Too Good to Be True: How TMS Damaged My Brain

James Hall
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6372

I am a 37-year-old father of two and husband to a fantastic wife of 15 years. For at least as long, I have struggled on and off with anxiety and depression. Throughout, I have managed them through counseling, diet, and exercise. I have tried antidepressant drugs several times, but they have never done anything for me except make the situation worse.  Despite my mental health issues, I had nonetheless been able to contribute meaningfully to my family, my community, and my work in a high-level corporate job.

About a year and a half ago the biggest threat to my stability came not from my anxiety and depression but from a new form of treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. The Mayo Clinic website describes TMS as “a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.” They make it sound simple enough: “An electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control….” Based on my experience with it, nothing could be further from the truth. TMS not only has not improved my mental health but also has robbed me of some of the most important things in life. As it stands, there has been little to no research on or awareness around the negative side effects that TMS can inflict. This must change and is more important than ever as this treatment continues to grow in popularity.

Hoping for a “Breakthrough”

My introduction to TMS occurred by chance, during a regular checkup with my primary care doctor. As a part of the checkup, I filled out a questionnaire on depression. At the end of the visit, he asked me, “How long have you been feeling depressed?” After I told him about my history, he brought up TMS, describing it as a breakthrough treatment that did not involve taking a pill. He told me that he believed one day soon, every doctor’s office would have one of these machines, with which they could simply and effectively treat their patients for depression. Having witnessed the horrors of medications firsthand, I was very intrigued and excited about a treatment that could positively affect the brain without the use of a toxic pharmaceutical. My doctor told me to look up Neurostar because it was the “gold standard” for TMS machines.

I left the office that day filled with an unexpected hope that I might find relief from my long-standing battle with depression.

I went home and immediately started researching TMS and Neurostar so I could better understand the treatment and then talk to my wife about it. The first thing I found was a newly opened TMS clinic on the other side of town. That was one hurdle down. Next, I found quite a bit of information on the procedure itself, all positive, with a lot of documentation and testimonials about how it was possible to achieve a miraculous and long-lasting remission from depression. The success rates I found were as high as 80 percent; others stood at around 60 percent. It seemed to validate what I had learned from my doctor.

Next, I researched the potential side effects. I visited several different sites, including Neurostar’s homepage. The side effects listed seemed pretty minimal to me: headaches, lightheadedness, burning sensations on the scalp, and in extreme cases seizures. But these were all said to be temporary and should not last any longer than two to four weeks after treatment. That afternoon, I discussed all my findings with my wife. She admitted she was apprehensive but begrudgingly agreed that I could go down and have a consultation. The next day, I called the clinic and scheduled my first visit.

At the initial appointment, I met with a psychiatrist who asked me about my current and past mental health issues as well as the medications and different treatments I had tried. After we talked through my history, he said I would be a good candidate for TMS. I asked about the risk of seizure. He told me that the only real risk of seizure was at the initial “mapping” session on the Neurostar machine when they discover my “motor threshold,” which is the point at which the electromagnet elicits a physical response from your body. Also, he said seizure was extremely rare and that he had neither heard of nor encountered them in TMS patients.

Then he introduced me to the staff and technicians. I asked them the same questions about side effects, and they all confirmed independently the same risks that I had read about online and reviewed with the psychiatrist. I also signed paperwork that included disclosures saying that I accepted those risks without mentioning any others. The staff offered to set me up with my first appointment the next day and I agreed. Although I was a bit nervous, I was excited at the potential of curing myself of depression at what seemed to be very little risk. I will admit: It did seem too good to be true. But I rationalized away my doubt, believing that modern medicine was now so advanced that this kind of treatment was possible.

So Far, So Good

The first treatment was a mapping session.  They set me in what was similar to a dentist’s chair with a large articulating arm on its left side, which was attached to a large computer with a monitor and user interface. Then they moved the articulating arm up to my left temple, so it rested within a few millimeters of my head, handed me hearing protection, and started the mapping. The machine was activated and ran pulses of electromagnetic energy through the tip of the arm that was pointed at my left temporal lobe. It made loud clicking noises while it ran for a number of seconds before stopping for another several seconds and then started up again. Each time they ran the pulse they observed my hands to see if I flinched or seized.

By doing this, they were looking for the best arm placement for the machine against my head so that there would be no motor response from my body. The flinching sensations I felt were disturbing, but not particularly unpleasant, so I did not worry. After about 20 minutes, the technicians were satisfied and said the computer would remember the custom settings for me so that when I came back the next day, I could just sit down and get started. From that point on, each session would last about 25 minutes. We scheduled sessions for five days a week over the next three months. It was a big time commitment, but it was worth the proposed payoff.

The next day I showed up, feeling a bit nervous and unsure of what it would be like to get a full treatment. I also felt a bit of hope that I might go home feeling better that night. The staff was friendly and made me feel very comfortable. We chatted while I got set up in the chair with hearing protection, just like during the mapping session. They fired up the machine and set the articulating arm up to the same spot on my left temple. The tech let me know she was going to start, I agreed, and the machine began clacking away at my head. In all honesty I felt nothing but a bit of an uncomfortable tingling or snapping sensation at the site where the arm was closest to my head. At the end of the session I was pleased that I had felt nothing remarkable.

