The Genesis Health Blog
Using TMS Therapy to Treat OCD (Here’s What You Need to Know)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is one of the most debilitating mental health conditions out there; its symptoms can severely limit the extent to which someone is able to participate in everyday life. It’s also more common than people realize, with two percent of the world population suffering from this disease.
There are many different effective treatments for OCD, like exposure and response prevention and medications, but they don’t work for everyone. If you’ve tried and tried, without luck, to recover from OCD, there is another treatment option for you.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy, is an innovative brain stimulation technique that has helped many people get relief from OCD symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about whether it might be right for you.
It’s important to note that in order for insurance to approve TMS therapy for OCD it must be coupled with a depression diagnosis.
What Is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an extremely misunderstood mental illness. Most people, when they think about OCD, think of the way the media portrays it: people who are afraid of germs, constantly washing their hands and trying to control the environment around them by organizing.
In reality, this is far from what OCD actually is. To meet the diagnosis of OCD, you must experience two main symptoms: obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts that fill the person’s mind with doubt and dread. Sometimes, obsessions revolve around cleanliness and organization: for example, the person may get an intrusive thought that they have been infected with a contagious disease after shaking hands with someone. But obsessions can be about anything at all, and range from thoughts about unintentionally harming other people, being a pedophile without knowing it, and more.
Compulsions are the way OCD deals with an obsession. A compulsion can be any repetitive or ritualistic behavior, whether they’re physical or mental, that’s performed to try to lessen the anxiety that obsessions bring. Hand-washing and organizing can be compulsive behavior; other types of compulsion include checking, mentally reviewing memories, asking for reassurance, and counting.
People with OCD get locked into this obsession-compulsion cycle. Compulsions only relieve them of anxiety for a very short amount of time before the obsessions come back to haunt them. So, they perform another compulsion — and another one, and another one.
What Is TMS Therapy?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy, is an innovative treatment technique that’s been making headlines in the world of behavioral healthcare lately.
TMS therapy uses electromagnetic coils, placed on your scalp, to deliver a series of small pulses to your brain. These pulses stimulate the areas of your brain that are affected by mental illnesses like depression or OCD.
TMS therapy has been so effective for treating depression, that it’s been approved by the FDA for treating depression. If you have both depression and OCD, you may be a candidate for TMS therapy.
People choose to receive TMS therapy for different reasons. They may have found that more traditional treatments, like psychotherapy, haven’t been effective. Others choose TMS therapy because the side effects they experience with medications are too uncomfortable. TMS therapy comes with little to no side effects and is safe and well-tolerated by most people.
How Can TMS Therapy Help With OCD?
Along with the treatment of depression, the FDA approved some TMS therapy machines for the treatment of OCD in 2018. There is currently a lot of research that shows that TMS therapy can significantly reduce the symptoms of OCD, and studies are still being conducted. One study found that around half of their participants with OCD responded well to TMS intervention. Between 50 and 60% of people with OCD experience fewer symptoms after exposure and response prevention, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that’s currently considered the most effective treatment for OCD.
The reason that TMS therapy is so effective for OCD is probably that OCD significantly affects the way the brain works. Scientists have found that people with OCD experience shrinking in the regions of the brain that affect impulse control and processing of external information. This can lead to people with OCD mistaking the targets of their obsessions as real dangers — and then being unable to stop themselves from giving in to the impulse to perform a compulsion.
Research has found that when the electromagnetic coils used in TMS therapy target the region of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, it’s especially beneficial for decreasing OCD symptoms.
On top of this, OCD has high comorbidity with depression — in other words, many people with OCD are also diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Since TMS therapy has been found to be especially beneficial for depression, it stands to reason that if you suffer from both OCD and depression, TMS may be a good choice in treatment for you.
Am I a Good Candidate for TMS Therapy for OCD?
Whether or not you want to try TMS therapy for your OCD symptoms is up to you. TMS therapy isn’t for everyone, and some people may not even be eligible. Some factors that may make you a good candidate for TMS therapy include:
➔ OCD symptoms are seriously getting the way of your life.
➔ You have tried more conventional treatments for OCD, and they haven’t worked.
➔ The side effects of OCD medications have been too uncomfortable for you.
➔ You are willing to put in the time commitment (5 days a week for several weeks) to complete your TMS treatment.
➔ You believe TMS therapy may work for you.
At the end of the day, the only way to know for sure whether or not you’d be a good candidate for TMS therapy for OCD is to talk to a TMS specialist. Our comprehensive mental health center has TMS specialists and therapists on-site to help you figure out if TMS therapy is right for you.
OCD is painful — but it’s a treatable condition, and you don’t need to live with this weight forever. TMS therapy could be what you need to finally start living a life that’s free from OCD.
When exploring your treatment options for depression and OCD, especially TMS therapy, it’s important to seek out doctors and counselors who specialize in treating OCD and depression as well as those that are intimately familiar with TMS therapy.
To learn more about how Genesis Behavioral Health can help you treat and manage your mental health, please reach out to intake via phone (210-404-9696) or email. We look forward to serving you!