It is difficult to watch someone you love battle depression. In the U.S. depression affects 17.3 million adults, a third of which have what is known as treatment-resistant depression (TRD). TRD is when a patient has not responded to adequate doses of two different antidepressants taken for a sufficient duration of time (usually six weeks). Certain populations are more vulnerable, including women and senior citizens. Those with a medical illness (e.g. chronic pain) are also at greater risk. 

If TRD describes the condition of someone you love, there are things you can do to support them through their battle. You can encourage them to do the following⁠—

  1. Stick with their treatment plan. As discouraging as it might be to see that nothing has worked in the past and catastrophizing that nothing will work in the future, your loved one might be completely demoralized and at the end of their rope. Encourage them to keep taking the next best step and not skip appointments, medication, and therapy sessions. 
  2. Stop drinking or using recreational drugs. It’s possible that your loved one is using alcohol, recreational drugs, or marijuana to cope with their condition. It’s common for those suffering with TRD to do so. We know though that these only worsen depression and make it harder to treat. It may be that your loved one needs the help of a professional to quit. Dealing with any substance use is a prerequisite to addressing the depression. 
  3. Exercise regularly. This list would not be complete without the mention of exercise. Exercise induces mood boosting brain chemicals (including endorphins) which can help temper the negative effects of TRD in your loved one’s daily experience. There are also the added benefits of reducing stress and improving sleep. Keep in mind that endorphins have been found to be released after 30 minutes of exercise. Whether your loved one’s interest is gardening or jogging, encourage them to move their body daily. 
  4. Find better ways to manage stress. Daily stressors, from relationship issues to work, can make depression worse. If your loved one has succumbed to the stress and is unable to see beyond what is right in front of them, encourage them to take some stress-reducing actions. One of the things they might try is practicing mindfulness (here’s a blog post about 5 mindfulness apps that can help them get started). 
  5. Sleep well. We know that sleep affects mood, energy level, resilience to stress, and concentration ability. Many of the apps mentioned in this blog post have sleep inducing meditations that can help your loved one improve their sleep hygiene. This in turn can help them better manage their depression. 

Your loved one’s experience is something that you can only try to understand. Being there for them will make a difference, even if it’s not always apparent. By supporting them in these five ways, you could be just what they need until they arrive at the treatment that will effectively address their TRD. To learn about newly-emerging treatments that we are using to address TRD, visit our ketamine and transcranial magnetic stimulation pages.

Health is just one appointment away. Take the next step today.