Electroconvulsive therapy has been around for a long time and has been rightfully referred to as both intense and invasive. Its side effects, like sluggishness and catatonia, have been known to last for days and strongly affect the life of the patient. Perhaps the worst side effect of electroconvulsive therapy is a high rate of memory loss.
According to an article by the Psychiatric Times comparing Electroconvulsive therapy and TMS as a remedy for Treatment Resistant Depression, the rate of adverse effects was more common for people who had received ECT. In another study cited in the same article, “on follow-up, up to 60% of the ECT group reported short- or intermediate-term adverse effects, mostly memory loss. In comparison, 30% of the TMS group reported minor, short-term effects such as headaches during treatment, which resolved within a few hours.” This article goes onto add that “The investigators [of the study] concluded that ECT appears to be more effective than TMS for TRD, but the difference (based on group effect) may not be statistically significant.”
In other words, the group of patients that received electroconvulsive therapy was 30% more likely to have adverse side effects, have them for longer and have them in more severe ways. ECT might be slightly more effective, but many could argue it shouldn’t be the first choice when it comes to alternative tratments for depression. TMS also has the advantage of not requiring any invasive procedure like surgery or implants of electrodes, nor does it require anesthesia the way that electroconvulsive therapy does.
TMS does have a risk of seizures for people with a history of them and should be approached with caution in these cases. However, these risks are fairly rare and the most common symptoms are more mild, such as headaches, tingling of the face muscles, sudden small spasms in the facial muscles, lightheadedness, and possible discomfort at the site of where the coils were placed.