There are some cases of depression where symptoms don’t improve with standard treatments. If this is the case, you may have treatment-resistant depression.
Pay attention to the word “standard” when we mentioned treatment. Standard treatments include antidepressants and psychotherapy. But sometimes these aren’t enough to treat depression. You may need to look into alternative options. You can do this with the help of healthcare professionals.
So, is there hope for treatment-resistant depression? The answer is yes, absolutely!
Hope for Treatment-Resistant Depression
Do you know the old saying, “As long as there is life, there is hope?” It’s true in the case of treatment-resistant depression too.
Depression impacts mood and behavior in a huge way. Feelings of hopelessness are a key symptom of the condition. However, the more you learn about depression, the more possibilities you’ll find to manage it.
Be aware that many people do not respond to standard depression treatment. So, you are not alone in this situation. In some cases, there is an initial favorable response to the treatment. However, symptoms can come back later and don’t fully resolve.
Everyone responds differently to treatments. While antidepressants are often prescribed today, the future seems to hold more personalization.
How to Treat Treatment-Resistant Depression
Depression has multiple causes and affects the brain in many ways. One main reason depression develops is due to low levels of serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine. Antidepressants address these issues.
There are a number of causes that lead to depression. These include:
- Brain inflammation
- Type 3 diabetes
- Reduced brain volume
- Changes in gut flora
Research is still ongoing to figure out why depression occurs. However, when we know the cause, we can easily find a treatment.
As we mentioned before, treatment-resistant depression isn’t affected by standard treatment. Instead, you can try some of the following alternative therapies.
Search for Underlying Conditions
Finding an underlying condition causing your depression could be the key to the right treatment. Talk to your psychiatrist and review your medications as well.
Thyroid diseases, diabetes, and other illnesses can worsen depression. You may need referrals to see other specialists to manage these conditions.
One drug you may consider adding to your depression treatment is ketamine. You can use this alongside antidepressants. Doctors prescribe ketamine because it provides fast relief of depression symptoms. The effects can last from days to weeks.
Consider taking pharmacogenetic tests to look at your genetic makeup. The results can help suggest which drugs you may respond to better or poorly.
The test is extremely helpful in cases of treatment-resistant depression. It’s also helpful for those who experience serious side effects from medications. However, healthcare plans and insurances do not always cover the cost of the test.
Talk to your doctor about alternative treatments. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) involves magnetic fields to stimulate brain cells. As a result, symptoms improve. The FDA has approved this treatment for depression.
There have been many research studies on rTMS. They show both efficacy and an excellent safety profile for treatment-resistant depression. Typical treatment lasts about 30 minutes. Shorter sessions are available if you choose intermittent theta-burst stimulation.
Although this treatment is well-tolerated, there are possible side effects. These can include:
- Scalp discomfort at stimulation site
- Muscle spasms
Electroconvulsive Therpary (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therpary (ECT) is an old therapy for depression. Over the years, it has improved to make it safer. ECT involves a specific dose of electric current that passes through the brain and triggers a small seizure. ECT can quickly reverse symptoms of depression.
However, ECT has potential side effects including temporary confusion and memory loss. Professionals use ECT for severe depression with suicidal thoughts, treatment-resistant depression, and elderly. Pregnant women can also benefit from ECT because they cannot take antidepressant drugs.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
The vagus nerve runs from the brain stem all the way to the abdomen. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) involves electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve. This electricity comes from an implanted device in the chest connected to the nerve. Electric impulses reach the brain via the vagus nerve, leading to an improvement of depression symptoms.
Researchers consider VNS safe. The risks are mostly associated with the surgical procedure to implant the device. These side effects include pain at the site of incision, throat pain, headache, and temporary vocal cord paralysis.
More Options to Improve Symptoms of Depression
There are more holistic ways to improve depression symptoms. Probiotics are becoming increasingly recognized for their strong antidepressant effects. Probiotics work by improving gut dysbiosis associated with depression. Gut flora plays an important tole in your mood, behavior, immune system, and digestion. Other studies suggest that fecal transplants could offer solutions for managing depression.
Vitamins like B, C, and D can help improve depression symptoms. Some of these nutrients can actually increase the efficacy of antidepressants. Fixing vitamin deficiencies can help you improve your depression.
Your diet also contributes to the development and management of depression. The best diet you can follow is the Mediterranean diet. It emphasizes the consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish. These all provide important sources of nutrients that can help prevent depression. Low-carb diets, like the Ketogenic diet, may also help boost your mood and alleviate symptoms.
Mindful meditation has also proven to be effective. According to Harvard scientists, meditation shows similar efficacy to other existing depression treatments. It can also help chronic pain and anxiety based on well-designed research studies.
The bottom line is this: if you received a diagnosis of treatment-resistant depression, you have to find an alternative method. You have plenty of options to explore. For the best results, work with a team of healthcare professionals who specialize in brain health.