Feeling sad from time to time is a normal part of the human condition. When that sadness is intense and lasts for an extended period of time, it’s most likely depression. Depression is typically treatable. Many people find relief from depression through therapy or the use of medication. But what about those who don’t find either of those treatment options helpful? Is there no way for those people to overcome depression? Depression that doesn’t respond to traditional treatment is called treatment-resistant depression. The good news is that researchers are finding new ways to fight it.
About one third of adults who suffer with depression are diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). This is defined by depression with symptoms that don’t respond to two different antidepressant medications that are taken for at least six weeks each. People battling TRD experience symptoms like persistent feelings of sadness, sleep disturbances, low energy, and suicidal thoughts, and can’t seem to find relief through traditional treatments. TRD impacts women and senior citizens at a higher rate than others. Other groups at high risk for TRD include people who have severe or frequently recurring bouts of depression and those with an underlying medical illness. Substance abuse and eating disorders also raise a person’s risk of TRD.
We don’t fully understand all the causes of depression, which could be a reason for the failure of antidepressants to help everyone. People suffering from TRD can become discouraged and frustrated when traditional treatments don’t work. They may even be told by the people around them that they aren’t trying hard enough to recover, or that they secretly preferred being depressed. In truth, while the most popular long-held belief about depression is that it’s caused by low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, these may not be the only things that factor into depression. One rising theory is that depression creates inflammation in the brain that can’t be treated with antidepressants.
If you’re suffering from depression and the traditional one-two punch of medication and psychotherapy isn’t working for you, there are some other options available. To determine the best course of action, you’ll be asked about your life situations, the medication you’re taking, your physical health, and the possibility that you may have been misdiagnosed and may have a different condition that requires different treatment. Then your doctor will decide what to do next. This may mean giving your medication a little bit more time to work, raising your dosage, or switching you to a different class of antidepressant. He or she might also want to try combining more than one antidepressant, to see if that helps.
Switching up your therapy may also be helpful in addressing Treatment-Resistant Depression. There are many different types of therapy out there, including cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, family and marital therapy, group therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy. Just as every medication doesn’t work for every person, therapy is something you may need to try more than one of before determining which one is right for you.
One treatment that’s relatively new, having been approved for the treatment of depression in 2008, is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). It’s not truly new, though, because this technology, which uses magnetic stimulators to activate parts of the brain, has been around since 1985. TMS involves placing an electromagnetic coil against the forehead in order to allow short electromagnetic pulses to pass from the coil into the brain. This stimulates nerves about 2 inches into a specific part of the brain. It’s non-invasive, doesn’t require anesthesia or a long recovery time, and is nearly painless.
Of course, to overcome depression, patients must do their part as well. If you’re suffering from depression, make sure you’re faithfully following your treatment plan. Don’t skip therapy sessions or miss doses of your medications, and if you’re concerned about side effects, discuss them with your doctor. Refrain from drinking or using recreational drugs, and try stress-reduction techniques like meditation, mindfulness, or yoga to manage your stress. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. Talk to your doctor about additional treatment options that you might be interested in trying, including TMS.
If you’re interested in learning more about TMS, you owe it to yourself to contact BrainsWay. A global medical technology company, we’re focused on developing cutting edge medical devices to advance the level of treatment offered to patients. BrainsWay’s advanced flagship technology, Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS™) is expanding mental health treatment beyond what was thought possible. Non-invasive Deep TMS treatment directly stimulates deeper and broader areas of the brain than traditional TMS, and it’s been proven effective in treating conditions like depression and OCD. Contact us to learn how we’re changing the field of mental healthcare or visit our website to find a provider near you.