TMS and PTSD: How Modern Technology Counters the Worst Traumas

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Integrative Healthcare Center promotes a combination of mainstream and complementary practices to improve someone’s mental, physical, and emotional health. We deliver a range of behavioral healthcare treatments to treat everything from stress to anxiety to anger issues and much more. Which includes TMS therapy options for PTSD.

Among many treatment options, one non-invasive, non-drug treatment method has begun to stand out in its effectiveness at alleviating persistent symptoms of treatment-resistant depression. It’s called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Its use has proven so beneficial that licensed and certified medical experts recommend it to help treat the depressive symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Why Use TMS to Target PTSD?

Did you know that PTSD affects at least 8% of Americans? According to this article by Translational Psychiatry in a 2020 systematic review, 24.4 million people in the U.S. are experiencing “psychiatric disorders” by having witnessed or directly experienced awful things. This trauma might include a natural disaster or surviving an act of terrorism. These individuals may have seen active combat or were in the wrong classroom on a bad day. Modern medicine now offers a solution, or at least a significant component of an overall solution, with minimal side effects and minimal disruption in someone’s life and has been clinically proven to provide gradual relief.

The FDA has cleared Deep TMS for treating major depressive disorders (MDDs) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). Many who experience MDDs are diagnosed with multiple (comorbid) psychiatric disorders, including PTSD. That’s how this treatment connected with the condition; the results have greatly relieved many.

How Severe Is PTSD?

Post WWI, they called it “shell shock.” Later they referenced “battle fatigue” or “combat fatigue.” Veterans returned from the front lines unable to sleep or concentrate as they kept experiencing “flashbacks.” Civilians and physicians universally recognized the condition. What required advancements in medicine and psychology was the admission that someone didn’t have to be a combat soldier to experience it.

PTSD is not a factor of age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, or gender. PTSD can occur in anyone who has suffered (either by directly experiencing or even witnessing) a traumatic event. It does not discriminate, and what constitutes trauma is unique to every person.

How is PTSD Diagnosed?

The foundation of all PTSD is “trauma.” Trauma results from exposure to threatened or actual death, sexual violation, significant personal injury, and more. Triggers include:

  • Learning of traumatic events that occurred to a close friend or family member
  • Experiencing situations that mirror those that happened during a traumatic event
  • Witnessing similar acts of violence that parallel a previous traumatic event
  • Involvement in actual or perceived threats of violence
  • The repeated experience of details significant to a traumatic event (frequently occurring in police officers and first responders)

The Emotional Side of PTSD

When we think of trauma, we often think of near-death experiences tied to combat or physical abuse. It’s important to remember that emotional abuse can be just as traumatic as a physical event. While emotional abuse does not always lead to PTSD, the documented cases of it happening means it’s a source to consider.

Professionals refer to long-standing emotional abuse as “complex post-traumatic stress disorder.” They distinguish C-PTSD from PTSD depending on whether the traumatic event was a single episode (PTSD – e.g., near-death experience) or occurred over time (C-PTSD—e.g., emotional abuse over the years by a spouse or parent).

Emotional abuse is stealthy. Emotional abuse can surface as behaviors some would define as ‘caring,’ but they are destructive in results. Emotional trauma is more confusing to its victims as there is not always a particular episode or event they can point to and say, “That’s the source of why I feel this way.” Worst of all, many recipients of emotional abuse do not recognize that they are being abused.

Emotional abuse can be subtly demonstrated by:

– Use of grandiose gift-giving and declaring it proof of love while promising to make everything wrong go away (and almost simultaneously acting in abusive or explosive ways). This is also referred to as “love bombing”.

– Affection is withheld as a method of control or punishment – “No hugs until you do as I say!”

– Physical or emotional threats or attempts at public embarrassment

– No respect for personal privacy (e.g., reading private journals or text exchanges on someone else’s phone)

– Always communicating in ultimatums

– Damaging property, instilling the pain of loss by discarding a personal possession

– Refusing accountability and shifting the blame, making it seem like someone else is guilty of their harmful actions or gaslighting.

