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Why It’s Best For Bipolar Patients To Avoid Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS for short, is a form of neurostimulation. According to one source, “TMS is a non-invasive procedure in which a changing magnetic field is used to cause electric current to flow in a small targeted region of the brain via electromagnetic induction. During a TMS procedure, a magnetic field generator, or “coil”, is placed on the scalp. The coil is connected to a pulse generator, or stimulator, that delivers a changing electric current to the coil.”

My therapist brought it up, that I should ask my psychiatrist because she thought it might help my moods. I spoke with him and he had lunch with a rep (great psych doc, right)? Next time I spoke with him he told me it might be good for me and I got the info from someone in the office for the nearest facility.

I checked out their website then gave them a ring. I found out that their office in my city wouldn’t take my insurance but the other two closest to me would. The closest to me was nearly a two hour drive. But, I made an appointment for a consultation. I drove up there with my mom last Wednesday. I saw both TMS devices. One looked like an adjustable dentists chair with, what looked like, a mini-crane coming over and down with the actual magnetic device attached at the bottom. When seated, it could be adjusted to the proper portion of one’s head to do its neurostimulation thing. The other machine was in a different room  and appeared quite different than the first. This one had an upright seat and a helmet that went over one’s head to do the same thing as the first. The procedure of both took between twenty two and thirty minutes.

Then Alexis, the consultant,  and I sat down and went over my psychiatric history. How many years have I been in therapy? What medications was I on? (It is always a good idea to bring a list with you instead of scratching your head trying to remember the dozens you’ve already tried). What was my main diagnosis at the time?

She explained how TMS was used for depressive patients and was very effective. but with a diagnosis of bipolar one it is likely to cause a manic state which stands to reason. If you make a major mood shift of lifting depression you are going to fly to the other extreme. And that, dear reader, is dangerous.

She said she would talk to the doctor but wanted to be honest and told me it was likely that I would not be treated because of my diagnosis because of the reason listed above. She also told me that even if he did approve my care my insurance would likely deny coverage. Once they saw medications used to treat bipolar disorder they would disqualify me for coverage. Pretty stinky, huh?

I left feeling slightly let down. I was kind of hoping this would be the answer to the severe depressive moods I have, or that even if things stayed as they are I could get off some of my medications.

The more I thought about it the less I cared. Did I really want to mess with my brain using magnetic forces? Plus driving that two hour distance 5 days a week for thirty two treatments really wasn’t appealing.

I received a phone call from Alexis yesterday telling me that the doctor did not feel comfortable treating me with my diagnosis of bipolar one and his fear of inducing a manic state. She was very apologetic and I told her it was alright (again see above paragraph).

So, there you have it. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation just is not the best treatment for us and that is okay. New technology is being FDA approved every day and one day their will be something that works better than ECT and TMS.

Hang in there, dear reader. We will ride this wave together.


Photo by IsaacMao

Why It’s Best For Bipolar Patients To Avoid Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Elaina J. Martin

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APA Reference
Martin, E. (2018). Why It’s Best For Bipolar Patients To Avoid Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 Dec 2018
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