Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a type of therapy that can be used in the treatment of various mental health conditions.

There are many different types of talking therapy. Therefore, it is important to consider your choices. This article looks at some of the important areas associated with rTMS.

rTMS is a type of therapy that works for many people

What is Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation ?

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS): Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a type of therapy that can be used to treat an array of mental health conditions. The therapy involves a trained therapist using a magnet in order to apply multiple magnetic pulses to the areas of the brain which are believed to be responsible for the regulation of mood and emotions – called neurotransmitters. In theory, the higher the level of these neurotransmitters, the better mood and emotions become. It is very rarely used as a first line treatment, but if someone has little success in lessening their symptoms with a range of other treatments, then rTMS may be used.

1. rTMS is a rather unique type of therapy!

rTMS uses a rather novel approach to treating mental health conditions. The therapy involves a trained therapist using a magnet to apply multiple magnetic pulses to certain chemicals in the brain that are believed to be linked to mood and emotions.

The idea is to try and boost these areas, with the belief being that the higher the levels of these chemicals, the better mood and emotions are.

2. rTMS can treat many different mental health conditions

rTMS can be used to treat many different mental health conditions. rTMS it seems to be especially effective for treatment-resistant cases of Depression, such as when antidepressants haven’t worked [1].

Schizophrenia, Substance-related disorders and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are other conditions that seem to be able to benefit from rTMS.

3. rTMS sessions typically take 30 minutes

In order to maximise the benefits from rTMS, a patient will need to attend a clinic multiple times a week for 4-6 weeks. Each session typically takes around 30 minutes.

This is not much of a commitment over a long period of time. However, in the short term, this does require commitment, and will involve multiple trips to the same place each week.

4. Side effects from rTMS are possible, but are usually mild

Given that rTMS does directly seek to affect the brain, side effects are possible. In most cases, side effects will be headaches or tingling jaws – areas that can be treated either with patience or a mild painkiller.

However, there is the potential for more damaging side effects to take place. This includes memory loss, scalp burns and seizures. These are rare, but possible.

For more information, we have an article that looks at the side effects of rTMS – click here to read more.

5. rTMS typically doesn’t treat underlying causes of symptoms

One of the main issues of rTMS is that it doesn’t actively treat the underlying causes of symptoms. For those whose problems seemingly stem from a chemical imbalance, this shouldn’t matter.

However, if a person’s symptoms have been partially caused by other factors, such as past trauma, then rTMS may only produce short-term results. Such issues may need longer-term talking therapy to process.

rTMS can help to treat long-standing symptoms

6. rTMS is rarely available on the NHS

As a relatively new treatment, rTMS is rarely provided for free on the NHS. Instead, most people who wish to undergo rTMS will need to do so privately, which incurs large costs.

As a result, many people choose to undergo other treatments. However, if more and more people continue to derive benefit from rTMS, then the NHS may make it a more accessible treatment.

7. rTMS doesn’t appear to be as effective as Electroconvulsive Therapy

There are many parallels between rTMS and Electroconvulsive Therapy – which is better known as “Electric shock” therapy. Because of these similarities, they are often compared.

Studies show that Electroconvulsive Therapy does appear to be more effective than rTMS for many people [2]. But for those who would rather not engage in Electroconvulsive Therapy, rTMS can be a more positive and less-risky alternative.

We have an article that looks at the effectiveness of rTMS – click here to read it.

8. rTMS is rarely a first line of treatment

rTMS is rarely used as a first line of treatment. Before being offered rTMS, a patient should really have tried talking therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication.

If none of these interventions have worked, rTMS could prove to be an effective tool. Many who try rTMS do receive benefits from it, even if it does take time.

See Also


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[1] Rossini, D., Lucca, A,, Zanardi, R., Magri, L. & Smeraldi, E. (2005). Transcranial magnetic stimulation in treatment-resistant depressed patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychiatry Research. 137 (1), p1-10.

[2] Berlim, M., Van den Eynde, F. & Daskalakis, Z. (2013). Efficacy and acceptability of high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) versus electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for major depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of r. Depression and Anxiety. 30 (1), p614-623.