Mental health issues can be treated in different ways but choosing a treatment might depend on the severity of the condition. Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation and antidepressants are effective ways to treat mental health illnesses.
This article will look at the differences between these two treatments, how they work, their effectiveness, and their side effects.
What is Deep TMS?
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is a non-surgical treatment that has been FDA-approved for OCD and other mental health disorders. It uses magnetic waves to target deeper parts of the brain, the limbic system precisely.
Unlike regular TMS that uses figure-8 coils, dTMS uses an ‘H’ coil which produces a magnetic pulse that can reach deeper and larger parts of the brain. The H-coil is fused into a helmet the patient wears around the head during the treatment.
The waves stimulate nerve cell activity in the brain. It is mostly used for treatment-resistance cases where psychotherapy or medication has failed or is taking too long to show results.
How does Deep TMS work
People with mental health disorders tend to have some abnormalities in their limbic system which is involved in emotional and behavioral activities in the brain. Deep TMS helps to correct these abnormalities by sending electromagnetic waves to the brain.
Deep TMS treatment is completely non-invasive, and a session lasts at least 20 minutes. The treatment can take up to four to six weeks before results start showing depending on the severity of the condition.
What is Antidepressant Treatment?
Antidepressant treatment is the use of medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs to treat mental health disorders, especially depression. These drugs are used to correct chemical imbalances in the brain or body.
Antidepressants help ease mental illness symptoms by increasing or decreasing the chemical levels in the brain.
How does Antidepressant treatment work?
Antidepressant treatment helps to correct the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. The common types of antidepressants are:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to increase the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation in the brain. The imbalance of serotonin may lead to depression.
SSRIs are mostly prescribed for depression. Common forms of this include:
- Sertraline (Lustral)
- Paroxetine (Seroxat)
- Dapoxetine (Priligy)
- Citalopram (Cipramil)
- Vortioxetine (Brintellix)
- Fluvoxamine (Faverin)
- Fluoxetine (Oxactin)
- Escitalopram (Cipralex)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are used to increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain between synapses, where the nerve cells absorb them. They help diminish the symptoms of mental illness.
Common SNRI medications include:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- Desvenlafaxine (Khedezia, Pristiq)
- Milnacipran (Savella)
Tricyclic antidepressants are more effective for inpatients. They are mostly prescribed when the others don’t work. They increase the level of serotonin and norepinephrine.
Common TCA medications include:
- Amoxapine (Asendin)
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Doxepin (Silenor)
- Trimipramine (Surmontil)
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Protriptyline (Vivactil)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
Differences between Deep TMS and Antidepressant Treatment
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation and antidepressants both work well for mental illnesses. We’ll explore their differences by looking at their effectiveness and side effects.
Deep TMS helps alleviate symptoms of mental health illnesses, especially treatment-resistance conditions. Research has shown that people who are unable to see improvements from using antidepressants see results from dTMS. It has also recorded a lot of remissions and complete recovery.
Antidepressants are effective for moderate or severe conditions. The downside of antidepressants is that you might have to try a lot of them before you find the one that works. They also might involve lifelong treatment as symptoms might not go away completely.
The pulses emitting from the dTMS can cause scalp discomfort for some patients, especially in the first week of treatment. This might lead to a slight headache but will gradually subside as they get used to the treatment.
The side effects of antidepressants vary according to the type of medication.
For SSRIs which are the most commonly prescribed type, their side effects may include drowsiness, upset stomach, excessive weight gain, insomnia, and reduced sex drive.
SNRIs are antidepressants that help improve the serotonin levels in the brain and their side effects include nausea, dry mouth, constipation, and fatigue.
Other antidepressants like tetracyclic, TCAs, and mirtazapine have similar side effects such as weight gain, dizziness, restlessness, and blurred vision.
As you can see, dTMS and antidepressants are both effective in treating mental health illnesses. Each has its benefits and risks. If you’ve been on antidepressants and it’s not working, dTMS might be your best bet. Living with mental illness can be difficult and emotionally draining, and finding the right treatment may be taxing. Before deciding on a treatment, make sure to check the effectiveness and possible side effects.