Given the significant challenges and demands of a career in the ADF, from being exposed to extremely stressful events to then having to adjust to civilian life, it’s no surprise that Australian veterans have higher rates of mental illness than the rest of the population.
Regardless of their cohort, any veteran may experience mental health issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, an increase in bipolar symptoms, and more - and these issues may emerge at any point during a veteran’s lifespan, not just during or soon after their discharge.
While traditionally, veterans are supported with comprehensive psychology and counselling services to support their mental health, in recent years, an FDA-approved treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has grown in popularity after displaying excellent results in reducing the symptoms of these same mental health conditions that are regularly experienced by veterans.
What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)?
To best understand TMS, it’s important to understand how our brain helps in managing our thoughts and feelings. The brain does this by creating pathways that communicate with one another using electrical and chemical messengers. Each type of thought or feeling coincides with particular pathways or ‘roads’ that the thoughts travel along. Much like muscle memory, the more we use a specific pathway, regardless of whether it’s creating helpful or harmful thoughts or feelings, the more we get used to taking that pathway and having the same outcome - such as repeatedly experiencing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD and more.
TMS uses strong magnets that are positioned in a very specific configuration, close to your head, to generate an electromagnetic field, and therefore an electrical current in a specific direction. This electrical current then stimulates certain areas of the brain and groups of neurons, which then trigger new pathways and circuits of the brain to become active - where they may not have been active before. By getting your brain to take these new pathways, instead of the pathways it is used to, you can then experience different results - such as a reduction in the symptoms of depression, and an increase in feelings of relaxation, joy and contentedness.
One of the reasons why TMS is highly regarded is that while a single positive thought can take a certain pathway once, one session of TMS can practice that positive pathway approximately 3,000-5,000 times. With a typical course of TMS using approximately 30 TMS sessions, this means that these new pathways are stimulated up to 150,000 times. This repeated stimulation means that the brain can start taking and triggering these pathways more naturally in daily life to produce these positive feelings, and be less likely to take the former depressive pathways, meaning that TMS has the potential to alter the brain pathways and function for the better in the long-term.
Benefits of TMS
TMS is often used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective, and has a wide range of benefits, including:
It’s painless and non-invasive there is no anaesthesia required and it is done in a regular appointment without hospitalisations or any drastic measures.
Many TMS providers have been finding success rates of between 70% or 80%, meaning that the vast majority of individuals find significant relief after treatment.
Approximatley 50% of people experience complete remission, meaning that the symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions reduce noticeably after just one course of treatment.
Studies have shown efficacy for TMS, proving that it can achieve results that are similar to or exceed antidepressant medications, especially in populations where the study participants d id not have a response to antidepressant medications, but did to TMS. Better yet, you don’t have to continue to take medications that may have
A study looking specifically at TMS for veterans found that after TMS treatment, 65.3% demonstrated clinically meaningful reduction in their PTSD symptoms, and 46.1% no longer met the threshold criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.
TMS has proven to be a highly effective and safe treatment for all forms of anxiety. Clinical studies evidence that as many as 70% of anxiety sufferers have a significant improvement response to TMS – 68% achieve remission from