What Is Treatment-Resistant Depression?

You experience periods of sadness, even during times when you should be happy. You become fearful for no apparent reason. You feel like staying in bed when you should have the energy to get up and enjoy the day. Your appetite and weight have changed, your body aches, and you want to be by yourself most of the time.

These are all signs of major depressive disorder. A mental illness is typically treated successfully with anti-depressant medication and counseling. But for some, this treatment program does not work.

Research has discovered up to 30% of people diagnosed with a major depressive disorder are resistant to treatment. Other studies found between 29% and 46% of depressed patients failed to respond to anti-depressant medicines.

It’s results like these that are getting the attention of medical professionals around the world. There seems to be a sense of urgency to develop a solution. Finding answers begins with learning more about this condition.

Treatment-Resistant Depression Defined

To be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, you have been given at least two different types of anti-depressants in increased doses, but you have not seen any improvements in your mood after six weeks or more.

In some cases, improvements are seen initially. But unfortunately, after a few weeks, the positive effects of the medicine fade, leaving them trying to cope with depression all over again.

No one has developed an exact cause for treatment-resistant depression. Some say it is related to genetics, inflammation, and brain chemistry. To make things even more confusing, there is potential for misdiagnosis. You must do everything you can to find out if you really do have a treatment-resistant disorder.

Is It Really Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Humans make mistakes, like forgetting to take a dose or two of their depression medication. It happens. But doing so can trick you into thinking you are treatment-resistant to your medication. Also, doctors are human. Sometimes they don’t get the dosing right and maybe prescribing too little of the right medication or the wrong medication. Again, this can make you think you are treatment-resistant.

To truly be treatment-resistant, there are certain factors to analyze. Answer questions like, have you been given the proper medication or medication combination and dosage to treat your depression properly? Are you taking other medicines that may be interfering with your anti-depressants? Are you drinking alcohol or using drugs that can interfere with your anti-depressant? Do you have any underlying medical issues that are untreated, like hypothyroidism or hormone imbalances?

Once you complete this process of elimination, you may find that yes, you are treatment-resistant. You can now move into the process of seeking the correct treatment. Just because you are resistant to anti-depressants doesn’t mean you are left without hope of feeling better.

In recent years, there has been a discovery that is providing relief for many people with the treatment-resistant disorder, ketamine.

Ketamine for Depression

Ketamine is known for many things, from a club drug to an anesthetic. It is also known for being able to produce anti-depressant effects in the brain quickly. It works by increasing the amount of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Ketamine, when administered by a licensed psychiatrist, is entirely safe and beneficial. It is typically given intravenously, and your doctor supervises you throughout the treatment. Ketamine can be administered through infusion, shot, or nasal spray.

Ketamine can be used alongside an anti-depressant and may improve its effects.

Ketamine treatment should be one part of a more extensive treatment plan. To prolong the effects of ketamine and anti-depressants, you must do things that focus on changing how you think. Thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to behaviors. If you think negatively, you will feel bad and behave in negative ways. The opposite is true also.

If you train yourself to think positively, those thoughts will lead to improved feelings and actions. You can learn how to change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in individual and group therapies.

Ketamine Plus Individual Therapy

Individual therapy with a licensed mental health professional offers many benefits to those with or without treatment-resistant depression. It gives you a safe space to express yourself without judgment.

You can learn new skills to help you cope with depression. When you follow your ketamine treatment immediately with an individual therapy session, your therapist can use techniques to enhance the effects of the ketamine to prolong the positive results.

Most treatment centers call this process Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Techniques Enhanced by Ketamine

Individual therapists have a toolbox full of therapies. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or talk therapy, is probably the most well-known treatment tool. But others offer just as many benefits. Examples include dialectical behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy. In addition, trauma-focused therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy can be used as a supplement to ketamine therapy.

Even More Treatments

There are many treatments not detailed but worthy of mentioning when it comes to treatment-resistant depression. Somatic therapies like vagus nerve stimulation are performed by an implanted device that sends electrical impulses to your nervous system.

Another example is called electroconvulsive therapy, in which electricity is sent to your brain while you are asleep to stimulate the brain. It changes the chemistry of the brain in a way that relieves symptoms of major depression. These are not permanent solutions but ones that can be repeated.

Finally, with the help of an individual therapist, you can learn to change lifestyle habits that keep you from fully benefiting from treatment. Your home environment, relationships, diet, exercise, sleeping habits, and stress may be part of the problem.

You can overcome treatment-resistant depression. The key is developing an individualized treatment plan based on an extensive evaluation of your physical and mental health. Evaluations should only be done by psychiatrists specializing in treatment-resistant disorders. The good news is that requesting an evaluation is easy and can be done today. All you must do is call the local mental health center. A treatment specialist is waiting to answer your call.