The tech asked me, “How do you feel?”

I thought about it and replied, “I feel great… a bit lightheaded, but not bad.”

She said, “Great. Now, if you feel comfortable with that, we will turn up the intensity next time. You are at 50 percent and we need to get you up to 110 percent, which is the therapeutic dose.”

I thought, What the hell is going on here? They had not told me anything about having to raise the intensity of this thing. Still, I told the tech OK and left, feeling a bit put off. But then I thought: That session was not so bad, so the next one would be fine.

The second session was the same as the last but they “turned up the intensity” by 5 percent. We settled on the 5 percent out of my instinct to be cautious. They actually asked me how much I wanted to turn it up and said they could go as high as 10 percent each session and that the faster we got to 110 percent of my motor threshold, the faster I would feel better, having gotten the “full therapeutic dose” for longer. This made sense and I wanted to do the full 10, but I had no idea how different that would feel. My instincts nagged at me, and in hindsight I realize that my gut was saying: “If bumping it up by 10 percent was easy, they wouldn’t ask you if it was OK. They would just do it.”

We went through the same procedure at the additional 5 percent intensity. At the end, they asked again, “How are you feeling?” This time, I was a little more apprehensive with my answer. I said, “I am feeling pretty lightheaded… Is this going to get worse? Does everyone get this lightheaded?” They replied that it was normal, temporary, and that there was nothing to worry about. They also said that the feeling typically goes away after the first two weeks. I thought about it for a moment and likened the sensation to having had a few beers and decided, “No big deal, they are probably right.” I would be driving myself home, though, and considered whether driving feeling like this would be a good idea. I felt that different.

After a full night’s sleep, I returned for the next session. I still felt a bit lightheaded, but I was confident that what they were telling me was true and this would all go away after I got through the first few weeks of TMS.

Lingering Questions

This time, I had my wife drive me to the treatment facility. We repeated the treatment and only turned the intensity up by 5 percent again. By that point, I had built an excellent rapport with the tech. I decided to ask her whether anyone had ever quit because it was too unpleasant. She told me about just one gentleman who’d stopped going because he could not take time off work while receiving the treatment. I considered my own situation. I had the ability to take time off work as necessary, so I did not think that would become an issue. I also asked her if she had seen any side effects that were not mentioned or things she thought were suspicious. I believed her when she said, “No.” She had had one other patient who’d quit because said he did not benefit after a month of treatments, but that was it.

When my session was complete, the tech asked me the usual question: “How do you feel?” I gave the usual answer. I explained to her that I felt lightheaded and almost intoxicated. She again dispelled this as normal, and I left believing her. My wife drove me home, and I am glad she did as it was clear to me now that I should not be driving in such a state. At the time, I would describe the lightheaded sensation using words such as intense, ethereal, intoxicated, fuzzy, or off. Other times I would say that I just felt dumb.

The next session or two followed the same pattern until I was strongly encouraged to turn the intensity up by 10 percent so that we could get to the “therapeutic” dose on schedule. I agreed and we bumped it up. The lightheaded feeling intensified. It was very unpleasant, but feeling like that put me into a kind of drone state. I figured I would just go through the motions of life until I started feeling better.

I finally got to the full therapeutic dose and asked the staff when I would start to work my way out of this lightheadedness I was experiencing. They replied that I should begin to get back to normal after about a week at this dose. I trusted what they said and eagerly awaited my return to normalcy. I went through another week of treatments but I felt the same after every session. The lightheadedness persisted at all times and through everything in my life, including my work for a Fortune 10 company, which I had been managing to complete from home.

Things were slow at work, which really helped. I know that if work had been moving at full pace, there would be no way I could perform my usual function as a software and database administrator. Just in case things took a turn for the worse, I let my manager know that I was receiving medical treatments and that I might have to take some time off work if I experienced serious side effects. I wasn’t too worried, though; I’d worked for the company for some 15 years and had received excellent evaluations.

When that week had passed, I still felt the same and had the same conversation with the treatment staff about when my side effects might subside. They changed their story a little bit this time, telling me that some patients feel lightheaded through the end of treatment, but that it was always temporary and should let up soon. This news raised some red flags for me, but with everything I had read and everyone I had talked to, I truly believed them. After all, I was just undergoing a magnetic pulse that stimulated my brain’s neuron activity. How could that cause any long-term problems?

Disturbing New Symptoms

I continued the treatment with no relief from the side effects for the next few weeks. Then one night while I was sleeping, I heard the fire alarm go off in my home. I shot up in my bed, scared as hell. My wife was still sound asleep. I scanned the room, frantic, looking for smoke or light from a fire, but saw nothing unusual.

I quickly shook my wife awake and began yelling at her: “Get the hell up, the freaking fire alarm is going off!”

Her eyes opened wide and she said, “Honey, it’s OK! There is no fire, the fire alarm is not going off.”

I demanded, “What the hell is wrong with you? You can’t hear that? Are you deaf?”

I felt scared because my gut was starting to understand that something was wrong within me, although my conscious mind had not figured it out yet. She asked, “What do you hear? There’s nothing there.”

