For many individuals, managing and experiencing treatment-resistant depression (TRD) can feel like an impossible task. They may have taken antidepressants that don’t seem to work or adopted new habits that don’t alleviate or reduce the severity of their depression symptoms. For those who experience treatment-resistant depression, common medications and traditional lifestyle changes may offer little to no relief.
Luckily, many people who experience TRD can still find reliable ways to mitigate their symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best strategies and methods toward finding success treating TRD that can help lead to a better, richer life and day-to-day experience.
Choosing psychological counseling can be a very effective option for treating long-term TRD. For many individuals, such therapy combined with medically-prescribed antidepressants can be the best course of action instead of just utilizing one or the other. Such can help identify underlying concerns that may be adding to your depression. By working with your licensed counselor, you can also learn more about particular behaviors and strategies to overcome your depression.
For example, psychological therapy can help you discover better ways to cope with life’s challenges, process past emotional trauma, address substance use challenges, and generally manage relationships in healthier ways. It’s important to note that if counseling doesn’t seem to work, talk to your therapist about adopting a different approach. Or consider seeing someone else. As with medications, it may take several tries to find a relationship with a counselor that works for you.
Somatic Treatment Options
Another reliable way to approach treating TRD is by trying somatic (nondrug) therapy options, including transcranial magnetic stimulation—which targets nerve cells in the part of the brain involved in mood control and depression. More specifically, an electromagnetic coil is gently placed on your scalp near your forehead. This electromagnet is what stimulates the nerve cells in the part of your brain that help regulate mood control and symptoms of depression. Usually, this treatment is delivered during 30-minute sessions in quick bursts. Additionally, this treatment can now be delivered over briefer sessions with dosing called intermittent theta burst stimulation.
There’s also the option to try Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In most cases, while you’re asleep, ECT involves using a carefully measured dose of electricity that is passed through your brain, intentionally triggering a small, very brief seizure. This process causes changes in brain chemistry that have the potential to relatively quickly reverse symptoms of major depression. Although there are potential side effects, such as temporary confusion or temporary memory loss, a series of ECT treatments may provide significant relief from symptoms of TRD.
For many individuals experiencing TRD, taking Ketamine in medically-sanctioned amounts can provide lasting relief. Ketamine treatment for TRD was first demonstrated for short-term treatment in research that discovered clinically and statistically significant decreases in depression scores for ketamine over given placebos. Nasal ketamine was shown to have longer-term efficacy, in a study where ketamine (along with the taking regular antidepressants) helped individuals maintain stable remission 16 weeks into the process. When successful, relief from TRD with ketamine often happens very quickly. Ketamine treatments for severe depression are usually prescribed or recommended for people suffering the full, crushing weight of depression.
In many cases, they can start to recognize the benefits of ketamine in under an hour. Whether this is a good option for you should involve a conversation with your primary care physician, your mental health provider, and any other health care professionals involved in your treatment. It’s crucial to recognize that ketamine isn’t an initial treatment for anyone experiencing depression, and it is generally used only when more established treatments haven’t worked.
TRD symptoms can feel unbearable and like there’s no way to get better. But there’s hope! If you are experiencing symptoms of TRD, be sure to contact your primary medical provider for more insight into the best solutions for you. Additionally, if you’re interested in seeing a board certified physician free of charge and getting access to new clinical depression treatments, feel free to apply to join our depression study at the Lehigh Center for Clinical Research!