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Can TMS Worsen ADHD?

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Can TMS Worsen ADHD

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects almost 10% of children (1) and 4.4% of adults (2) in the U.S. ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, along with difficulty with organization, following instructions and completing tasks. Other ADHD symptoms can include:

  • Distractibility
  • Forgetfulness
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Rapid and loud speech
  • Interrupting or talking over others
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disrupted sleep

These symptoms can lead to struggles in work, school, and social life. Luckily, there are several treatment options for ADHD that help patients manage their symptoms and overcome these struggles. Options include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can also relieve ADHD symptoms. Although TMS is a relatively new treatment for this condition, current research shows promising results. (3)

Are you a candidate for TMS?

Why Choose TMS for ADHD?

The go-to treatment for ADHD is stimulant medications such as Adderall or Ritalin. This is because the brains of ADHD patients are unable to naturally produce vital neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine or norepinephrine). Prescription stimulants increase the production of these  neurotransmitters.

A national parent survey from 2016 reported that 62% of children aged 2-17 with ADHD were taking some kind of medication (4). However, this is not the best approach for everyone. Research indicates that the side effects of traditional ADHD medications — such as anxiety, upset stomach, sleep disruption and blood pressure changes — render them ineffective or intolerable for 30% of patients. (5)  

Aside from side effects, substance abuse can also be an issue with these medications. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than one million people in the United States misuse prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall. (6)

These problems have begun to drive research on non-pharmaceutical treatment options for ADHD. One such alternative comes in the form of TMS therapy.

TMS works by targeting specific areas of the brain with magnetic pulses, using a specialized device mounted over the head. These pulses, while barely perceptible by the patients, reach deep into the brain to help regulate its natural electrochemical activity. TMS can treat a variety of mood disorders and, in the case of ADHD, stimulates the prefrontal cortex to address neurotransmitter irregularities.

A 2020 pilot study on adults with ADHD concluded that TMS was a safe and effective treatment, with patients reporting decreased symptoms over a three-week period. (7). This makes it an option worth considering, especially in cases where medication is ineffective or unwanted.

Side Effects of TMS for ADHD

There is no evidence to suggest that TMS might worsen ADHD, although side effects such as mild headaches or scalp irritation may occur during the first week of therapy. These temporary effects are far more benign than those documented from stimulation medication. 

Are you ready to try TMS?

Finding the Right Treatment for ADHD

Patients respond in different ways to their symptoms and treatments, which is why it is important to consult with a medical professional before committing to a regimen.

At Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry, we can offer talk therapy and TMS for the treatment of ADHD and other disorders. Our practice uses the BrainsWay Deep TMS device, which has shown to be a safe and effective treatment for ADHD. (8) To make an appointment, contact us online or call (212) 731-2033.


  1. Data and Statistics About ADHD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated August 09, 2022. Accessed March 05, 2023. 
  1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed March 05, 2023. 
  2. Patel RK, Saeed H, Mekala HM, et al. Transcranial magnetic stimulation for adolescents with ADHD. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2021;23(3):20br02602. Accessed March 05, 2023.
  3. Bitsko RH, Claussen AH, Lichstein J, et al. Mental health surveillance among children—United States, 2013–2019. MMWR Suppl. 2022;71(2):1-48. Accessed March 05, 2023. 
  4. Biederman J, Spencer T, Wilens T. Evidence-based pharmacotherapy for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2004; 7(1):77-977. Accessed March 05, 2023. 
  5. What is the scope of prescription drug misuse in the United States? National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 2020. Accessed March 05, 2023
  6. Alyagon U, Shahar H, Hadar A, et al. Alleviation of ADHD symptoms by non-invasive right prefrontal stimulation is correlated with EEG activity. Neuroimage Clin. 2020;26:102206. Accessed March 03, 2023.
  7. Brainsway. Deep TMS is found Safe and Effective for the Treatment of ADHD. Accessed March 05, 2023.
Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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