
  • Stroke complications
  • PTSD
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Traumatic brain injury and concussions
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • And more

TMS for OCD and Anxiety

Living with OCD can feel like not living at all. Symptoms like constant intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors can take over your life and keep you from being productive. But TMS can minimize these symptoms and put you on the road to long-term recovery. 

TMS works by delivering repetitive magnetic pulses to targeted areas of the brain. These pulses, often delivered at a high frequency, can alter brain activity in areas associated with OCD and anxiety. The modification of these neural circuits allows TMS to reduce the intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors characteristic of OCD, as well as the persistent worry and fear associated with anxiety.

TMS Procedure Details

Here’s a detailed look at what happens before, during, and after TMS:

What Happens Before Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Initial Consultation

At the beginning, you’ll have an initial consultation with a psychiatric provider. This meeting will involve a thorough evaluation of your mental health history, current symptoms, and any previous anxiety or OCD treatments you’ve tried. 

Personalized Treatment Plan

If suitable, your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan that’s specific to your needs. The plan details how long your sessions will be and how often. Your psychiatric provider will then determine where to place the helmet on your head and the intensity of your treatment. This is called “mapping” and is essentially your “prescription.”

Preparation for the Procedure

You don’t need to do much to prepare for TMS. There’s no need for anesthesia or sedation, and you can eat and drink as usual before your session, although it’s very important to stay hydrated before and after. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable clothes, as you’ll be sitting still during the treatment.

What Happens During Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Arrival at the Medical Center

Depending on where you are getting your treatment, you’ll be greeted by the medical team and shown to the treatment area. The environment should be relaxing and comfortable, helping to put you at ease.

Positioning and Device Setup

You’ll be seated in a comfortable chair, and a specially designed device will be positioned over your head. This device delivers magnetic pulses to your brain. The medical professional will carefully place the device to target the specific areas involved in OCD and anxiety.

The Stimulation Process TMS delivers magnetic pulses to the targeted brain regions during the session. You might feel a tapping sensation on your head, but it’s generally well-tolerated and not painful. Each session typically lasts 20 minutes. You’ll remain awake and alert throughout, and you can even bring something to read or listen to music to help pass the time.

Deep TMS™ for OCD differs from depression treatment in that the treatment is most effective when paired with a brief provocation or exposure personally developed for the patient based on their OCD symptoms. Activating the OCD circuitry at the time of stimulation helps target specific symptoms and improves efficacy for the brain to recalibrate its response.

What Happens After TMS?

Post-Session Monitoring

TMS has no downtime. You can proceed to do whatever you wish, whether it’s work, running errands, or simply heading home to relax. You might experience mild side effects like a headache, but these are usually temporary and manageable.

Long-Term Follow-Up

Your doctor may recommend maintenance treatment after a period of time. In this case, it means returning for single sessions every one or two weeks. Or, you might return for another complete round of TMS, which is typically covered by insurance after a specific amount of time has passed since the completion of your previous round.

Health Insurance and Accessibility

TMS is generally covered for depression, anxiety and OCD treatment, but it depends on the individual’s plan and requirements. Your health insurance provider may need you to:

  • Try at least one other type of OCD treatment before TMS
  • Obtain pre-authorization before you start OCD treatment
  • Cover costs related to deductibles, copays, or coinsurance as required by your specific plan

TMS at Relief Mental Health

Wondering where to get TMS for OCD and anxiety? Relief Mental Health offers transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment at all of its clinics. Where here when you need relief – contact us today to get started.


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