Efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in the treatment of depression with comorbid anxiety disorders

J Affect Disord. 2019 Jun 1;252:435-439. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.03.085. Epub 2019 Mar 30.


Background: The presence of comorbid anxiety is generally associated with poorer treatment outcomes in people with depression. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been shown to be effective for treatment resistant depression, but there has been little research examining rTMS in depressed patients with comorbid anxiety disorders. This study aimed to investigate the efficacy of rTMS in patients with treatment resistant Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and comorbid anxiety disorders.

Methods: This study included 248 patients with treatment resistant MDD who were treated with rTMS. Of these, 172 patients had one or more comorbid anxiety disorders, so their outcomes were compared with patients who did not have comorbid anxiety.

Results: Patients both with and without comorbid anxiety disorders showed improvement in depression ratings after rTMS treatment, with no significant difference in remission rates between groups. In those with comorbid anxiety disorders, 23.3% met criteria for remission and 39.5% met response criteria. For each anxiety disorder diagnosis, there was a significant reduction in HAM-A, HAM-D21, MADRS and ZUNG scores (p = <0.001 for all).

Limitations: This was not a sham-controlled study, so placebo response rates are not known. Patients were referred by private psychiatrists so are not representative of all patients with depression.

Conclusion: Our study indicates that rTMS is an effective treatment for Major Depressive Disorder in people who have comorbid anxiety disorders.

Keywords: Agoraphobia; Generalised anxiety disorder; Obsessive compulsive disorder; Panic disorder; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Social phobia.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome