TMS Therapy for Teen Depression

Unfortunately, the UK has a large proportion of depressed youth. Left untreated, depression can have a devastating impact on an individual, leading to issues such as substance abuse, social isolation, relationship problems, academic issues, teen pregnancy, and even suicidal ideation. Without proper treatment for depression symptoms as a child, they often continue into adolescent depression and further into adulthood.

TMS therapy – short for transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy – has been shown to be an effective therapy for adults with treatment-resistant depression. However, is it safe for teenagers, or should they avoid it as their brains are not yet fully developed?

In this blog, we will discuss TMS therapy and explore whether or not it should be used for young people who are experiencing treatment-resistant depression.

What Is Depression?

In the United Kingdom, major depressive disorder is a very common mental health disorder, characterised by persistent sadness, a lack of interest in life, and a sense of hopelessness. Depression is more than just feeling low from time to time. It is not something you can just snap out of; it is a medical condition, however, treatment options are available, even for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD).

Some common depressive symptoms include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling guilty
  • Low mood
  • Low concentration and focus
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Sleep issues
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Pessimism
  • Low libido
  • Aches, cramps, and pains
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thought

What Is TMS Therapy and How Does It Work?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a type of therapy used as a treatment for mental health issues when first-line treatments have failed to be effective. First-line treatments include talk therapy and medication. TMS treatment sessions have a strong success rate among adults in treating major depressive disorder. It can also be useful for those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.

So, how does TMS therapy actually work? It is a completely non-invasive procedure, meaning that you do not need an anaesthetic during a treatment session. This is a huge bonus of this type of treatment as it means that the client remains awake and can go about their day as normal after a session.

Treatment involves stimulating the brain by using a magnetic coil on the client’s head, over part of the brain known as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This section is thought to help control mood. Stimulating this region can therefore improve certain mental health problems.

During a TMS session, highly focused magnetic pulses will be administered repeatedly into the brain of the client via a magnetic coil. This is a painless procedure and usually lasts between 20-60 minutes per session. The entire treatment plan is usually administered over 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks.

How Does TMS Therapy Help Clients Suffering From Treatment-Resistant Depression?

When you are depressed, certain chemical messengers in the brain become disrupted. TMS helps with depression as it helps to rebalance these important brain chemicals that promote feelings of well-being and happiness. During a TMS session, magnetic pulses will gently stimulate the brain, and the electrical currents that are induced activate brain cells which are thought to release neurotransmitters that are responsible for feeling happy such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

Is TMS Therapy Recommended For Adolescent Depression?

In the UK, TMS is approved for use in adults over 18 years old. However, more research is necessary in order to properly evaluate the long-term health consequences on people with developing brains, as teenage brains are different from adult brains. There are, however, some clinics in the UK that offer TMS to those over the age of 14.

There are both pros and cons to this type of depression treatment:

Pros For TMS Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation could be a good option for teen depression as it works around daily life. It is a completely non-invasive form of treatment and clients remain awake during the TMS treatments. This means that an adolescent would be able to resume everyday activities immediately after a TMS therapy session, so their studies would have minimal disruption.

Another benefit of using transcranial magnetic stimulation for teenage depression is that it has fewer side effects than other treatments such as antidepressant medications and appears to be tolerated well in teenagers, with the risks involved being similar to the risks involved for adults. However, larger clinical trials and more research are needed to properly determine the effect on developing brain cells.


TMS to treat major depressive disorder and other psychological conditions in adolescent patients can be expensive.

There isn’t the same level of knowledge about the impact of TMS therapy on the developing brain. The developing brain is not the same as a brain that is fully formed, and it is not properly known how TMS therapy fully impacts the developing brain of children. Therefore, TMS therapy for adolescent depression carries unknown potential risks.

Some of the common side effects of TMS treatment include:

  • Scalp discomfort or tingling
  • Face muscle tingling or twitching
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness

In rare cases, some more severe side effects have been reported, including:

  • Seizures
  • Hearing problems (due to the loud clicking noise of the TMS machine – earplugs should be worn during TMS therapy)
  • Mania (especially for those with bipolar disorder)

There are certain risk factors to be aware of. TMS is not advised for everyone as for some it is not safe due to the magnetic pulses used in treatment. The following people should avoid TMS treatment as they may experience adverse effects:

  • Those with cochlear implants
  • Those with stents
  • Those with bullet fragments or shrapnel in their bodies
  • Those with implanted pacemakers or medication pumps
  • Those with magnet-sensitive tattoos
  • Those with implanted deep brain stimulators or vagus nerve stimulators
  • Those with any magnetic implants/metal devices inside the body
  • Those with electrodes monitoring brain activity
  • Those with a history of seizures

Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy is safe and effective in easing depression in adults, however more clinical trials and research is needed in order to evaluate the potential risks involved for the developing brain of teenagers. It does appear to be a promising treatment if traditional treatment methods such as antidepressant medication or talk therapy have not worked, but it has not yet been proven to be fully safe. It has many benefits, however, and perhaps in the near future, it will be a good form of treatment for teenage depression, once more trials have been conducted.

Treatment at Addcounsel

At Addcounsel, we are experts in helping clients experiencing depression symptoms, as well as addiction and a range of other neurological disorders. We offer one-to-one treatment in a private setting, ensuring the highest level of anonymity and individualised care. Our luxury accommodation is guaranteed to make your experience both comfortable and calming, enhancing the recovery process.

For those seeking treatment for depression, we take a “whole person” approach. We believe that treating depression involves addressing the triggers, causes, and symptoms of your condition in order to ensure a successful long-term recovery. Our team of experts will guide you through developing effective tools to manage your mental health both now and in the future. Get in touch today to begin your recovery.


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