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TMS Treatment for Teenage Depression

Teenage depression statistic by the Colorado Department of Public Health shows that 40% of Colorado's youth reported symptoms of depression.

*Please note, this blog is intended to guide alternative treatments for teenage depression and does not constitute medical advice. If your teen is showing suicide warning sides, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline ASAP.

The pandemic has heightened concerns among parents about teenage depression. Today's teenagers face unique mental health challenges, including increasing rates of depression and anxiety. The causes of depression during puberty remain unknown, but we do understand that childhood major depressive disorders can have long-lasting effects into adulthood. Therefore, it is crucial to intervene early to minimize the effects of teenage depression. Unfortunately, antidepressants, which are the primary treatment for major depression in teens, have proven to be ineffective. A 2016 study revealed that antidepressants offered little advantage over placebo treatment for children and adolescents. This blog post aims to highlight an innovative nonpharmacological approach, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), as a potential off-label solution for teenagers struggling with these mental health issues.

Understanding Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS therapy is a non-invasive technique that targets mood regulation in the brain using magnetic pulses. It promotes the release of neurotransmitters and changes neuronal activity, helping to alleviate mental health problems and depressive symptoms. The repetitive sessions aim to normalize neural patterns and encourage the growth of new connections in the brain.

The State of Teenage Mental Health in Colorado

Statistics on the prevalence of teenage depression in Colorado demonstrate the dire need for better and more effective treatments.

Teenagers in Colorado are confronted with a troubling mental health scenario as evidenced by the significant rise in rates of mental health issues since 2017. Mental Health Colorado reports that several factors contribute to this surge, encompassing disparities in sexual orientation, trends in substance use, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily stress levels.

Why Should We Consider TMS Treatment for Teenage Depression?

TMS Treatment is Safe

Preliminary research findings provide encouraging evidence for the efficacy of TMS therapy in alleviating teenage depression. Studies often highlight improvements in mood, reduction of depressive symptoms, and enhanced overall well-being among participants. The targeted stimulation of specific brain regions associated with mood regulation appears to offer a promising avenue for addressing the unique challenges that teenagers face in their mental health journey.

TMS has been studied in kids with multiple studies supporting the benefits it has for managing mental health conditions. "After years of study and millions of cumulative stimulations in the pediatric population, it has been established that TMS is safe and well tolerated in children."

TMS Therapy is Effective

Research has shown that in adults who have been treated with TMS, 50%-60% improve depressive symptoms. Of those, approximately 1/3 go into complete remission from depression. There is evidence to suggest that the treatment is even more effective in younger populations.

Non-Pharmacological Approach for Teenage Depression Sets a Better Example

TMS therapy is a potentially transformative option for teenagers who don't respond well to medications or prefer non-invasive treatments. Unlike adults, we don't recommend psychedelic therapies like ketamine for children since their developing brains may focus more on the disassociative experience rather than self-reflection. It's important for teenagers to understand that disassociating from reality isn't a solution for mental health issues. Adults are better able to see ketamine as a catalyst for growth, while there's a higher risk of psychological addiction for young people.

With TMS, patients do not experience any altered states, and very few side effects other than a mild headache.

TMS Can Heal Other Conditions

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD, often diagnosed in childhood but persisting into adulthood, is associated with difficulties in attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. TMS is being investigated as a potential treatment to modulate neural circuits involved in executive functions. Although more research is needed, early studies suggest that TMS may offer benefits in improving attention and impulse control in individuals with ADHD.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): TMS has shown promise in alleviating symptoms of OCD, a condition characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. By targeting specific neural circuits associated with OCD, TMS may offer relief to individuals resistant to traditional treatment approaches. Research studies are ongoing, but preliminary findings suggest that TMS could become a valuable tool in the comprehensive management of OCD. Read our blog about TMS Therapy for OCD to learn more.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD, a debilitating condition resulting from exposure to traumatic events, has been a challenging area for treatment. TMS is being investigated as a potential intervention to modulate neural networks involved in fear responses and emotional regulation. Early studies suggest that TMS may contribute to reducing the severity of PTSD symptoms, offering hope for those who have not responded to conventional therapies.
  • Bipolar Disorder: The cyclic nature of bipolar disorder, characterized by manic and depressive episodes, poses a complex challenge for treatment. TMS, with its ability to regulate neural activity, is being explored as a complementary approach in stabilizing mood swings. While research is in the early stages, some studies indicate that TMS may have a role in the management of bipolar disorder, particularly during depressive phases.

TMS Basics

TMS is effective for managing teenage depression and possibly other common conditions. If you're considering TMS as part of your teenagers' mental health journey, it's essential to have a clear understanding of what to expect during the therapy sessions.

How TMS Works

TMS involves the use of magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain associated with mood regulation. It is typically considered for major depression in a teen when traditional treatments like medications and therapy haven't yielded the desired results. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting and does not require anesthesia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Before commencing TMS therapy, a thorough assessment will be conducted with a psychiatric provider to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you. This may include a review of your medical history, a psychiatric evaluation, and sometimes neuroimaging studies. The information gathered during this phase helps tailor the treatment to your unique needs.

