Evidence & results

TMS and generalised anxiety disorder

Find out how transcranial magnetic stimulation could help

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For many, anxiety plays a part in their busy, modern life. For some, the generalised anxiety disorder (or GAD) takes over their life and gets in the way of the things they love.

Treatment Options

NHS Choices recommends trying to treat your anxiety with psychological therapy before anything else. The aim is to learn to cope with your anxiety so that when you experience the inevitable symptoms you’ve come to recognise; you will know how to handle them.

GPs tend to offer different forms of therapy, with some recommending books or computer programmes as a first point of call. Others might suggest group courses. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is commonly recommended for GAD and teaches positive coping strategies.

If psychological therapy hasn’t worked for you, there are several medications that you may be prescribed, each with their own benefits and side effects to consider. Although benzodiazepines, like Diazepam, are very effective in treating anxiety, they become addictive quickly. Benzodiazepines shouldn’t be used for longer than four weeks because they start to lose their effectiveness the more the body learns to rely on them.

Other medications used to treat generalised anxiety disorder include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) – like Sertraline, Escitalopram or Paroxetine. If one SSRI doesn’t work for you or causes unwanted side effects, your GP can recommend a different dose or prescribe a different SSRI;
  • Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) – like duloxetine or venlafaxine;
  • Pregabalin – this is an anticonvulsant drug, which can benefit anxiety.

Around 50% of patients don’t respond to any of the recommended treatment. If you don’t respond to any medications you’re prescribed with, your GP is likely to refer you to a psychological team who can suggest combinations of drugs and therapy or combinations of more than one drug.

What is the evidence for using TMS to treat anxiety?

There has been significant research into treating patients suffering with GAD with transcranial magnetic stimulation.

A randomised controlled trial was completed by Dieffenbachia in 2016. The result showed that not did TMS give much higher clinical response and remission rates than the placebo group, but it was sustained after treatment had ended, too. The results showed 1 in 3 people recovered from anxiety entirely, whilst 75% saw clinically significant improvements.

At Smart TMS, generalised anxiety disorder is one of the most popular treatments we offer. In a recent audit of 70 patients, our remission rate (meaning they’re no longer clinically regarded and anxious) was around 62%, with 75% of all patients showing a minimum of a 30% improvement in their anxiety symptoms.

What’s the verdict – can TMS treat generalised anxiety disorder?

Smart TMS were the first UK based clinic to offer treatment for anxiety and we’re delighted with our results. We know that 75% of our patients suffering with anxiety will be able to live a better quality of life as a result of their treatment with us.

All research suggests and our experience confirms that if you’re going to respond to TMS for GAD, you will respond within the first 15 sessions. Once we have seen a clear improvement in your symptoms, we’ll know that you are suitable to continue to have the full course of 30 sessions to maximise your results.

It goes without saying that although we see a majority of our patients get better, some don’t respond. Despite research into this, experts aren’t sure what makes some people respond well to treatment for GAD, and others not respond at all. The decision is yours and our teams of patient advisors and practitioners will give you all the facts and evidence you need to help you decide.

Find out more

To find out more, contact the team of patient advisors. They can talk through the treatment and possible outcomes and answer any questions you have.