TMS Therapy for Anxiety: Discover Benefits, Procedures & More

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a therapy traditionally used to treat the symptoms of depression.

However, it’s becoming increasingly common to use TMS therapy for anxiety relief. It’s known to reduce the number of panic attacks and ease general anxiety symptoms.

While most antianxiety treatments involve drugs or psychotherapy, TMS offers a non-invasive alternative.

Here, we explain the procedure and benefits of this groundbreaking anxiety treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • TMS is an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
  • TMS is shown to work even in patients who haven’t responded to drugs or psychotherapy.
  • Electrical impulses are sent to the brain regions involved in anxiety, regulating their activity. 
  • Each TMS session is around 30 minutes long and is painless and non-invasive. 
  • You’ll need several TMS sessions over a few weeks for effective results. 

How Does TMS for Anxiety Work?

TMS uses a magnetic coil to generate electrical impulses. These impulses are targeted at specific brain regions involved in mental health disorders to influence the brain activity in these areas.

The brain regions associated with anxiety disorders are the prefrontal cortex (the front part of the brain) and the amygdala (also known as the “fear centre”), which are involved in regulating emotions and our stress response. 

Therefore, TMS for anxiety targets these regions, regulating the activity to help regain normal functionality and produce ordinary emotional and stress responses.

This helps ease your symptoms of anxiety and improve your mood. 

How Effective is TMS for Treating Anxiety?

Several studies have found that TMS is highly effective in treating various anxiety disorders.

In 2022, researchers reviewed data from 677 patients across 13 individual studies and concluded that TMS improves the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). 

According to the National Library of Medicine, another review from 2019 agreed that TMS can treat GAD.

Across all the studies looked at, patients with generalized anxiety disorder had fewer panic attacks and a lower intensity of symptoms after a course of TMS.

If you have anxiety, TMS is a promising option.

That said, how effective TMS for anxiety is depends on the type of disorder you have. For example, the 2022 review found that TMS for panic disorders was not as effective.

More research into the TMS for treating different types of anxiety disorders is needed. 

What Are the Benefits of TMS for Anxiety?

Compared to traditional treatments for anxiety—namely medications and psychotherapy—transcranial magnetic stimulation has several advantages: 

  • Quick & Non-Invasive: TMS is a quick, non-invasive procedure, as the magnetic coil is applied to the outside of your scalp. The sessions last around 30 minutes each and have no downtime, meaning you can immediately continue with your day. 
  • Minimal Side Effects: Unlike antianxiety medications, TMS doesn’t cause many side effects. The most commonly reported issues are headaches and itchiness on the scalp. Seizures are a risk, but this is an extremely rare side effect. 
  • Effective in Treatment-Resistant Cases: Some people with anxiety don’t respond to medications or psychotherapy, but TMS is a viable alternative—research has found it’s effective even in patients who haven’t responded to other options. 

One drawback is the cost of the procedure. However, you may be able to claim TMS through your health insurance provider. To find out more, read our article on the cost of TMS therapy.

What is the TMS Procedure Like?

The TMS procedure varies for each patient and the severity of their symptoms. Usually, several TMS sessions over several weeks are needed to see an improvement in symptoms.

It’s important to have the entire course to ensure effective, long-lasting results. 

Each TMS session typically lasts 20-40 minutes. In the session, you’ll sit in a comfortable chair while the doctor positions the NeuroStar TMS device over your head to target specific brain regions.

Your clinician will deliver a series of electrical impulses to these regions through the scalp. 

The procedure is painless—you may feel a gentle tapping sensation on your scalp, but nothing more. Afterwards, you can go about your day as usual. 

TMS for Anxiety: FAQs

Q: How soon can I see results from TMS treatment for anxiety?

A: Everyone responds differently to treatment, so it’s hard to say. Generally, symptoms significantly improve after completing the entire course of TMS. Others may start seeing improvements in their anxiety symptoms within the first few weeks. 

Q: Is TMS covered by insurance for the treatment of anxiety disorders?

A: Health insurance coverage for TMS varies depending on your provider and specific policy. Most providers allow you to make claims on TMS for depression, but TMS for anxiety is newer and less widely accepted. Talk to your insurance company to discover more. 

Q: Can I combine TMS with other anxiety treatments?

A: Yes, you can use TMS for anxiety alongside anti-anxiety drugs and psychotherapy. In fact, the combination of treatments may enhance the treatment's effects. If you want to use a combination of therapies, please discuss this with our doctors—we can develop a tailored plan to suit your needs. 

Can TMS Help My Anxiety Symptoms?

If you have generalized anxiety disorder, TMS is a promising treatment option—especially if you’ve not responded to standard therapies—available at Univeral Neurological Care.

To find out more, book a consultation with our team. We are happy to help! 

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If you don’t see your health insurance company listed, we may still be able to accommodate you. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!
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