Living with Treatment-Resistant Depression

treatment-resistant depression

Feeling sad or down every now and then is normal, and a part of everyday life. We all experience some moments of sadness, hopelessness, and even depression. If you get these feelings that aren’t fleeting, the feelings that last weeks, months, even years, it’s a clear sign of depression.

Many people have found help with their depression through some form of treatment, medicine, or therapy to help their symptoms. There are those who have tried to utilize these same methods to no avail.

Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD) is a condition in which people are unresponsive to the standard treatments. It takes some time to realize if you have TRD. You need to allow antidepressants and psychotherapy an appropriate amount of time to ease symptoms before they can be diagnosed.

Are you or a loved one living with Treatment-Resistant Depression? There’s good news, you can still overcome many symptoms that come with TRD. Here are some different ways of living with Treatment-Resistant Depression.

What is Treatment-Resistant Depression

Treatment-Resistant Depression can affect anybody. It’s eerily similar to other various forms of depression. It doesn’t respond positively to the traditional forms of treatment for depression.

Most people living with Treatment-Resistant Depression, and their doctors, won’t actually know it’s TRD, until much later. Most won’t know until they find out their antidepressant medication isn’t working or soothing their symptoms.

There are those at a much greater risk for being diagnosed with Treatment-Resistant Depression. Those who are at a greater risk have:

  • History of Depression
  • Underlying Medical Conditions
  • Sleep Disorders/Insomnia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Older in Age (Senior Citizens)
  • Genetics
  • Metabolic Disorders
  • Been Diagnosed with Depression for a Long Time
  • Been Diagnosed Incorrectly

Some other potential causes could include the severity of the symptoms and anxiety. The severity of depression can be mild, moderate, or major. Those with major depression have a much greater risk of developing treatment-resistant depression.

Since TRD is resistant to traditional treatments and modalities, as the name suggests. What can you do if you or a loved one is living with Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Understanding the Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

While there hasn’t been a proven cause for depression or other related mental health illnesses. 

Genetics plays a large role in determining who and how someone is impacted. Genetics can determine if someone is predisposed to depression itself, and how they will respond to certain treatments. If a parent has major depressive disorder, their child is more likely to develop the condition as well.

Treatment-Resistant Depression symptoms are the same as depression. TRD has the addition of no response to antidepressants or psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral activation, psychodynamic, and interpersonal). TRD is a kind of major depressive disorder, but can sometimes be a misdiagnosis in place of bipolar disorder.

A misdiagnosis could potentially be why standard depression treatments aren’t working. It’s important to talk to your doctor about that possibility. Verifying with your doctor that the standard treatments potentially aren’t working because of external factors like drug or alcohol abuse is also pertinent.

If you’ve been using these standard treatments for a few months and have experienced no remission in your depressive symptoms. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is admit (to yourself and others) that you haven’t had relief from your symptoms. Talking about your experience can help your doctor or mental health specialist understand how to better help you.

The Fast-Acting Treatment Options if You’re Living with Treatment-Resistant Depression

Living with depression, especially when it is treatment-resistant, is debilitating. It’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S. today. Each individual being robbed of everyday joys deserves to find a treatment that works for them. Luckily, researchers are constantly working on new plans for depression treatments.

After you’ve been diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, there are a few common advanced treatments that can help relieve your symptoms. The most frequently used advanced treatments for TRD include electroconvulsive therapy, vagus nerve stimulation, ketamine, and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. 

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

This may sound alarming, but general anesthesia is used and the electric currents are applied only in a controlled setting. Today it’s much safer than the chair-strapped kind portrayed in 1950’s movies. This therapy is now commonly used on pregnant women unable to take antidepressants and older adults unable to bear side effects.

While it is generally safe and often effective in those unable to feel relief with standard treatments. The risks can include confusion immediately after the therapy, memory loss, nausea and headaches. These are often treated with medication.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

This type of treatment involves the external activation of your tenth cranial nerve. This nerve controls the parasympathetic nervous system (often called rest and digest). This is effective because if your vagus nerve isn’t activating when it should. Your body is constantly in fight or flight mode (controlled by the sympathetic nervous system).

Traditionally, a device can be surgically implanted into the chest with a wire threading up to the nerve, located along the back of the neck and wrapping around near the clavicle. However, new non-invasive devices have been created and approved in most of Europe. The FDA approved these devices to treat certain headache disorders. Vagus nerve stimulation is often used for epilepsy and pain, in addition to severe or treatment-resistant depression. 


A fairly new treatment for depression but has historically been used as an anesthetic during war. It is sometimes referred to as a miracle drug because of its rapid-acting suicide reduction rates. The two ways to be treated is a nasal spray called esketamine, or racemic ketamine which is given intravenously. 

This drug causes fewer side effects than any other used for depression and anxiety. Some side effects induce high blood pressure, perceptual disturbances, and dissociation. Ketamine also has highly addictive qualities, and long-term use has additional negative side effects that are still being researched. 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a series of sessions in which magnetic pulses target underactive areas of the brain, caused by depression. The sessions are often a brief 20 minutes, continuing daily for about 6 weeks. This treatment is not to be confused with electroconvulsive therapy and has a longer-lasting impact on changes in the brain.

The side effects are considerably less than other advanced depression treatments. While risks do include headaches, scalp discomfort, and light-headedness, only 5% of patients experience these symptoms. The treatment does not require sedation, is FDA-cleared, non-invasive, non-medicated, and covered by most insurance providers. 

Find out more about repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation from the experts.

TRD is treatable, and help is available

Most people with treatment-resistant depression realize the term “living with depression” is an oxymoron. Battling with depression, surviving with depression, or existing with depression are more accurate at times.

While there are holistic and mindful practices to handle depression, these often are not enough to cure symptoms completely. 

Choosing to find a treatment that can reduce and relieve your treatment-resistant depression symptoms is the first step to living your life again. Understand that your brain’s treatment resistance is not your fault, and there is nothing you have done wrong.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be proactive, and improve your quality of life. Even if you’re living with treatment-resistant depression, contact us, to find out how we can help you today!

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