I replied, “What? You can’t hear that? That screaming sound, it’s like incredibly loud ringing.”

She said, “No, there’s nothing there. It’s OK, your ears are ringing. You have never had that before? It happens to me all the time.”

The pieces of the puzzle started filling in for me, but by now I was absolutely terrified. I was experiencing intense tinnitus. I managed to calm down and fall back asleep after some time. The next morning, I still had the tinnitus, but it was not as intense. That day at my treatment session I brought up the sound to the clinicians there. They said that it can happen but again assured me that it would be temporary. I felt so thankful. Because my wife had experienced tinnitus before, I figured it was not a big deal. I learned to cope with it and just moved forward.

After I developed tinnitus, some other minor symptoms came and went as well. I would have dizzy spells and bouts of nausea that had never occurred previously. Before this, the only time I’d ever become dizzy was after I’d spun in circles playing games with my kids or going on a carnival ride. I had only ever experienced nausea in tandem with eating bad food or having the flu. These were side effects of TMS, and when I brought it up in treatment, I was told that it happened, but it was just temporary and would subside after treatment at the very latest.

Cut Loose

Soon after these symptoms developed toward the end of my treatment, I had a regularly scheduled teleconference meeting with my boss at work. Skipping the formalities and without warning, he told me he was letting me go. When I asked if I had done something wrong, he told me no; there was no cause. Then he briefly answered a few questions and hung up. It sent me reeling. I realized that in less than five minutes, I had lost a job at which I had worked painstakingly for the best years of my life.

I comforted myself by assuming mine was part of a larger layoff of many people in my department, so I asked a few friends still working there about it. They all confirmed that I was the only one. I later learned I was replaced about a week later. Clearly my management team perceived my disability and moved quickly to remove the problem.

I am a pretty pragmatic character, and after I recovered from the initial shock of being fired, I was actually glad I did not have to worry about work anymore and was looking forward to the new possibilities of a life free of depression. So I finished out the TMS treatments without any change in my side effects, even though I still hadn’t gotten any relief from the symptoms that led me to TMS in the first place.

When my TMS treatments were complete, I had an exit interview with the center’s psychiatrist, during which we discussed my marginal results. He seemed to think that I might continue to improve for weeks after my treatment. At this point, I had one burning question for him. When would my side effects let up? I was not even concerned that my depression had not improved. I was so tired of being lightheaded and impaired every minute of every day for the last three months; that is all I could think about. He told me the same thing that all the literature and all the techs had said: “It should dissipate in two to four weeks.”

I then asked him, “What happens if it does not?” He responded that the only reason it wouldn’t is if I had developed a different neurological problem during treatment that was unrelated to TMS. If that occurred, I should go see a neurologist. The small red flag that had been raised at the back of my head from the beginning began flapping in the wind of the now-barren landscape of my mind. No distractions, no doubts, this was it: They were washing their hands of me. In all likelihood, I had made the gravest mistake of my life in trusting them with my mental health.

More Impairments

So I waited. Week after week, I waited for my normal brain function to return. I wanted my sharp, witty mindset back so I could begin my life again. It did not return, and I began to notice more peculiar things about myself besides just feeling drunk or hungover all the time. My short-term memory was kaput.

For instance, one morning I was putting ice into a cup from the dispenser in the freezer and overdid it. Ice cubes spilled out and filled the exterior tray on the front of the fridge. I figured I should set my cup down, turn around, and then clean up the ice. Instead, I got distracted, forgot the ice, and by the time I remembered it, it had melted and made a mess on the kitchen floor. My wife noticed and said, “What happened here?” I told her and said that I would clean it up now. I grabbed some paper towels and started soaking up the water. Then I left for just a moment and did something else. About an hour later my wife approached me again about the mess in front of the fridge and I asked her, “What mess?”

Prior to my TMS treatment, I was a “Type A” personality. I hadn’t left a mess out since I was 10 years old, so this was an extreme deviation from my previous behavior and cognitive ability.

The other change is that I can no longer multitask. If I am doing something and someone talks to me, I forget what I had been doing. If one person is talking to me and another person comes up and begins talking at the same time, I cannot make out what either one of them is saying, even if I focus hard. If there are any distractions in my environment it is now extremely hard, if not impossible, for me to stay on track.

After two months, when I was sure these symptoms were not letting up, I scheduled an appointment with a neurologist. He was very aware of what TMS is and had been to a conference on it. However, he too thought my symptoms would dissipate. To rule out any other factors, though, he ordered an MRI of my head. When that came back clean, he ordered EEGs, bloodwork, and neuropsychological testing. All the results came back normal except for the neuropsychological testing, which showed MCI, or mild cognitive impairment. Almost all of my mental processes were now below average: Storytelling, recall, and cognitive shifts (multitasking) were impaired. At least now I had proof.

After I better understood what had happened to my mind, I went to see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and an audiologist. More testing ensued and the doctors diagnosed me with tinnitus and high-frequency hearing loss. Furthermore, they told me that I am one firework display away from major hearing loss. Their solution was that I should wear two forms of hearing protection whenever I am in loud environments.

