TMS and Depression – The Evidence

What’s the evidence for TMS being used to treat depression?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (or NICE for short) approved TMS for the treatment of depression in 2015. This means that, having reviewed all research and studies, they support that TMS is a safe and effective treatment. The research would have been from all over the world as TMS has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA since 2008.

NICE noted, “consistently positive outcomes in many studies and a good safety profile…commentary from patients was positive and they described significant benefits to their quality of  life including the advantages for some patients of being able to stop oral antidepressant medications”.

In 2017, the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated that “Efficacy for rTMS treatment for major depression has been well established over the recent years….over the past decade rTMS has been  widely used for the treatment of depression and is now an established safe and effective treatment option for depression and treatment resistant depression”.

A particularly relevant study was one completed in 2012 by Carpenter. In this, over 300 patients who had received treatment in one of 42 TMS clinics across the USA were reviewed. The findings confirmed that TMS is not only safe but also extremely effective with 40% being “cured” of their depression and 60% seeing a clinically significant improvement in their symptoms.

Smart TMS treat patients for depressive disorders in each of our clinics [link to clinics] on a daily basis. An audit of 70 consecutive patients saw 75% see a significant reduction in their symptoms, with six out of ten patients going into complete remission.

What other treatments are available for depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the UK and Ireland. With more people diagnosed with clinical depression than ever before, it’s vital that everyone knows what treatments are out there. When Smart TMS researched attitudes of depression patients towards prescription medication, we found that 14% of people avoided getting treatment at all because they didn’t want to take antidepressants. A further 14% said that they had tried antidepressants but stopped due to the side effects. These side effects can include:

  • Feeling agitated, anxious or shaky;
  • Feeling nauseous or being sick;
  • Diarrhoea/constipation;
  • Loss of appetite/overeating;
  • Dizziness;
  • Insomnia/exhaustion;
  • Headaches;
  • Sexual dysfunction

NHS Choices recommend talking therapy in the first instance. This might include cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling. If your depression is moderate-severe, you are likely to be offered antidepressants. There are 30 different antidepressants in the UK, and it’s recommended by NHS Choices that you try the medication alongside talking therapy, especially if you depression is severe.

Research into treatment for depression reveals that 60-70% of patients improve after intensive psychological treatment as well as several courses of different medications. Unfortunately, this leaves 30-40% of patients suffering from chronic depression that is treatment resistant.

What’s the verdict? Can depression be treated with TMS?

In short, yes. TMS treatment for depression not only improves patients’ symptoms but the majority recover completely. We have found that if a patient is going to respond to TMS, they will do so within the first 15 sessions. Once it’s been established that your symptoms are reducing, we recommend a further 15 sessions to maximise the outcome.

As with any treatment, the outcome cannot be guaranteed, however we hope that the evidence above and a conversation with one of our patient advisors will help you make the right decision for you.

I have had depression on and off for most of my life, so thought the new RTMS treatment worth trying for now and for the rest of my future - to my amazement it really did work where the tablets were struggling.

Freddie, treated for depression

After my initial 15 sessions, I felt like a new person. I appreciated the life I am so lucky to have for the first time and have only continued to feel better since then.

Ella*, treated for depression

The mental pain and the physical aspects of depression were lifted, I experienced a huge amount of relief and the feeling of lightness and ability to think clearly again was an incredible gift after such a short duration of treatment.

Matt*, treated for depression
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.


0345 222 5678