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Can TMS be Used to Treat OCD?

Can TMS be Used to Treat OCD?

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What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. It happens when a person becomes caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

At some point in our lives, most of us have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors, but this does not mean everyone has some OCD. The obsessions and compulsions must be so severe that they take up more than an hour each day, cause great anguish, or prevent you from engaging in meaningful activities.1

The lifetime prevalence of OCD in people in the United States is 2.3%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).2

OCD can only be diagnosed by licensed therapists. They will look for obsessions and compulsions that consume much time and interfere with activities that a person values, such as employment, education, or socializing.3

Symptoms of OCD include the following:

  • Obsessions Symptoms:4
  • Fear of getting sick after handling stuff that other people have touched
    • Questions about whether you properly locked the door or turned off the stove
    • When things aren’t in order or facing the right way, it causes much stress
    • Thoughts of ramming your automobile into a crowd
    • Unpleasant sexual imagery or ideas about misbehaving in public or shouting obscenities
    • Avoiding circumstances that can set off obsessions, like shaking hands
  • Compulsion Symptoms:
    • Scrubbing your hands until they are raw
    • Repeatedly ensuring that the doors are locked
    • Repeatedly ensuring that the stove is off
    • Using specific patterns to count
    • Repeating a word, phrase, or prayer out loud
    • Putting all of your canned items in the same direction

People with OCD have stressful and recurrent thoughts (obsessions), which frequently prompt them to take an action they feel compelled to do (compulsions). They might need to engage in these compulsions once or more to feel at ease.5

Although compulsions and obsessions might differ from person to person, clinicians typically classify them into distinct types. In addition, people frequently experience many distinct categories of symptoms, which can change over time.

Psychotherapy and medications are the two basic OCD treatments. Treatment is frequently most successful when these are combined. However, alternative treatments, like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), are available.

TMS Treatment for OCD

There are two types of TMS therapy:

  • Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS)
  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)

Patients who don’t respond well to medical and psychological interventions may be candidates for high-frequency dTMS, which has been shown to reduce OCD symptoms significantly.6

TMS uses electromagnetic waves to stimulate underactive areas of the brain. A small coil is placed over the patient’s head during the treatment. The electric current in the coil produces magnetic fields that can pass through the scalp and bone and influence the activity of the nerve cells in the cortex. The magnetic pulses’ location, intensity, and frequency all impact how the magnetic stimulation functions.7

The effectiveness, frequency of sessions, and intensity of each therapy session vary. Your initial appointment will determine the type of TMS you’ll receive based on the symptoms you often encounter and any other needs you may have.

TMS for OCD specifically targets the brain’s supplementary motor cortex (SMA). Intrusive repeated actions and thoughts are frequently linked to an overactive SMA. Patients usually experience relief. They can break free from their obsessive thought and behavior patterns by targeting this area with an inhibitory treatment.8

Other parts of the brain can be targeted during a TMS session if treating the SMA for OCD symptoms is ineffective. These areas consist of:

  • Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC)
  • Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC)
  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC)

According to studies examining the efficacy of deep TMS for treating OCD, one month after treatment, roughly 45% of patients with OCD reported fewer symptoms. This percentage may be higher than 55%, according to research by BrainsWay, the company that makes one of the devices used in the FDA-approved OCD treatment.9

OCD TMS treatment begins with an initial session in which a TMS administrator takes one-time measurements to pinpoint the precise site of the SMA. Sometimes, they’ll measure additional brain regions that may also benefit from TMS therapy for OCD. A complete treatment program typically consists of sessions five days a week for six weeks. Every session may last between 15 and 30 minutes.

TMS OCD therapy is superior to other types of treatment because it’s relatively safe and has little to no side effects. Additional benefits of OCD TMS treatment include:10

  • Won’t have to use prescription medication
  • Better sleep
  • Better mood
  • Help with regaining interest in activities
  • Improvement in mild anxiety
  • Reduced melancholy and gloom
  • Does not require anesthetic, is non-invasive, and most patients tolerate it well
  • An outpatient service so that the patient can go about their daily business as usual
  • According to recent studies, patients who have had trouble taking their medications can still benefit

Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.

When Should TMS be Used to Treat OCD?

When more conventional therapy options have failed to control OCD in people aged 22 to 68, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TMS.

Additionally, you must be healthy enough to get TMS therapy for OCD. This means:11

  • No thoughts of suicide
  • No signs of psychosis
  • No metal inside the skull
  • There are no neurological issues (i.e., seizures)
  • Neither nursing nor pregnant
  • No substance abuse

OCD symptoms can be safely and efficiently treated with deep TMS. This is especially true for individuals who have not responded well enough to other OCD treatments.

How Will I Know TMS Treatment for OCD is Working?

