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What is Anxiety?
Anxiety, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is a severe mental illness characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry. The condition occurs on most days of the week and lasts for at least 6 months. GAD affects about 6.8 million adult Americans or 3.1% of the US population. The exact cause for GAD is not fully identified but genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors seem to trigger the disorder.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America describe anxiety in adults when they experience at least three of the following symptoms:
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty in sleeping or staying asleep
- Problems concentrating
Other symptoms may include stomach upsets, nausea, or diarrhea. In most cases, GAD can overlap other mental disorders with depression being the most common of all. This makes it even harder in detecting and treating anxiety.
Today, treatments like medications and therapy are often prescribed to people suffering from anxiety. Even with these treatments, though, as many as 50% of patients fail to improve.
The Neurobiology Behind GAD
GAD affects the frontal and limbic structures of the brain. It can also disturb some of the connectivity between these regions. The frontal region of the brain is commonly associated with anxiety and has become the basis for using TMS therapy in treating anxiety.
TMS therapy can give hope to patients who can’t tolerate antidepressant medications or who’ve tried therapy several times but failed to see improvement.
Treating Anxiety with rTMS Therapy
TMS therapy sends out electromagnetic pulses near the frontal region of the head to stimulate nerve cells in the patient’s brain. This region of the brain controls mood behavior. When magnetically pulsed in quick succession, it’s called rTMS or repetitive TMS. rTMS is quite simple and can be administered in a doctor’s office. As a non-invasive method, it does not require traumatic procedures like sedation or anesthesia. It is also non-systemic which means there are no fears of anxiolytic medication side effects.
Various types of research show TMS therapy can help people suffering from anxiety disorder. The US Food and Drug Administration first approved TMS therapy in 2008 for treating major depressive disorder. Two years after its approval, researchers at the University of California conducted a small-open label study of 10 patients. The UCLA discovered that TMS therapy may also be used as an effective treatment for at least some anxiety disorders. The results from that study shows a favorable 60% response rate for people suffering from GAD. This makes TMS therapy at least twice as effective as conventional anxiety treatments.
TMS therapy benefits
TMS therapy can still benefit people who have already tried several other anxiety treatments to no benefit. Even for patients who haven’t responded well to their previous treatments can improve through TMS therapy. Some of the benefits include:
- Greater control of anxiety problems
- Decrease in the emotional aspects of depression
- No major bodily changes
- Fewer muscle pains
- Fatigue prevention
Most studies shows that TMS therapy will often result in the overall mood improvement of patients. People diagnosed with an anxiety disorder can now live in worry-free and productive lives with this treatment method and are recommended to look further into their options.