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What is Treatment Resistant Depression and What To Do If You Have It?

A woman holding her head in frustration

For individuals who are battling treatment resistant depression, there is nothing worse than feeling completely hopeless when it comes to finding a treatment plan. Being diagnosed with depression can bring up a lot of harmful, negative thoughts. 

Treatment Resistant Depression is a serious mental health issue that affects about 8 million Americans every year. There is no reason to feel hopeless about seeking help. If you feel depressed, don’t let yourself get stuck thinking about how bad things could possibly be. There are many treatments available today that have proven effective at helping patients with Treatment Resistant Depression.

What is Treatment Resistant Depression?

What is Treatment Resistant Depression? Treatment Resistant Depression does not respond well to traditional therapeutic options. This form of depression is also a type of Major Depressive Disorder, which are both classified as mood disorders. The formal definition of Treatment Resistant Depression varies among professionals in the psychiatric industry. 

The definition of Treatment Resistant Depression is one of the most controversial topics in psychiatry today. Some clinicians believe it refers to patients whose depression symptoms do not respond to two or three different classes of antidepressant medication. In some patients, their symptoms are still present even after five to six different failed treatment plans.

There are many reasons why people don’t respond to certain medications. For example, some medications work better in men than women. Whereas other medications may cause side effects that make patients stop taking them. In some cases, even though a patient responds well to a particular class of drug, their bodies cannot tolerate the negative side effects.

What Are The Causes Of Treatment Resistant Depression?

People suffering from Treatment Resistant Depression are often prescribed multiple medications, but some don’t respond well to any of these drug treatments. In fact, some of these treatments cause many people to experience negative side effects. Including weight gain, nervousness, sexual dysfunction, and sleep problems, which can ultimately worsen depressive episodes. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression and haven’t had much success treating it with medication, there are signs that you might have treatment resistant depression. You should speak with a doctor about whether your symptoms qualify as treatment-resistant.

There Are Three Main Categories of TRD:

  1. Lack of response to one class of antidepressant medication

  2. Failure to achieve remission following a sufficient course of antidepressant medication

  3. Lack of response to ECT

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s important to consult with your doctor about what treatments might work best for you. If those options aren’t effective, there are several options for treating TRD.

How is Treatment Resistant Depression Diagnosed?

Patients can be diagnosed with Treatment Resistant Depression when their symptoms do not improve, despite being treated with two or more antidepressant medications over a period of at least four weeks. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that nearly half of people who suffer from major depressive disorder fail to show significant symptom relief even after taking three or more antidepressants.

When seeing a doctor to help you treat your Treatment Resistant Depression, they will check if you had an accurate diagnosis previously and if there are any other conditions that could be causing your depression. They’ll look at what type of medicine you’ve taken and how long it took to work. If doctors think you might have another condition that causes similar symptoms — such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, postpartum depression or substance abuse — they’ll test you for those as well.

Patients with TRD often present comorbid conditions such as anxiety, substance use disorders, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders. These coexisting problems complicate diagnosis and treatment. In addition, many people with TRD are misdiagnosed and treated inappropriately. This leads to increased suffering and costs for both the patient and society.

What Are The Best Treatment Strategies For Treatment Resistant Depression?

It’s important for patients who are experimenting with new treatment plans to remain on the plan for at least six to eight weeks before deciding whether or not it’s working. Ideally, patients should try each treatment plan for at least four months due to the fact that some patients report not feeling better until later in treatment.

In order for doctors to help treat their patients in the best possible way, it’s crucial to not only look at the length of time the patient has been taking antidepressants, but also the severity of their symptoms. People who have milder cases of depression tend to see quicker improvements.

In Some Cases, Patients Don’t Respond to Medications At All

When this occurs, doctors may try combining treatments to see what happens.

The combination of fluoxetine and venlafaxine is another option. This type of therapy is called augmentation. Fluoxetine is an SSRI antidepressant. Venlafaxine is an SNRI antidepressant. Both work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. They both take weeks to start working. If you’re having trouble getting better, your doctor may add a second drug to your regimen.

Some researchers suggest that patients who are resistant to one class of medication could still respond to another type. Others say that patients who continue to experience symptoms despite multiple trials of two different drugs are truly treatment resistant.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS, is an important component of helping patients with Treatment Resistant Depression. This non-invasive treatment works by using magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. Pulses of electromagnetic energy target areas of the brain that show lower levels of activity. TMS works by activating these areas of the brain which are commonly associated with depression, anxiety and OCD.

BrainHealth Solutions Is Here To Help You Find The Best Options For Treatment Resistant Depression

At BrainHealth Solutions, we are committed to helping our patients find the best treatment plan possible. We know that when it comes to the mind and body connection, there is no one-size fits all treatment solution. Board-certified psychiatrist and distinguished American Psychiatric Association fellow, Dr. Bota, has spent the majority of his educational and professional training in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, specifically Major Depressive Disorder.

If you’re tired of being let down by failed treatment options for Treatment Resistant Depression, give the experts at BrainHealth Solutions a call today.

We’re here for you!


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