rTMS for the Treatment of Depression in Adolescents

What is the safer treatment option for adolescent depression, repetitive TMS therapy or antidepressant medications?

According to several research studies, there is evidence that rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) for depression in adolescents is effective. Moreover, adolescent depression can be a dangerous condition. Furthermore, depression is a leading cause of disability in this age group. Fifty percent of adolescents with depression fail to respond to medications and therapy. Further, nearly seventy percent of those who respond to traditional treatment forms will relapse within 5 years. Therefore, there is an urgent need for effective treatment.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an effective treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults who do not respond to medications and psychotherapy. rTMS is a non-invasive, in-office therapy that modulates brain network functioning by applying a pulsed magnetic field over a specific area of the brain known to regulate mood.

The dangers of adolescent depression, especially when left untreated

Sadly, adolescents suffering from depression are about 30 times more likely to commit suicide when compared to those without depression. Adolescent suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. This age group is also the time of peak incidence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Parents, teachers, friends, and family members must recognize the signs and symptoms of adolescent depression. Too often, depression is mistaken for normal behavior in this age group. Unfortunately, despite the severity of this life-threatening condition, there are few treatment options.

rTMS may be a more effective treatment options for adolescent depression

Traditional forms of depression treatment for adolescents include antidepressants and psychotherapy. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, these treatment modalities are only effective for about 35 percent of those treated, with nearly one-third who don’t respond to treatment at all. Additionally, of those who benefit minimally, as many as 70 percent will experience a subsequent episode of depression.

rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) is the most advanced form of depression treatment. While rTMS is only approved for adult depression, many physicians have begun using rTMS to treat their adolescent patients suffering from depression. rTMS is a non-invasive, non-sedative, neuromodulation therapy that is increasingly used in TMS clinics worldwide to treat many psychiatric and neurological conditions.

The safety of rTMS has been evaluated and researched for many treatment protocols and devices across diverse populations in adult patients. rTMS has a very low incidence of adverse events and has been proven to be a safe treatment. The data that exists to date for adolescents suggests similar safety. Research for the use of rTMS in the adolescent age group does not show any adverse events.

Although not yet FDA-approved for our youth, rTMS can be a useful and effective treatment for adolescents suffering from depression, especially when medications have proven ineffective. The current literature signals that rTMS could reduce adolescent depressive symptoms. Research findings suggest that rTMS may be a promising treatment option for adolescents with depression.

To locate an rTMS therapy clinic in your area, visit TMS Directory.


Frontiers in Psychiatry. (2021, April 13). Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Adolescent Major Depressive Disorder: A Focus on Neurodevelopment. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8076574/

The Lancet. (2016, March 19). Suicide and suicidal behavior. National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26385066/

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