By this point, almost half a year had passed, and I felt no improvement. After talking to several different doctors, including some of the best in my state, I was left empty-handed. I continue to search for ways to heal myself and recover from a new treatment whose disabling effects modern medicine has no defined way to counter. When you are taking an anti-depressant or other pharmaceuticals, you can stop taking the pill and your body will naturally flush the chemicals out of your system in time. With TMS, there is no way for your system to do that. All you can do is wait for your brain to adapt as it attempts to restore the damage done by the electromagnetic pulses forced through it. Little to nothing is known about how that process might work, much less how to hasten it. I have talked to quite a few medical professionals who deny that what happened to me is even possible.

Finding the Others

After I learned about the damage TMS caused, I felt desperately alone. My mind turned to the fact that this “treatment” is being performed on so many others, and some of them likely wound up damaged like me. I searched online often but could not find anyone else in my situation nor any documentation for the type of side effects I experienced. I even found research showing that TMS could be used to improve memory and cognitive function. This was vexing, but I could not think of anything I could do about it.

One day, I finally searched with the right phrase, and a TMS forum came up in my results with a specific thread on memory loss. There it was: Years ago, someone had posted that they were having problems with their memory after receiving TMS and could not even remember their wife’s name. I continued to read and found there were many others like us, not only with memory problems but also suffering from other physiological symptoms including tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), numbness, tingling and burning throughout their bodies, detached retina, and loss of control of facial muscles, to name a few. There was also a theme of new and worsening depression, as well as new, extreme anxiety so severe that it had led to a suicide.

After reading these stories, I understood that something very wrong was occurring and being swept under the rug. These symptoms were devastating, yet they were not being disclosed to prospective patients. After additional research, I discovered that these types of symptoms and events have been reported to the FDA for years. Furthermore, the FDA itself has reported these events to the device manufacturers, yet the manufacturers have done nothing to inform patients about them. They are not disclosed on the consent forms we’re asked to sign nor presented in any literature. It’s not on the manufacturers’ websites, not in the materials provided to the clinics that utilize the devices— nor anywhere else I’ve looked.

Let’s be clear: The manufacturers are perfectly well aware that their devices are ruining the lives of some of their patients, yet they do not inform them of the risks of this procedure, no matter how remote this type of harm is thought to be. They advertise TMS as a risk-free or super-low-risk treatment option and it is even described as such on supposedly objective medical websites. This is simply not true, and the damage is amassing every day.

Today my mission is to inform anyone thinking about undergoing TMS about the real potential side effects of the treatment. I am also trying to provide a community for those suffering from the un- or minimally-documented side effects of TMS through a members-only Facebook group, Victims of TMS Action Group (VTAG). If you know of anyone who can benefit from further information, please tell them about us.

The most important lesson I have learned from my experience with TMS is that the mental health community must approach pharmaceutical and device treatments with the highest possible level of skepticism, trusting our instincts when making decisions about our own care. The stakes are just too high and the protections needed are not yet in place to preserve the health of our communities.

TMS Resources

My story is but one of many, some of which are truly harrowing. You can read more testimonials on the negative effects of TMS on VTAG  as well as this Reddit discussion page and in this blog by psychologist Phil Hickey. You can also search the FDA’s MAUDE database: Enter “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation” in the “Brand” field and set the search dates to between 01/01/2004 and the current date.

86 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I had not known about TMS before this. I fear that like you, me, and so many others, we only find out about the potentially devastating consequences of psychiatric treatments once our lives have been severely damaged or ruined by them. I am so glad that you are able to offer support to other survivors of TMS. I hope that helps you to find meaning in what you have experienced, and I hope that in coming forward, you will help to effect change.

  2. James, this is very disturbing, moreover because you were referred to this harmful ‘treatment’ by a primary treatment physician. Huge disconnect from someone who is supposed to follow an ‘evidence based’ model of care. It is critical that your doctors considers the evidence you present with your body before he refers more unwitting victims to this barbaric ‘treatment!’

    Recently, I received an advertisement from a TMS provider in Eugene, Oregon, asking our organization to help him ‘advertise’ this ‘groundbreaking’ new treatment to psych survivors. My response was shock. Didn’t he read our organization’s website? My response was to write a single page letter, sending it to the TMS provider. I had hoped to get a dialogue going, maybe a face to face meeting. No such luck. Tellingly, I never received a response even though his office was only blocks from my office.

    How would you suggest educating primary care physicians about the danger of this ‘treatment’? Could we wage a letter writing campaign targeting your treatment provider? Please feel free to write to me at sarah@mindfreedom.org.
    How many providers of TMS are there in the Pacific Northwest. With your background in computer science, perhaps we could wage a smart campaign on social media.

    I am concerned that as more and more of the data about the harm of psychiatric drugs is exposed, new, even worse ‘novel’ treatment will strive for ‘market share’. I can imagine the cognitive dissonance that will follow as TMS providers invest tons of money in this new technology hoping to win many new patients.

    Since both my son and husband experience tinnitus, both military related, and my husband experiences hearing loss, and Menniere’s disease to boot, I understand the horrific ramifications of hearing loss and vertigo that you are experiencing due to this awful ‘treatment’.

