Do you have treatment-resistant depression?
After months or years of suffering from depression, it can feel relieving to finally be diagnosed because there are so many treatment options. If the first depression treatment you tried didn’t have the results you hoped for, and the second and third didn’t work either, your heart probably sank as you wondered if you’d ever find relief.
Then comes the blow of being diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression.
If you have treatment-resistant depression, you might feel scared, lonely, and discouraged. You may even feel like your depression has won.
There is hope!
There are countless success stories of people with depression who found a way out of their darkness after many failed attempts to get better.
Learn more about treatment-resistant depression and a few ways you can fight it.
How Do I Know If My Depression Is Resistant to Treatment?
There are no specific criteria for diagnosing treatment-resistant depression because experts disagree on how many unsuccessful treatments you need to go through first. It could be that your depression is particularly severe or long-term.
Also, major depressive disorder is different for each person. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how many attempts is too many.
Treatment-resistant depression is also difficult to diagnose because there are reasons a treatment may not work:
- You might not be taking your medication as prescribed.
- You might have another mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder or a personality disorder, that’s being mistaken for depression.
- The presence of another condition, like substance abuse, might make your depression worse and harder to treat.
If you’ve tried several treatments and didn’t find relief, or if your symptoms keep coming back, schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist. He or she will address or rule out the issues listed above and help you find potential solutions.
What Are My Options for Relief with Treatment-Resistant Depression?
You have many options! The first step toward finding the depression treatment that finally works is allowing yourself to have hope. Be open-minded toward treatments you might not have considered, giving each a fair chance. Also, be persistent and willing to keep trying new things. You never know what might be the answer you’ve been looking for all along.
A Combination of Therapy and Medication
This has been proven more effective than therapy or antidepressants alone. Which medication you take depends on your symptoms, medical history, and other factors. Clinical trials show the best therapies to combine with medication are interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS has been proven effective at relieving treatment-resistant depression. It works by stimulating the cells in your left prefrontal cortex—the part of your brain that regulates mood—with a series of electromagnetic pulses.
It’s convenient because you stay awake and alert during the 18- to 19-minute session and can go home or back to work afterward. It’s covered by all major insurance providers and has very few side effects.
Unlike other forms of depression treatment, TMS combats multiple mental health issues in addition to treatment-resistant depression
If any of these disorders are co-occurring with your depression, TMS may be able to treat both, depending on your insurance coverage. TMS treatment is provided on an outpatient basis through Success TMS, with locations across the country.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
VNS works by stimulating the vagus nerve with electric impulses. These impulses are delivered through a device implanted in your chest. The impulses travel along your vagus nerve to your brainstem, where they target specific areas of your brain.
While generally considered safe, there are risks involved with VNS. They include potential infection and vocal-cord scarring from the implantation procedure and side effects from the impulses themselves:
- Throat pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Slowing of the heart rate
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
ECT is used to treat the especially severe and persistent major depressive disorder. You go under anesthesia while short electric pulses are passed through your brain. ECT alters your brain chemistry to reverse the symptoms of depression. This may be a good option for those who cannot tolerate the side effects of medication.
ECT does have its own side effects, which can include:
- Memory loss
- Jaw or muscle ache
Learn more about TMS vs. ECT here.
How Do I Cope Until I Find Something That Works?
Perhaps the most frustrating part of having treatment-resistant depression is the waiting. Each new treatment needs to be given time and a solid try before you and your doctor can decide whether it works or you need to move to the next one.
While the trial-and-error element of treating depression is necessary, you don’t have to wait idly. Consider trying one or more of these coping strategies:
- Practice mindfulness – Try to stay focused on the present-day—even the present moment. Avoid dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. You’re doing all you can today to become healthy.
- Lean on others for support – Identify the people in your life who’ve been with you through this difficult journey. Remember that it’s okay to ask for encouragement and vent. Treatment-resistant depression can feel isolating, so remember to let others in.
- Let yourself cry – Accept your frustrated, depressed feelings for what they are. Have compassion for yourself by admitting that what you’re going through is hard.
Whatever the reasons behind your treatment-resistant depression, and however many unsuccessful depression treatments you’ve had, there is always hope. Create an image in your mind of what your happy, healthy life will look like.
Keep that in the front of your mind as you try one of the treatment options above. When you find your solution, it will have all been worth it.