People frequently have the impression that treatment will make them feel better immediately. While occasionally true, you’ll typically feel worse before feeling better. Therefore, feeling worse is usually a sign that TMS therapy for OCD is working. In addition, a reduction in obsessive and compulsive behaviors and thoughts is usually a good indication of effective treatments.

Fortunately, the outlook for most OCD sufferers is good. They may manage their obsessions and compulsions, enjoying life with the help of medication, psychotherapy, interventional psychiatry, or a combination.

Are There any Side Effects or Risks of Using TMS for OCD?

When administered following the usage directions, TMS for OCD is a safe and efficient treatment. In addition, it has not demonstrated a capacity to worsen symptoms.

Side effects, while rare and mild, may include:12

  • Headaches
  • Scalp soreness
  • Tingling, spasms, or twitching facial muscles
  • Lightheadedness
  • Seizures (rare)
  • Hypomania or mania (rare and primarily seen in patients with bipolar disorder)

Who Should Avoid TMS for OCD Treatment?

Those with certain medical issues should avoid TMS for OCD. For instance, those with a history of seizures, those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, those with metal implants in the brain or other parts of the body, and those nursing or pregnant should avoid TMS OCD therapy.

In addition, you should always let your doctor know if you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, or vitamins. Certain drug combinations can cause serious complications. Finally, those with co-occurring mental health conditions like depression should also discuss their symptoms with their doctor.13

Cost & Insurance Coverage for TMS for OCD

Depending on how severe your OCD symptoms are and your level of health insurance, TMS for OCD costs will vary for each patient. Currently, insurance companies are examining clinical evidence to decide how to pay for deep TMS OCD therapy. Individuals with a mental health illness must fulfill the conditions established by their insurance carrier, based on the specific regional standards and norms, to be eligible for dTMS treatment coverage.14

Athena Care is in-network with most major insurance plans. Filling out our free and confidential online insurance verification form is the best method to determine the specifics of your OCD therapy insurance coverage.

A care coordinator can assist you with any questions or concerns regarding OCD therapy or insurance Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at one of our multiple Tennessee-based TMS therapy centers.

Insurance companies might demand that you seek prior authorization, try at least one other form of OCD treatment before TMS, or cover the cost of at least a portion of the bill before starting TMS. Some might offer no TMS coverage at all.

The expense of TMS therapy for OCD may be at least $15,000 for individuals who pay for everything out of pocket.


  1. International OCD Foundation. “What Is OCD?” International OCD Foundation, 9 Sept. 2022, iocdf.org/about-ocd.
  2. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd.
  3. International OCD Foundation. “How Is OCD Diagnosed?” International OCD Foundation, 3 May 2022, iocdf.org/about-ocd/how-is-ocd-diagnosed.
  4. “Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 11 Mar. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354432.
  5. “5 Common Types of OCD.” St. Luke’s Health, 27 Sept. 2019, www.stlukeshealth.org/resources/5-common-types-ocd.
  6. Carmi, Lior, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Prospective Multicenter Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 176, no. 11, American Psychiatric Association Publishing, Nov. 2019, pp. 931–38. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101180.
  7. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Adults with PTSD, GAD, or Depression: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, 31 October 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25473719/
  8. Mandriota, Morgan. “Understanding Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for OCD.” Psych Central, 20 May 2022, psychcentral.com/ocd/tms-for-ocd.
  9. BrainsWay – Noninvasive, Innovative Deep TMS Treatments. “Deep TMS Treatment for OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).” BrainsWay, 30 Nov. 2022, www.brainsway.com/treatments/obsessive-compulsive-disorder.
  10. Ifadmin. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS Therapy – Benefits.” BrainStim TMS USA, 11 Aug. 2020, brainstimtms.com/transcranial-magnetic-stimulation-or-tms-therapy-benefits.
  11. BrainsWay. “Who Is Eligible for, and Should Consider Deep TMS Treatment?” BrainsWay, 5 Jan. 2022, www.brainsway.com/patients-faqs/who-is-eligible-for-deep-tms-treatment.
  12. Mishra, Biswa Ranjan. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Psychiatry Mishra BR, Sarkar S, Praharaj SK, Mehta VS, Diwedi S, Nizamie S H – Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 1 Oct. 2011, www.annalsofian.org/article.asp?issn=0972-2327;year=2011;volume=14;issue=4;spage=245;epage=251;aulast=Mishra.
  13. International OCD Foundation. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for OCD.” International OCD Foundation, 18 Aug. 2022, iocdf.org/about-ocd/ocd-treatment/tms.
  14. BrainsWay. “Who Is Eligible for, and Should Consider Deep TMS Treatment?” BrainsWay, 5 Jan. 2022, www.brainsway.com/patients-faqs/who-is-eligible-for-deep-tms-treatment.

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

(615) 320-1155