    My son’s only relief from his tinnitus is playing the harp and the violin. He finds tones and chords that match or are in ‘harmony’ with the exact vibrational pitches (Hertz) of his particular tinnitus and cancels out the annoying sound at least once daily. He also runs a fan at night when his tinnitus bothers him the most. This white noise is helpful. My husband experiences tinnitus periodically, often related to changes in the barometric pressure and unfortunately, must resort to sleeping pills when it is very bad. Vertigo and hearing loss are constantly dogging my husband; it is hard enough for my husband to bear but he is seventy-two years old, is retired, and finds great solace in nature and solitude. I can’t imagine how it must be to be in your ‘prime’ and go through this hell, as a provider. My heart goes out to you.

    Have you searched for an attorney yet? I am hopeful that you will find justice and pave the way for the inevitable other casualties of this ‘miracle’ break-through ‘treatment’

    • “Have you searched for an attorney yet?”

      If not, do your research. I got charged 3500 for being told how expensive their time was. Not that they could actually help me, they were at first excited to see that I had the documents demonstrating the torture (“I thought you were mad, but you’ve got the proof” to quote the lawyer concerned. This is how slanderers and frauds operate, creating false beliefs with fraudulent documents).

      But they quickly realised what the government does to people who have the proof of human rights abuses by the State. Best they just empty the pockets of the victim and leave it at that. Charge you thousands until you realise that they are not going to do anything to assist you, and are acting on instructions from another party.

      And be particularly careful of the words “this is just how we do these things”. Prepare yourself for a rather sharp pain between the shoulder blades as the knife enters your spinal column.

      Eugene Oregon? Bet it gets cold enough there to see lawyers with their hands in their own pockets.

    • Your husband and son would most likely benefit from TMS. Just google TMS research. You’ll have a hard time finding negative effects simply because there aren’t a lot negative effects to report.

      You can even follow some of the links James posted which actually contain mostly positive experiences.

      What James experienced is most likely purely temporary. It will go away. Most people do not experience that. I’ve seen 1000s of these sessions first hand (I’m a TMS technician) and it has saved the lives of countless vets and children alike.

      James’ experience is not the norm. That’s why it’s so hard to find articles like this online. But go ahead and search for negative side effects for prozac or adderall (which James claims have no lasting damage without any sources) and you’ll see thousands of articles.

    • “I have talked to quite a few medical professionals who deny that what happened to me is even possible.” That is known as the “white wall of silence,” it’s always the patients’ fault. I ran into that as well. “they’ve got their ‘lines’ prepared,” is right.

      It seems everything the psychiatrists do is harmful to the patients, but profitable for themselves. The psychiatrists should be ashamed of themselves.

      I will say, however, the human body is an amazing thing, which does work to heal the damage done by the doctors. So I hope you do heal with time, James. Although, sometimes it does seem our bodies can not always heal all the adverse effects of the psych treatments. For example, I’ve had “brain zaps,” a known (except by the psychiatrists and doctors) withdrawal symptom of the antidepressants, for almost 20 years now. But I have learned to control them when awake, and I can “brain zap” a headache away in a New York second. So hopefully, you will gradually heal, or at least find ways to turn the harm into something that is at least somewhat beneficial to you. Keep the faith (but not in psychiatrists).

      Thanks for sharing your story, James. I didn’t know much about TMS either. And I agree, “having open and honest discussions about the realities of mental health treatments in America” is very important.

  3. “When you are taking an anti-depressant or other pharmaceuticals, you can stop taking the pill and your body will naturally flush the chemicals out of your system in time. With TMS, there is no way for your system to do that.”

    I can assure you that there is no return to back to normal after psych drugging, either. At least and especially not in my case being drugged as a child into becoming disabled. Most people can go on to cope and develop work-arounds to function after some drug induced brain and body damage, especially if it were minor, but otherwise, there are people in group homes rocking back and forth, grunting and drooling and bobbing their heads around with tardive dyskinesia because of psychiatric drugs they were put on as children, and as this is NOT politically correct or culturally acceptable to acknowledge for what it is, they remain labelled as mentally ill and are forced to take cocktails of the very drugs that ruined them in the first place.

    Oh, and at an astronomical cost to tax payers while professionals and drug companies have nothing but benefited. Few as lucky as myself to have supportive parents still suffer the damage to their brain resulting in cognitive problems, emotional problems, multitudes of odd and sometimes transient movement and sensation problems, and all that you could expect to result from that; substance abuse and addiction, depression, and words that do not even exist to describe the anxiety, rage and desperation.

    And it is still occurring. Psychiatrists and parents, with support from society, are drugging children with psychotropics to manage emotional and behavioral problems, and “mental illness”, and the professionals and drug companies are still bringing in profit and benefitting.

      • “When you are taking an anti-depressant or other pharmaceuticals, you can stop taking the pill and your body will naturally flush the chemicals out of your system in time. With TMS, there is no way for your system to do that.”

        Thank you. This made a lot of sense. When I read this statement I immediately dismissed the rest of the article because factually it’s simply untrue.

