Woman Smiling Under Umbrella in Rain - Metaphor for Depression Relapse Prevention

TMS Maintenance Therapy: Empowering Depression Management

by | Jan 9, 2024 | Blog

At the beginning of 2023, a survey run by the Gallup Panel found that about 29% of all U.S. adults have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. That number is up 10% from 2015, and the number of people receiving depression treatment has also increased. Amid various therapies, TMS maintenance emerges as a powerful ally against treatment-resistant depression, providing sustained relief.

But how does TMS maintenance work, and how long does TMS last for each individual? Let’s start by reviewing the basics.

What is TMS Therapy?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, known as TMS therapy, is a non-invasive procedure using magnetic fields to stimulate brain cells. It targets the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC), which plays a significant role in mood regulation and emotional response, essential for depression treatment. 

Unlike systemic antidepressants that have widespread effects on the body, TMS is an area-specific treatment, focusing on and altering brain activity only in the targeted region. This localized approach reduces the likelihood of broadside effects, which are often mild and transient, like scalp discomfort during treatment. TMS’s non-pharmacological nature makes it an ideal option for those who are medication-sensitive or want to avoid medication-related side effects, like weight gain, gastrointestinal issues, or even sexual dysfunction.

What is TMS Maintenance Therapy?

TMS Maintenance Therapy is an integral component of ongoing depression management. While TMS can offer significant relief, it is essential to understand that depression often requires continuous management. It’s crucial to recognize that there is no single treatment that provides a one-time cure for depression. Knowledge of the available treatments enables you to have more collaborative conversations with your provider and make more informed decisions about your treatment path.

TMS maintenance involves less frequent sessions aimed at managing symptoms and preventing relapse, ensuring sustained support. This approach contrasts with re-treatment, which entails starting a new complete course of therapy in response to a clinical relapse, indicating a new episode of depression. Maintenance therapy is a proactive strategy designed to maintain the benefits achieved from the initial TMS treatment.

What Does Relapse Mean in Depression?

Relapse refers to the return of depressive symptoms, which may not always be obvious, especially in cases of high-functioning depression. Recognizing subtle signs of returning depression is valuable, no matter your treatment. If you’ve had depression and found relief, stay attentive and have a proactive care plan in place.

Preventing relapse involves staying mindful of changes in mood, energy levels, and appetite. These subtle shifts can serve as early indicators, prompting timely interventions. Understanding your triggers and habits is important to be proactive in managing depression. Recognizing and addressing these signals empowers you to navigate potential challenges more effectively.

Addressing early signals is key to preventing the escalation of symptoms into a full-blown clinical depression episode. Establishing a mental health toolkit around depression recovery and relapse prevention will be unique for everyone and should be a priority as you enter recovery. Proactivity in self-care can significantly impact the course of your mental health journey.

Maintaining an open dialogue with your mental health provider is essential for effective risk assessment and addressing concerns. Transparent communication fosters a collaborative approach to your mental well-being, ensuring timely adjustments to your care plan. This approach, including understanding treatment options like TMS maintenance, contributes to a proactive strategy for relapse prevention.

How Long Does TMS Last?

The initial TMS course provides relief for six months to a year, potentially longer. Subsequent TMS enhances efficacy, but individual responses vary. Your recovery is unique. TMS maintenance proactively addresses potential symptoms, aligning with your personalized mental health journey. Recognizing and addressing fluctuations is vital to a proactive mental health care plan.

A study checking how well TMS works in the long run found something interesting. The number of people who felt better right after their TMS treatment was about the same as those who felt better a year later. After the first TMS treatment, about 36.2% of people needed more TMS later on, and they had around 16 extra TMS sessions. This study showed that TMS can keep working for a long time, especially when people have the option to get more TMS if their depression comes back.

If you notice changes in mood, appetite, sleep, or anything concerning (even if seemingly small), don’t ignore it. Reach out to your provider for advice on proactive steps to maintain your depression recovery.

Learn more TMS therapy tips from our clinical team.

Benefits of Maintenance TMS Therapy

The use of TMS maintenance therapy offers several benefits for treatment-resistant depression:

  • Reduced relapse rates
  • Improved long-term results
  • Personalized approach
  • Insurance friendly 

Reduced Relapse Rates of Major Depressive Disorder

Participating in TMS maintenance therapy allows you to continue to see those results throughout the year. As such, you’re much less likely to suffer a depression relapse between treatments.

The probability of experiencing future episodes of depression may reach up to 30%, and this likelihood tends to rise with each successive episode. This underscores the significant challenge individuals face in maintaining long-term relief from depression. Implementing targeted interventions, such as maintenance treatment, becomes key in addressing this recurrent pattern and fostering sustained well-being.

In research, maintenance TMS therapy was associated with a significantly lower relapse rate among individuals who experienced benefits from their initial course. This underscores the importance of TMS maintenance in extending positive outcomes beyond the initial treatment phase, acting as a preventive measure to protect against more severe depressive symptoms implying the onset of a clinical depression episode.

Extended Treatment Benefits

TMS leads to almost immediate improvements in mood and cognitive functions. Maintenance enhances the duration of these results, building on the foundation set during the initial treatment course. This was supported in clinical trial by showing that maintenance TMS was associated with a significantly lower relapse rate in patients. Without proactive treatment, there’s a chance of experiencing a relapse of depression symptoms.

Insurance coverage for TMS Maintenance Therapy 

Insurance coverage depends on your treatment history and insurance plan. Many carriers cover the continuation of TMS for those with a history of relief. However, certain situations, like a relapse, may require a complete treatment course for optimal efficacy.

Consider talking with your TMS coordinator to learn more about accessibility and coverage. They can help you navigate the complexities of insurance and advocate for coverage. Whether it’s clarifying benefits or exploring the need for a complete course, your TMS coordinator is there to support you. 

Proactive Approach to Depression Treatment

If you’ve responded well to TMS for depression, consider a gradual taper-off to help prevent relapse. This suggestion is particularly for those who’ve shown improvement or achieved remission in their symptoms. Keep the positive momentum! Maintain follow-up with your TMS provider to communicate ongoing progress or changes.

Individuals who have responded well to the initial course of TMS often maintain positive outcomes without needing TMS maintenance. After completing the first round of TMS therapy, routine maintenance sessions aren’t typically recommended. In cases where depressive symptoms resurface two months or more after completing the acute TMS therapy, retreatment with TMS can be a viable option. It’s a recommended approach for those experiencing a relapse after the initial treatment.For added support, especially after the second course of TMS therapy, we often suggest weekly maintenance of TMS therapy for six months. This proactive step aims to delay further relapses and promote enduring well-being.

Trying TMS Therapy for Depression Prevention

How long does TMS last on its own? The effectiveness of TMS on its own can vary for each patient, depending on their unique mental health needs.

At BestMind Behavioral Health, we understand the importance of prioritizing your mental health journey. Our dedicated team is committed to helping you connect with a licensed professional specializing in mental health and depression treatment. If you’re interested in TMS therapy as a proactive approach to depression prevention, contact us today to get scheduled.