TMS Therapy for PTSD
Past trauma shouldn’t rule your life, but when you have PTSD, it does. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive, FDA-approved procedure that can treat a variety of mental health conditions, including PTSD. The treatment doesn’t rely on medication, sedation, or anesthesia.
How Can TMS Therapy Help My PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by being involved in or witnessing extremely distressing or frightening events.
Various brain regions and their functions are affected in people who suffer from PTSD. Key parts of the brain that can change following trauma include:
- The amygdala – The amygdala is part of the limbic system, a very ancient part of your brain. This almond-shaped structure deals with survival instincts and the way you express emotions, especially fear.
- The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) – This is a more sophisticated region of the brain that also processes emotions
- The hippocampus – Hippocampus is responsible for storing and retrieving your memories.
Brain imaging studies show that PTSD patients have reduced brain activity in the vmPFC and an overactive amygdala. It is believed that your vmPFC loses control of your amygdala, which leads to intense anxiety. The hippocampus, which helps you distinguish between the past and the present, shrinks. This means PTSD patients find it difficult to tell the difference between past trauma and the present situation.
TMS therapy works by stimulating the cells in the vmPFC with electromagnetic impulses, which are delivered by an electromagnetic coil. This treatment also helps to regulate cells in the other brain regions associated with PTSD, possibly bringing them back to normal levels of activity. Restoring balance and stability in your brain helps ease your symptoms of PTSD.
Can TMS Cure My PTSD?
Many patients with PTSD are treatment-resistant. That means they have tried all of the standard forms of treatment, but they have not worked. This usually includes:
- Medications, like SSRI antidepressants
- Talk therapy, like:
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Research demonstrates that TMS therapy is an effective PTSD treatment. That makes TMS for PTSD a promising alternative to other forms of therapy that have failed.
TMS therapy may not completely get rid of your PTSD, but it can help to reduce your symptoms and make them more manageable. When PTSD symptoms are intense and uncontrollable, they can interfere with your work, relationships, and day-to-day functioning. TMS therapy can reduce the intensity of these symptoms and give you more control over them. In this way, TMS therapy for PTSD can bring order back into your life, without the side effects of medication.
How Will I Know I’m Being Helped?
A full course of TMS treatments for PTSD includes five sessions a week for up to six weeks, then a three-week period of less frequent sessions. After a regular round of sessions, patients have reported that their PTSD symptoms are less intense and that they are much less likely to experience them.
Each person’s experience of PTSD is different, although common symptoms of PTSD you may notice improving include:
- Vivid flashbacks, as if the traumatic event is being relived
- Intrusive thoughts and images
- Intense distress at actual or symbolic reminders of the traumatic event
- Physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, nausea, and trembling
- Extreme alertness or ‘hypervigilance’
- Sleep problems
- Irritability and aggressive behavior
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drug and alcohol abuse
- Emotional numbness
When Will I See Results?
Patients see results at different times, depending on individual factors, such as how severe their PTSD symptoms are and how long they’ve suffered from PTSD. Many patients experience beneficial effects in just a couple of weeks. For others, the treatment can work even sooner.
What Research Supports TMS Therapy for PTSD?
A study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry looked at TMS therapy for the treatment of patients with both major depressive disorder and PTSD, as these conditions often occur together. TMS was used to treat the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and patients received about 36 sessions over the course of several weeks.
The results show that one-third of patients experienced significant improvements in their symptoms. This is a lower response rate than for either condition alone, but this is understandable, given the greater severity of the illness. The researchers said the positive response is due to an increased connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
A review of clinical research on TMS for PTSD alone highlight that the treatment is effective. One double-blind, controlled study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that TMS therapy offered relief to patients with PTSD. In separate research with war veterans, 70% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD after TMS treatment sessions.
Will My Insurance Cover TMS Therapy for PTSD?
The FDA approved TMS for the treatment of depression back in 2008. TMS therapy for other conditions, including PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is awaiting FDA approval. This means some insurance providers won’t provide coverage for TMS therapy for PTSD. TRICARE®, however, does provide TMS coverage for PTSD for service members.
Many patients who have PTSD have a dual-diagnosis of depression and PTSD. In these cases, we will work with you to try to treat both, with your insurance covering the treatments for depression. Find out more about insurance coverage, and get pre-approval, if applicable, by calling 800-604-0208.
At HPR Treatment Centers, we want you to get the help you need for your PTSD, so we offer flexible financing options to pay for treatment.
What Is TMS for PTSD Like at HPR Treatment Centers?
A TMS therapy session for PTSD lasts about 18 to 19 minutes, but may be up to 40 minutes, depending on your needs. Sitting comfortably in a chair, an HPR Treatment Centers technician will gently place a coil on your head, which delivers magnetic stimulation to specific areas of the brain. After your treatment session, you can resume your day as normal.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be an extremely debilitating illness. You may have tried countless treatments in the hopes of living a well-functioning and happy life. Don’t give up hope just yet! Transcranial magnetic stimulation could be the thing that banishes the ghost of your trauma and gives you back control.