  4. I am so sorry this happened.
    The salesmen care about their income, that is all that is behind these experiments.

    Perhaps we should ask our providers to go first or at least have the “treatments” alongside of us?
    It only seems logical that if no risk exists, I’m sure the tech and primary would not mind going first.
    Psychiatrists found it useful to make primary a shrink also, since the primary, after causing the problems will send you to a shrink. The shrink will pass you to a neurologist who will pass you back to the shrink.
    Because each one of them has no clue, and thus, a shrink who does not have to answer to anyone, can keep you as a customer forever.

    And in all this, they pretend to be “scientific”.

    Lawyers are useless, because the “medical” community exists within their own legal system, which is granted to them by laws of governments. Or law of gods, what have you.
    Malpractice, experiments are the norm, not the exception. It is called “medical care”

  5. https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/bc-father-ordered-to-give-inhaler-to-child-he-believes-doesnt-have-asthma/ar-BB12YYJz?ocid=spartanntp

    Interesting. I knew this would happen, but some family members think I’m being a conspiracy theorist.
    When my son was 4 or 5, his pediatrician heard his wheezing. He tended to get croupy sounding coughs when he had a cold. I was not convinced that he had “asthma”, since I was the one who lived with him and would never make him suffer short of breath.
    So I opted against it. I took the script and left.
    He is 28 now and has never had asthma, yet if he had taken these chemicals, which do their own damage, and are still chemicals being inhaled, who knows how compromised he would be.

    There is going to be more of this crazy shit. Our “medical” people have gone compulsive on us

  6. One thing that strikes me about TMS marketing is that the procedure is called “noninvasive.” Anything that purports to change one’s brain via sending electro-magnetic pulses through it is, by definition, invasive.

    Also, as has been documented repeatedly, it is primary-care doctors who often place people on the psychiatric treatment train, often quite casually as happened in James’ case. I imagine sales reps from TMS machine companies make the rounds of GPs just as pharma company reps do, assuring doctors that these newfangled devices are “safe and effective.”

    • And docs are not innocent. They know full well what they are doing. The reason they keep living the lie is because they believe they are “medical” and HAVE to practice according to “rules”.
      It is amazing how two faced my doc was. I know she was weak, and so indoctrinated into saving her honor and butt, but really?

  7. Wow. What a damaging article this is.

    Look, I’m not denying or invalidating your experience. But this article is full of misinformation and just a complete lack of understanding on TMS.

    What you experienced is not a result of TMS but simply a bad location.

    For starters; if you have a bad mapping it can create issues instead of fix them. It can exacerbate anxiety and depression. A good doctor and tech knows this and will be able to catch on to this and remap.

    Secondly, in the contract you sign there’s supposed to be a section that they strongly recommend wearing ear plugs BECAUSE the sound the TMS machine makes can damage hearing.

    Thirdly, the fuzzy woozy feeling IS normal but it should not last any more than 2 weeks. If it lasts longer, then that is a sign that the mapping is wrong. Again, a properly educated doctor and tech should know this.

    Fourthly, if the machine is not calibrated properly, it will cause harm.

    Bottom line: it’s not TMS’s fault that caused all this. It’s bad psychiatrists who aren’t well informed and who ARE only in it for the money and improperly trained techs who aren’t doing their job right. I have experienced that towards the end of my own TMS treatment after my favorite techs and psychiatrist quit as a result of mismanagement and improper care and have since followed my psychiatrist elsewhere.

    The facility you went to is a bad facility. Period.

    But again, it is NOT TMS’s fault. I owe my very life to TMS. Without it I would have killed myself. Before TMS I had a suicide plan. I was ready to end it all. I had said if TMS doesn’t work then I’m out. TMS has revolutionized and changed my life completely. I feel reborn in a way.

    I get that you’re angry but this article is very damaging to people who could really benefit from TMS. You can talk about what you experienced without making the assumption that it was directly TMS’s fault.

    TMS IS low risk. *WHEN DONE PROPERLY*.

    I’m sorry for your experience but please consider the damage your article is going to cause.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story and educating us. I am sorry for your suffering. I also agree with JeffreyC in pointing out that cognitive injury from psychiatric drugs is also frequently severe, persistent and also unrecognized by the medical community, the sales people, and society at large (outside of the MIA audience).

  9. James is not the norm.

    I’ve seen 1000s of these done. I’ve done hundreds of sessions on myself personally. The effects are only temporary. Most people would LOVE for the effects to last longer.

    Do you know how many lives big pharma has ruined? TMS is basically harmless and in most cases it actually works and works well.

    Do your research. Your husband and son would most likely benefit from TMS, as would you. Just because you read one article on the internet does not make it true. Please google TMS research and you’ll see just how promising of a treatment it is. James has done a disservice to others with this article. His experience is not the norm. Not by a long shot.

  10. Magnetic fields used in TMS are weaker than an MRI machine by orders of magnitude. I don’t recall reading anywhere that MRIs damaged anyone’s brain.

    If you look at the science and research studies it’s physically impossible for TMS to damage the brain as practiced. Any physicist or scientist in the field could tell you that.