– Alienation demanded from the victim’s friends, family, loved ones, and even peers

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Isolation and avoidance are known characteristics of PTSD but can also connect to other mental illnesses. No matter how much progress we make, mental illness still carries a social stigma, which can lead to involuntary isolation, for example. So, what are the symptoms of PTSD itself?

There are three categorized groups of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing Trauma (includes one or more):
  • Distressing memories of traumatic events occur spontaneously and intrusively (including flashbacks and dissociative reactions)
  • Either repeatedly dreaming of the traumatic event, or an inability to escape the feeling of dreaming
  • Involuntary reactions when reminded of traumatic events, including psychological distress or severe emotional dysregulation.
  1. Avoidance exacerbated by emotional numbness (two or more of the following):
  • An inability to experience positive emotions regarding almost anything
  • Persistent feelings of estrangement or detachment from everyone else
  • Reduced interest or participation in activities once considered fundamental
  • An inability to recall important aspects of the trauma (not caused by head injury or substance use)
  • Unrelenting fear, horror, anger, shame, or feelings of guilt
  • Constantly blaming themselves or others for the traumatic event
  • Unshakable negativity about themselves, others, or the world as a whole (e.g., “I’ve done nothing good,” “Everyone is bad at their core,” or “The world is out to destroy us.”)
  1. Heightened cognitive or affective arousal (two or more of the following):
  • Increased self-destructive or general reckless behavior that can lead to long-term consequences
  • Problems concentrating
  • Problems falling asleep or achieving a restful sleep
  • Hypervigilance and exaggerated responses to being startled
  • Irritability that quickly transitions into aggressive behavior

What are the Treatment Options for PTSD?

A preferred treatment for PTSD for many years has been medication. Doctors often prescribe PTSD patients with neurotransmitters serotonin or norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs or SNRIs), which include sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor), paroxetine (Paxil), and others.

In addition to medication, many patients have been prescribed psychotherapy (or talk therapy), also known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, PTSD patients work closely with a therapist for a limited number of sessions, the goal being to recognize problematic or destructive thought patterns. CBT tries to change the damaging patterns so the patient can heal from the trauma regardless of triggering.

Unfortunately, standard treatment has not always provided the relief sought by patients. Treatment resistance becomes particularly apparent in the presence of more than one (or comorbid) diagnosis. Plus, SSRIs and other medications come with a significant risk of side effects, including:

– Insomnia or drowsiness

– Headaches, dizziness, or nausea

– Restlessness, nervousness, or general agitation

– Blurred vision, dry mouth, diarrhea, and even performance issues (decreased libido, inability to climax, erectile dysfunction, etc.)

While CBT has no overt risks or side effects, it does not always prove effective in PTSD patients. Are there any solutions?

Pitting TMS against PTSD

The FDA has cleared deep TMS therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and severe depression. Another condition that has documented improvements as the result of transcranial magnetic stimulation

 is PTSD.

While using TMS for depression, 68% of patients reported “drastic improvements,” while 45% reported complete remission. Most patients say they notice a significant improvement after two weeks of treatment.

TMS therapy is safe, endorsed by Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, and Harvard, and has been used in Europe for decades. It uses magnetic fields, like an MRI, and stimulates specific brain areas to relieve depression symptoms. Each session lasts an average of 20 minutes, and no systemic side effects are reported (some minor scalp irritation being the only reoccurring observation, which goes away quickly). Compared to the side effects and challenges that come with other PTSD treatments, why not give it a try?

Integrative Healthcare Center and TMS Therapy for PTSD

Deep TMS employs magnetic fields in the brain and is especially effective in treating treatment-resistant cases. It is painless, and nearly half of all Integrative Healthcare Center patients who undergo TMS experience long-lasting remission. If you have any questions or want to speak to a professional about TMS options for you or a loved one struggling with PTSD, please get in touch with one of our experts.

The Integrative Healthcare Center’s mission is to help you find genuine relief and start your journey to better mental health. Contact us to book an appointment today.

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