What Are The Risks Of TMS?

There are various treatments for depression, but many of them – or even all of them – can fail to provide results depending on the individual. The reason as to why this is, is yet obscure: all that can be said at present is that different treatments affect different individuals differently because emotions and other psychological phenomena cannot be defined or felt in one exact way.Whilst the fact that certain treatments might not work – despite pouring much money, time and energy into it – can somehow be accepted, the scarier fact for most individuals is the probability of side effects manifesting. Of course, any kind of medication or treatment has unwanted side effects, but these are more unpredictable when it comes to psychological disorders and syndromes. There is also the fact that the public knowledge with regards to non-primary and unorthodox treatments to psychological conditions is often ill-conceived – there are many fake rumours and truths (as well as half-truths) that stop people from undergoing treatment. One such treatment that the general public – as well as many in the medical community itself – tend to misunderstand is the transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment (TMS). 

TMS is often named together with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a form of treatment when medication and therapy fail to help cure depressive disorders. In the past, ECT was often performed without anaesthesia and in an uncontrolled way, which led to memory loss, fragmentation of memories and other serious complications. However, at present, it is performed in a controlled manner: small electric shocks are applied under general anaesthesia (and the probability of side effects is minor). Nonetheless, the bad reputation of ECT from its past results, seems to have rubbed on TMS as well – despite not requiring anaesthesia and being painless, it is also believed to cause similar serious complications.Of course, TMS has its own share of side effects, but it should be understood that they manifest only in rare cases in their more severe form. Good psychiatrists and other doctors specializing in psychology often name the following side effects when it comes to TMS:

  • Common side effects – there are some common but minor side effects, of which the most common is a minor headache. It can sometimes morph into light-headedness, or may manifest as more localized pain such as discomfort in the scalp region, or tingling and twitching of facial muscles. These pains are common, but often, taking light painkillers before the procedure can easily prevent their effect on the patient.
    • Rare side effects – there are rare but more serious side effects during TMS procedures. The most common side effect is fainting. If no adequate ear protection is worn during TMS, loss of hearing can also occur. There is also a very small chance of having a seizure during a procedure.

Danielle Chambers