      • @Sam; You didn’t read their comment right. Jj specifically said “damages”. “Damages” and “changes” are completely different words. TMS does change the brain in that it clears the way for new neuropathways to form that allow you feel better. The science of TMS was completely left out in this article and it’s very disappointing.

        • I was talking about unwanted, undesired changes, changes that cause distress, instead of lifting distress.
          Words like “neuropathways” mean nothing as far as the complicated pathways of the brain.
          There are no experts as far as the brain is concerned. We should then be able to show clients their “new neuropathways”, and how the TMS touched no parts of their billion neurons, synapses etc etc, that are involved in areas not at all related to “depression”.
          Instead if one has a complaint, they shrug their shoulders or deny the effects, effects which are scrambled and might or might not result in some positive effects.
          I’m surprised that TMS has figured the brain out. Never knew it was that simple.
          I went to someone years ago that practices neurofeedback and has good results. I started to experience uncontrolled tics in my upper lip and knew immediately that it was a cause. I then had to decide if I wanted to keep trying and hope the tics were not going to wind up being much worse than the tics, or perhaps go away, or just stop and not risk.
          I stopped.
          What if someone develops a condition years later, we know so little, that we do not know if related to treatments.
          It is this unknowable that people are presenting as knowable, as being known with words like mapping, neuropathways. synapses……

          • “What if someone develops a condition years later, we know so little, that we do not know if related to treatments.”

            This is not necessarily a bad thing Sam. It might actually be one of our “unstated aims” and “intended consequences”, while we deny any motive and claim an ‘unintended negative outcome’.

            Confusion over causality is the poisoners best friend. Consider the effects of a few too many rads from an x ray machine?

          • I think that’s the point here. Some people may find it helpful, some may find it harmful, some may find it does nothing. But the practitioners don’t know what, if anything, is being “treated” nor what “improvement” means. If you don’t know what the problem is, you’re just shooting craps claiming to have a “solution.”

  11. James, I am so sorry to hear about your experience. For me, TMS was a blessing. It gave me ‘head space’ to figure out what to do and to get to work resolving the issues that surrounded my depression. I have had none of the ill side effects you describe. My mind is clear and one year post-treatment I am happy, have been off my medications for over 8 months and very stable. I hope you find help and again, I am so sorry to hear of your negative experience with TMS.

  12. You most likely had a bad TMS doc James. If they over stimulated in the right area I could see the effects coming out like they did for you. Not only that they used a Neurostar on you. Those machines are famously outdated. Everyone tech in the field knows that.

    A good TMS doc will not have a Neurostar and they would use precise positioning.

  13. Dear James,

    Thank you for sharing your experience publicly.

    Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been hailed by some in Tasmania, Australia.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-11/magnetic-depression-treatment-turning-lives-around/10337174

    It’s thus good to see dissenting voices like yours, raising concerns openly, cautioning the acceptance of another psychiatric intervention like TMS, which for some (or all who claim it helps them), might actually be no more than a placebo?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29111404

    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00210/full

    Best, Magdalene

  14. Hi James,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with TMS.
    I am a practicing MFT in California and I belong to the local branch of our professional association. Through our local list serve I was made aware of a company that is looking to get established in our area to provide clients/patients with “data-driven” procedures such as TMS and ECT. Here’s their ad:

    From: Gotham Enterprises
    Date: Sun, Apr 19, 2020 at 8:02 PM
    Subject: MFT Position in Berkeley, CA

    “I would like to invite you to apply for an urgent permanent full time California Licensed MFT psychotherapist position for a Psychiatry & Behavioral Health outpatient office located in the FiDI and Sunset District of San Francisco, CA. We also have openings in Berkeley, CA, Daly City, CA, Oakland, CA and San Jose, CA. You can work at either office.​​
    We are looking for a psychotherapist to provide direct one on one patient care with patients suffering from Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, and OCD. Our patients are mostly college students ages 18 to 30 yrs old. Our Client’s practices are located near Universities.​​
    We are a personalized medicine startup working to improve mental health care. ​​
    The office is currently doing telepsych temporarily due to the COVID19 pandemic but will return back to outpatient after the shutdown is over.​​
    ​​
    We are working to make mental health care data-driven, personalized, and technologically advanced. By leveraging our current technology of pharmacogenetic testing, next-generation clinical decision support software and analytics framework, wearables, electronic patient outcome monitoring, digital health applications, and our engineering team, we believe this will enable us to drastically improve the standard of mental health care. ​​
    ​​
    As we grow, our engineering team will add AI-driven chat-bots, optimize psychotherapy, train machine learning models, and build mental health assessment software. Longer term, we are working on integrating whole exome sequencing, electroencephalography (EEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), brain scans, and much more to our clinic. ​​
    ​​
    Compensation: $104K-$108K salary per year plus health insurance PTO/paid sick; 401k equivalent; Malpractice insurance; In-office perks; ​​
    ​​
    Schedule: 32-40 hours per week You can work M to TH 9-6 pm or M to F 9-6 p.m. ​​
    ​​
    Objective of Position: Work full time as a Psychotherapist to provide direct patient care to patients one on one​​
    ​​
    Responsibilities: ​​
    Treat patients one on one using CBT and DBT modalities​​
    Create comprehensive patient assessments​​
    Aid in treatment planning​​
    Complete documentation in compliance with clinical and state requirements ​​
    Aid in building a physician referral network to attract new patients ​​
    Work directly with bioengineers and software engineers to create technology to improve therapy patient outcomes.”

