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TMS Treatment for Bipolar Depression: Does it Truly Help?

tms treatment for bipolar depression

If you have a loved one suffering from bipolar disorder, the journey to find effective treatment options can be challenging. Because of the condition’s complexity, a mix of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications is frequently needed. 

However, there’s a more advanced treatment option that is gaining attention in the medical community: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. This novel approach has shown promise, especially in treating treatment-resistant bipolar disorder. But how effective is TMS? Let’s delve into it.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

An intense range of emotions, including highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression), is the hallmark of bipolar disorder, a psychological illness. These fluctuations can affect a person’s energy levels, behavior, and ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. The condition can be debilitating, not only for the individual with bipolar disorder but also for their loved ones, who often bear the brunt of these mood swings.

What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure approved by the FDA for treating major depressive disorder, and it’s currently being studied as a potential treatment for bipolar disorder. With this therapy, certain brain regions linked to mood regulation are stimulated by applying an electromagnetic coil close to the forehead and delivering repetitive magnetic pulses.

The efficacy of TMS therapy has been the subject of numerous studies. One standout study published in JAMA Psychiatry found daily left prefrontal transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy to be an effective treatment for major depressive disorder.

Another significant study, featured in Biological Psychiatry, reported reduced neuronal activity in language-related regions after TMS therapy, showing its potential for treating conditions beyond depression.

Potential Benefits of TMS Therapy

Although TMS therapy does not cure bipolar disorder, it can help manage symptoms. These include: 

Alleviation of Depressive Symptoms

TMS therapy has shown potential for alleviating depressive symptoms in individuals with bipolar disorder, especially those who have not responded to other treatment options.

Management of Symptoms

While it is not a cure, TMS therapy can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder, improving the quality of life for many patients.

Non-Invasive Procedure

TMS therapy is non-invasive and does not involve sedation or anesthesia, in contrast to other treatments like electroconvulsive therapy. For many, this makes it a more accessible treatment option.

No Systemic Side Effects

TMS therapy does not have systemic side effects, such as weight gain, dry mouth, or sexual dysfunction, which are frequently connected to medication because it is a localized treatment.

Improvement in Cognitive Function

Some studies suggest that TMS therapy may lead to an improvement in cognitive function, specifically in areas like memory and attention.

Potential Treatment for Other Disorders

Research is ongoing, but there’s potential for TMS therapy to be used to treat other mental health disorders beyond depression and bipolar disorder, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Side Effects of TMS for Bipolar Disorder

Like any treatment, TMS isn’t without side effects. Here are some of the side effects:

Mild Discomfort

Some patients may experience a small amount of discomfort at the treatment site during or after the treatment session.


TMS therapy frequently causes headaches, although these are usually mild and transient.


Patients may feel lightheaded during or after the treatment session.

Tingling Sensation

The face or scalp can start to tingle during or after the procedure.

Rare, Severe Side Effects

Severe side effects, such as seizures, are extremely rare but can occur in some cases.

Important Considerations When Trying TMS for Bipolar Disorder

It is important to speak with a healthcare professional before beginning any new treatment. They can provide detailed information about TMS therapy, discuss potential benefits and risks, and determine if it’s a suitable treatment option based on the individual’s health history and current condition.

Understanding the Cost

TMS therapy can be expensive. Understanding the cost implications is important before undertaking the treatment. It’s worth checking if your insurance covers TMS therapy or if there are any financial assistance programs available.

Accessibility of Treatment

Not all areas have facilities that offer TMS therapy. Therefore, accessibility could be an issue. It’s important to research and find out if there are available TMS treatment centers near you.

Time Commitment

TMS therapy usually requires multiple sessions over several weeks. The time commitment required should be considered when deciding whether to pursue this treatment option.

Potential Side Effects

While TMS is generally considered safe, it does have potential side effects. These can range from mild discomfort at the treatment site to more severe side effects like seizures. Understanding these side effects can help set realistic expectations about the treatment.

Effectiveness of Treatment

TMS does not work for everyone, and it doesn’t cure bipolar disorder. It’s essential to consider this when weighing the decision to pursue TMS therapy.

Mental Health Support

During TMS treatment, ongoing mental health support, such as therapy or medication management, may still be necessary. This should be factored into the overall treatment plan.

Personalized Treatment in Managing Bipolar Disorder

Even though TMS therapy can help people with bipolar disorder in several ways, it is important to keep in mind that treatment is just the beginning of the journey. Having the support of friends and family is crucial for managing this illness. Their comprehension, tolerance, and support can have a big impact on a patient’s journey toward mental wellness.

Furthermore, there is no one-size-fits-all method of treating bipolar disorder. Each individual is unique, and so are their experiences with this condition. Therefore, a treatment plan should be tailored to fit the patient’s specific needs and circumstances. Taking into account their lifestyle, personal preferences, medical history, and present state of health.

A personalized treatment plan, combined with the support of loved ones and a dedicated healthcare team, can increase the likelihood of mitigating the effects of bipolar disorder. It can enable those affected by this condition to lead fulfilling lives despite their diagnosis, highlighting the importance of comprehensive care in mental health management.

Never forget that although bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, it does not define a person’s existence. People with bipolar disorder can successfully manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives if they receive the appropriate resources, assistance, and care.


  • Diane Silva

    Diane is a travel enthusiast, content creator, and master storyteller, capturing her adventures through captivating blogs and engaging vlogs. With a passion for the great outdoors and a love for literature, she brings a unique perspective to the travel world. Whether she's exploring hidden gems or discussing the latest trends, Diane is your go-to source for all things travel and beyond.