Before commencing TMS therapy, a thorough assessment will be conducted with a psychiatric provider to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you. This may include a review of your medical history, a psychiatric evaluation, and sometimes neuroimaging studies. The information gathered during this phase helps tailor the treatment to your unique needs.

Session Duration and Frequency

TMS therapy typically consists of multiple sessions over several weeks. A standard course might involve daily sessions, Monday through Friday, for about 4 to 6 weeks. Each session lasts approximately 20-40 minutes, depending on the specific protocol your healthcare provider prescribes.

Therapeutic Interventions

In week 3 or 4 of treatment, we start a storytelling process with patients to help them envision their future and identify obstacles. These sessions involve our technician and are shared with the therapist or psychiatrist to ensure effective medication management and therapy. We may also engage in social prescribing, nutritional psychiatry, and provide therapeutic assignments to improve overall health, such as offering free tickets to the Denver Botanical Gardens or suggesting lifestyle changes for physical and mental well-being.

Side Effects and Discomfort

While TMS is generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience mild side effects during or after a session. Common side effects include scalp discomfort or headaches, which tend to be temporary and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. Serious side effects are rare, and your healthcare provider will closely monitor your response to the treatment.

One thing to note is that we typically see more depressed mood in the second week of treatment. This quickly resolves by the third or fourth week of treatment, but it's often a good sign that the patient is responding to treatment.

How Soon Will We See Results?

The effects of TMS therapy are often gradual, with noticeable improvements occurring throughout the treatment. It's important to approach TMS with realistic expectations and understand that individual responses vary. Some individuals may experience significant relief, while others may see more modest changes. We typically see improvements after 4 weeks of treatment that continue until a month after treatment.

Post-Treatment Follow-up

After completing the initial course of TMS therapy, your healthcare provider will conduct follow-up assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. Maintenance sessions may be recommended to sustain the benefits achieved.

How to Get Your Teenager into TMS Therapy

The evidence and research surrounding TMS therapy for teenage depression present a compelling case for its potential as a transformative intervention. However, it's important to find experienced professionals to manage the unique needs of children undergoing this treatment.

  • Consult with Mental Health Professionals: Initiate a conversation with mental health professionals like Axis Integrated Mental Health, who specialize in TMS Therapy and teenage depression. We offer psychiatry, therapy, and TMS treatments and we can offer guidance on off-label treatments and help determine if TMS is a viable option.
  • Verify Credentials and Accreditation: Once you've identified potential clinics, thoroughly research their credentials and accreditation. Ensure the clinic is staffed with board-certified and experienced healthcare professionals, and verify that the facility follows ethical standards and safety protocols. Check for affiliations with reputable medical organizations and accreditation from relevant authorities. Check Google Reviews to see if the clinic has patient testimonials. When patients are willing to sign away privacy rights to advocate on behalf of a clinic, this is often a good sign that a clinic can provide exceptional results to patients.
  • Ask About Treatment Approaches for Teenage Depression: Your child will spend approximately 30 minutes per day for six weeks with a provider who will greatly influence them. At Axis Integrated Mental Health, we have a unique approach to treatment. Unlike many clinics that only provide magnetic stimulation, we focus on creating hero journeys with our patients. This helps them prioritize the skills they want to develop with their therapist. We also facilitate conversations that promote habit-stacking, empowering patients to adopt healthier behaviors and become self-reliant. Our goal is to take advantage of the increased neuroplasticity from TMS treatment and create lasting positive changes that can benefit them for life.

Is TMS Therapy Covered by Insurance?

While TMS is covered by insurance for adult depression, it is considered an off-label procedure for teenage depression. Therefore, TMS therapy for children and teenagers is a cash-pay service. We charge $3000 for a course of treatment, depending on the condition we are treating.

Please read our article about TMS Therapy Costs if you're interested in the treatment for adults.

Financing Options

We offer interest-free financing for individuals without insurance coverage or facing high out-of-pocket expenses for the first 6 months. We also offer flexible payment plans, allowing patients to spread the cost over time.

Who Shouldn't Get TMS?

TMS is generally safe for treating teenage depression. However, there are some contraindications to treatment. Anything metallic on or inside of your body could result in complications due to the electromagnetic pulses used by the TMS machine. This includes:

  • Permanent piercings
  • Cochlear implants
  • Facial tattoos with metallic ink
  • Metal plates
  • Aneurysm clips or coils
  • Neck or brain stents
  • Electrodes in the brain
  • Deep brain stimulators
  • Shrapnel or bullet pieces

Dental fillings and braces are considered safe for TMS. If your teenager has a history of seizures, other mental health disorders, a brain injury from illness or injury, or other medical conditions, be sure to disclose those to your provider during intake.

Teenage Depression is Treatable

Watching preteens and teenagers suffer with any mental illness is tough, but it's important for parents to know that teenage depression is not the result of bad parenting, broken families, or a lack of love for your child. We've treated enough patients to know that sometimes, it's a quirk of genetics or the result of the very stressful world we live in. Depression support suicide prevention should not be taken lightly given the reality we are facing in Colorado today. Finding a clinic that offers off-label TMS therapy for teenage depression requires careful research, consultation with mental health professionals, and thorough verification of credentials. Prioritize the well-being of the teenager by making informed decisions and seeking out clinics that prioritize holistic practices and patient safety.

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