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The Benefits of TMS as a Treatment for OCD

Nov 23, 2018

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental condition that can seriously impair someone’s ability to live a normal life. OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and urges and/or compulsive, repetitive behaviors.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental condition that can seriously impair someone’s ability to live a normal life. OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and urges and/or compulsive, repetitive behaviors. People who have OCD often feel powerless against these symptoms, and up until recently, they didn’t have many options for treatment.

However, in August of 2018, the FDA announced that they approved Brainsway’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatment system for OCD. Carlos Peña, Ph.D., M.S., director of the Division of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health stated, “patients with OCD who have not responded to traditional treatments now have another option.” 

But why is TMS such a great option for OCD patients? Read on to learn about the benefits of TMS and why it is a good option for those who haven’t found relief from traditional treatment methods. 

TMS Is Noninvasive

TMS is a completely noninvasive treatment that uses a magnetic coil to stimulate the areas of the brain that are affected by OCD. Patients remain fully awake and alert during treatment, and they can return to their daily activities immediately following their treatment session.

TMS Is More Effective

Many people with OCD are treatment resistant. In other words, their symptoms don’t respond to treatments like antidepressant medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. But the symptoms of OCD can often be debilitating, affecting a person’s ability to hold down a job or even finish school.

Luckily, TMS has proven itself to be a promising treatment option for those with OCD. In fact, studies show that TMS is two to three times more effective than antidepressants in treating OCD patients. In Brainsway’s OCD study, patients showed significant improvement. They reported up to a 30% reduction in the severity of their symptoms. The patients also reported that these changes were maintained for a month after the trial was completed.

The effectiveness of TMS could be attributed to the fact that the system can target specific areas of the brain that are affected by OCD. OCD patients usually have parts of their brain that are overactive. And TMS can target those specific overactive areas to regulate them and alleviate some of the symptoms of the disorder. Medication can’t target those specific areas, making it a less effective option and better suited for treating the OCD’s co-occurring depression or anxiety.

TMS Has Minimal Side Effects

OCD patients also tend to tolerate TMS and its side effects better than the side effects of traditional medication. The most common side effect of TMS for OCD is a slight headache, which usually goes away throughout the course of treatment.

According to the FDA, other side effects include jaw pain, facial pain, muscle pain, spasms or twitching, and neck pain. However, patients reported that all of their symptoms did not last long after their treatment.

Antidepressants, on the other hand, which are commonly used to treat OCD, can cause many more side effects including:

  • Weight gain 
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems 

With possible long-term side effects and a low success rate, antidepressants are likely not an OCD patient’s first-choice treatment. Luckily, those with OCD can now choose TMS, which is not only more effective but also less likely to cause serious or adverse side effects.

If you or a loved one struggles with OCD, contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist and discuss your treatment options.