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Ever heard about treatment-resistant depression?

Watch a comedy flick to lower your depression. © Shutterstock

It is a major depressive disorder that fails to respond to conventional treatments medication, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Written by Debjani Arora |Updated : August 2, 2018 1:07 PM IST

First, we had to fight the stigma around mental health and make people aware that a condition like depression or any other mental disorder is something that needs medical help. And as people started to come out of their closet and accept the symptoms of their depression to seek help, we learn that there are times when even medication and therapy might not be of much help to overcome the condition. Chemical changes in the brain lead to a condition like depression where one experiences severe low mood, inability to function properly, general discontent, guilt, loss of interest, lack of concentration, slowness in work among others. There are different types of depression and one of the most severe ones is treatment-resistant depression. It is a kind of depression that doesn't respond well to treatments medication, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. It could be challenging for the doctors and therapists to chalk out a treatment to treat this kind of a major depressive disorder.

In fact, researchers at the Harvard University has pointed out that there are three out of 10 patients suffering from depression who cannot find the right treatment to deal with their condition. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that there's some sort of relationship between depression and a molecule called acetyl-L-carnitine. That's right it is this one molecule that makes all the difference between depression and treatment-resistant depression.

What is acetyl-L-carnitine?

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It is a kind of amino acid that related to neurotransmitters in the brain. The researchers found that people who suffered from major depressive disorders or treatment-resistant disorders had lower amounts of this particular molecule or amino acid in blood samples. The research also found that this was more prominent in women than in men which also goes to say why women struggle a lot with depressive disorders than men. Scientists behind this study are urging doctors to do a blood test to know the levels of acetyl-L-carnitine as an early diagnostic tool for depression. This can act as a biomarker making it easier for therapists and doctors to chalk out a treatment plan in the initial stages for better outcomes.

The way ahead

If this research is taken seriously and a blood test is done to check on the levels of acetyl-L-carnitine the treatment for depression will become relatively easier rather than being in a trial and error process for long. However, for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression ketamine, another type of antidepressant works well for them. But since it also misused as a recreational drug the dosage should be carefully prescribed by the doctors citing its pros and cons too.

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