Some individuals with depression may try multiple treatments without significant improvement. These individuals are considered to have treatment-resistant depression (also called treatment-refractory depression). It is particularly important for these patients to work closely with their psychiatrist to find the appropriate medication regimen as well as re-evaluate their diagnosis for psychiatric and medical comorbidities. Often medication may be supplemented with psychotherapy. For some patients, supplementation of an antidepressant with triiodothyronine (T3), a thyroid hormone, lithium, atypical antipsychotics or other medications lead to mood improvement. Patients with treatment resistant depression tend to show more severe circadian dysregulation than patients in whom depression is more easily treated. For this reason, circadian interventions, such as light therapy, may play a role in treatment. In some instances therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or new medications may be considered.
From 2001 to 2006, the NIMH funded the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) Study. The goal of the study was to determine the effectiveness of different treatments for people with major depression who did not respond to initial treatment with an antidepressant. Over 4,000 participants enrolled over a period of six years, which makes this the largest and longest study ever conducted to evaluate depression treatment. More information about the study and its outcomes can be found on the NIMH site's STAR*D Study page.
With research participants' help, we are able to able to better understand, diagnose and develop treatment for depressive disorders. Browse our clinical trials to participate and help test new treatments.