    Looks like an abomination to me. ​​

  15. Dear James
    Sorry to read this ,my advice:
    1) Tinnitus is horrible magnesium supplement seems to help but high dose oil thru foot bath daily and acupuncture if u can find a good practitioner
    2) don’t waste time and money with lawyers they are all a short Anglo Saxon word that begins with c
    3)if you are on any other medication at all check for ototoxicity in the side effects list
    4) funny how the TMS promoters appeared by magic on this site having never posted before and will probably never post again obviously site and you both tagged and tracked by the industry
    5) Boans i’m in Perth if you want to meet up for a socially distanced exchange of Horror stories let me know I ‘ll send you my e mail
    James hoping things will improve and you have plenty of support

    • Hi madmother13,

      that’d be nice. Perhaps once were back to relative normality? It’s been tough on us rabbits this social distancing thing lol. Not being allowed to Mix a ma toesis 🙂

      Seriously though let me know your email (via Steve or some other method) and I will be in touch.

  16. I have been diagnosed with depression, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder since I was a young teenager. I’m 52 years old now and have been on every SSRI, SSNI, and a combination of antidepressants including tricyclics. None of those drugs helped alleviate my psychiatric ailments. The SSRI’s were hands down the worst affording me a bevy of negative side effects. I have been seeing psychiatrists on and off since I was 21 years old. I was the first generation of psych. patients to be introduced to Prozac in 1990. Prozac was very effective in making me feel more depressed and peaked my OCD symptoms, anxiety, and allowed me to gain 20 pounds in two years time. It made me sweat profusely and I felt I was in a constant state of anxious malaise. Yet my first psychiatrist kept telling me that I needed to give the drug more time to adjust to (wasn’t two years enough adjust time?) and he eventually upped the dosage to 80MG’s. I ended up in the ER because I threatened I was planning my suicide to a family member. That was far from the end of my long walk in my mind’s dark alley. Fast forwarding from the 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s, psychiatrist after psychiatrist, and singing the same song about wanting me to try another SSRI…… Am I a glutton for punishment or just too stupid to realize that after 30 years of dealing with mental health practioners and not seeing any illumination in my mind’s pitch black alley, that I’d keep thinking, “Well maybe I just didn’t find the right doctor”. I decided I’d give another psychiatrist another chance because my depression was festering like a sabacous cyst ready to rupture. I was very close to acting out committing suicide. My sister found this “highly regarded, highly esteemed” psychiatrist for me to see. I’m thankful for my sister caring enough to try and help me through my knee deep problems, but this psychiatrist I went to see for only three sessions was a joke. He didn’t accept any insurance and charged $425.00 per session! This doctor wanted to immediately start me on Cymbalta and Zyprexa. Two SSRI’s!! I had explained my medical history to him the first consultation. I told this doc how intolerant to SSRI’s I am and that I had been on the two drugs in the past. No good. He then looks at me sternly and exclaims that, “you’re medication resistant and I’m recommending that you seek ECT”. WTF? Shock treatments!! I thought, what kind of idiocy is this? That is the end of the line for me and psychiatrists. Well, here I am 52 years old, having lived 40% of my life feeling like a piece of matter floating in a toilet bowl, spending thousands of dollars on doctors and medications that DID NOTHING for me, and what is it all for? Sure some people may benefit from drugs and psychotherapy but what about the lengthy list of patients who’re dumped on the side of the road because their docs just don’t care enough to go the extra mile for them. People who coo and get all warm and tingly about the “miracles” of modern medicine obviously haven’t taken an extremely bitter and bank breaking spoonful of everyday psychiatry.

  17. James, I was really saddened to read of your bad experiences with this treatment. My dad and younger brother, Eric, both had problems with depression and anxiety (possibly bipolar?) Later, they developed paranoid schizophrenia – dad was treated with ECT which definitely helped him. He returned to work. Eric had had himself sectioned: by then he’d been using heroin/methadone for 31 years….. So, he was given some kind of sedative (injected) every fortnight, and lost his short-term memory.

    I started going down the same path in my mid 50s, not helped by the alcohol I drank. I was very – and am very – suspicious of any medication, because even mild anti-Ds make me feel ‘whoo whoo’, as though I’m floating around the room. Don’t need that! Nor did I want to be sectioned when I felt particularly ill and vulnerable. One good thing I did 5 years ago was to quit drinking completely, and my depression and anxiety is definitely better without it!

    I found Open Dialogue mental health therapy in the UK and it helped me piece me back together again. Took 2 years, but it was worth it: I now understand how childhood dysfunction (my dad’s mental state) had affected me and all the family.

    I suffer from tinnitus and vertigo. It’s genetic – another sister has it. I’ll try the magnesium. It doesn’t bother me that much, I live with it, my hearing’s good and brain is OK. I do hope you get to the bottom of the damage this treatment caused you: i.e. which part of the brain was affected. Wishing you peace and days when the anxiety lessens……

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