How TMS Could Help You Overcome Your Fears and Phobias

How TMS Could Help You Overcome Your Fears and Phobias

In recent years, TMS has become increasingly mainstream as a safe, effective treatment for depression. But researchers are realizing that the applications of TMS reach far beyond depression alone. Recent studies suggest that TMS may be used to treat a spectrum of anxiety disorders ranging from social anxiety disorder to acrophobia (the fear of heights).

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States, affecting almost 40 million adults. Anxiety is an umbrella term that can encompass many different conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorders.

People with generalized anxiety disorder worry about many different things, rather than becoming fixated on one specific worry. They may become overly preoccupied about issues such as health, money, and work, expecting catastrophe even when they know it’s unlikely. People with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety around a variety of social situations. Even if they know it’s not rational, the disorder can cause them to constantly fear embarrassment and judgment from others. Panic disorders can cause people to have sudden panic attacks, which include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and shortness of breath– all with very little warning.

Living under constant anxiety of any kind can be debilitating, yet many people with anxiety disorders don’t seek treatment or wait to seek help until their symptoms have been affecting their lives for many years. But there are numerous anxiety treatments available. One of the most common is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that engages the person in his or her treatment by helping them understand the underlying causes of what he or she is feeling, then changing his or her patterns of thought to solve the problem. CBT can be very effective, and it’s often paired with a pharmaceutical treatment. However, while this combination works well for some people, it is not effective for everyone–25{2997f8544d703ffd995cbf0748d9148f9150b33c2eb54c93a5197645ffc3f066} of those who seek treatment for their anxiety continue to experience symptoms.

While there is currently no FDA-approved device for treating anxiety disorders, TMS is emerging as an off-label solution for treating people with anxiety that doesn’t respond to standard treatment. A 2014 study found that 70{2997f8544d703ffd995cbf0748d9148f9150b33c2eb54c93a5197645ffc3f066} patients with generalized anxiety disorder who received TMS noticed an improvement in their anxiety symptoms. When the researchers followed up with the same group of patients three months later, 80{2997f8544d703ffd995cbf0748d9148f9150b33c2eb54c93a5197645ffc3f066} continued to report improvement. Another study in 2016 found improvement in about 60{2997f8544d703ffd995cbf0748d9148f9150b33c2eb54c93a5197645ffc3f066} of patients who were given TMS treatment. Researchers believe TMS may work well for treating generalized anxiety disorder, along with other anxiety disorders, because it can be used to target specific regions of the brain. Areas within the prefrontal cortex are believed to contribute to anxiety (as well as depression), and TMS can be used to stimulate these regions.

A recent study conducted by Warzburg University in Germany suggests that TMS may also be used, with the help of a virtual reality headset, to combat phobias–forms of anxiety brought on by something very specific. Phobias are the fear of any specific object or scenario, from snakes (ophidiophobia) to spiders (arachnophobia) to crowded spaces (agoraphobia).

Researchers administered either real TMS or a fake treatment designed to look like TMS. They targeted a region of the frontal lobe that was previously found to help patients unlearn their anxiety. After the treatment (or fake treatment), the patients were given virtual reality glasses that made them feel as though they were standing high above the ground on a flimsy platform–just the kind of scenario that would be expected to trigger their fear of heights. The patients who received real TMS treatment showed less anxiety during the simulation than the group that didn’t, and continued to show fewer signs of anxiety three months after the test was completed.

If you are living with an anxiety disorder, you are probably well aware that it can influence every aspect of life, from school to work to friendships and dating. You might feel like you’re the only person experiencing constant restlessness, unease, and excessive worries that can’t be explained away–but you’re not. There are many other people dealing with these common disorders, and there are many treatment options you can choose from. Talk to your doctor to find out which option might work best to treat your anxiety.


Information on the latest uses for TMS can be found in the In the News section of the TMS Neuro Institute website.

TMS Neuro Institute is one of the earliest adopters in providing TMS Treatment in Los Angeles. Our highly trained staff is ready to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a consultation, call 888.823.4867 or contact us here.

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