TMS Therapy, Medication, and Talk Therapy: What Are the Pros and Cons of Each Treatment?

TMS Therapy boston

Depression is a serious condition that can have a marked effect on a person’s mood, personality, self-image, and relationships with others. If you’re struggling with depression, it’s important to remember that not every treatment available will be effective for all patients, and you may need to try a few different kinds before you find the right therapy (or combination of therapies) for you.
Antidepressant medication and talk therapy are both well-studied treatment options that are considered highly effective, so most people who have been treated for depression are familiar with them. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a newer advancement that’s less common, but has also been proven effective for the treatment of depression. Below, we’ll compare information about some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of each.

Medication Therapy

The brain contains chemicals called neurotransmitters that impact mood and emotions. In many cases, a neurotransmitter imbalance can contribute to depression, and antidepressant medication can help to balance these levels. This can improve mood and reduce anxiety.

While taking antidepressants, the patient should plan on seeing their doctor regularly to monitor their progress.

Pros

There are many advantages to using medication for treating depression. First of all, many antidepressants are FDA-approved and have been scientifically proven to be more effective than placebos at treating major depression symptoms. In fact, they are the most widely studied form of depression treatment on the market. Antidepressants also offer flexibility to be used in conjunction with other kinds of depression treatment like talk therapy and TMS therapy.

Cons

While medication therapy is considered effective at treating depression in many, it doesn’t always work for everyone. The side effects of antidepressant medications can be overwhelming for some patients, and may include nausea, low libido, upset stomach, and bloating. The FDA warns that antidepressants can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions in certain populations, and that they may not be safe for pregnant women.

Another important factor to keep in mind when considering medication therapy for depression is the importance of maintaining a regular medication schedule. This often requires the patient to take their medicine at defined intervals (usually at the same time every day). The patient may also need to continue taking medication for many years, even after remission has been achieved, and a “weaning” period may be required for those who are ready to stop treatment.

Talk Therapy

For many people who suffer from depression, negative thought patterns can have just as much of an effect – if not more – as brain chemistry in how they experience their symptoms. Talk therapy gives the patient the tools they need to identify these thought patterns and behaviors and overcome them. Many people see a long-term improvement in their depression symptoms after regular talk therapy sessions.

Talk therapy, sometimes called psychotherapy, involves working with a specialized mental health professional to identify behaviors or thoughts that may contribute to depression and find solutions to them. This is done through regular interaction (usually weekly office visits) with a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other trained mental health practitioner.

Pros

Talk therapy can help patients feel less stressed or anxious, and can teach coping mechanisms to help them deal with their depression symptoms. It can easily be performed in conjunction with antidepressant medication or TMS therapy.

Cons

While psychotherapy can help many people work through existing social or personal problems, it can’t treat the neurotransmitter imbalances that are often the underlying cause of depression. In most cases, long term treatment, considerable patient commitment, and often some other form of depression treatment are necessary in order to achieve and sustain remission. Talk therapy may also be uncomfortable and less convenient for a patient – it may be time-consuming to attend sessions, and many people struggle to find a therapist they feel comfortable having such personal conversations with. Many patients become frustrated and stop attending therapy, which is not recommended.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

TMS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for depression that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for mood regulation. Though sometimes confused for ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, a treatment used only for very severe cases of depression), TMS therapy is painless and has a far lower risk of side effects than antidepressant medications. In TMS therapy, the patient undergoes several 19-minute sessions per week over a period of 7 weeks. During a treatment session, the patient sits comfortably in a chair while a large magnetic coil is placed over the head. The patient can relax during the treatment, and can read, use their phone, or listen to music during the session.

Pros

TMS therapy has been proven effective in over 100 clinical studies. It’s an excellent alternative for patients who dislike the side effects of antidepressants, but find that talk therapy alone is not enough to control their symptoms. TMS therapy is covered by every major insurance plan in Massachusetts (including Medicare and MassHealth), and can be performed in conjunction with talk therapy and medication therapy.

Cons

While TMS therapy does require a time commitment from the patient (19-minute outpatient sessions several days per week for around 7 weeks), our practice offers flexible appointment times, and most of our patients have no trouble fitting sessions into their schedules. Though side effects are rare, some patients may experience a mild headache after a session. TMS therapy is also not recommended for individuals with a seizure disorder or metal implant in the head.

Dignity Brain Health Is Here.

If you have any questions about depression, your symptoms, or any potential treatments you’ve heard of, know that you can contact our caring and attentive staff at Dignity Brain Health. We’re here to answer questions, help with treatment, and most importantly, serve as a support system for your depression treatment.

Omar Haque