What is Depression?

People casually use the phrase, “I’m so depressed!” to say they are feeling down. But a temporary case of the blues – something we all experience – has nothing to do with real depression. True depression is not the blues, sadness or even grief. It is an overwhelming despair so bleak that people who have experienced it say that it is the worst pain they have ever endured. Depression is a treatable mental illness. While there have been changes in people’s attitudes, the stigma associated with mental illnesses has meant that many people with depression never seek treatment. Yet, those who do have an excellent chance of recovery. Researchers estimate that people who receive treatment for depression respond well.

For more information please read our booklet (pdf), What_is_Depression?

Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD)

Treatment resistant depression (TRD) is defined in research as what patients are experiencing when they have been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder but fail to respond to at least two different courses of anti-depressives. Research reports the incidence level of TRD is 21.7% although some studies show that figure can be as high as 50 – 60%. A hampering factor for more robust research may be that people, while knowing full well that they are suffering, do not know that their clinician has designated their experience as TRD. Some family physicians aren’t aware of or don’t use the term. This confusion occurs because TRD is not an official psychiatric diagnosis but is instead a clinical descriptor used to report what is happening for patients.

Additional experiences for TRD patients are longer episodes of depression and the presence of other physical and psychiatric illnesses.

In a 2018 MDSC survey, 119 respondents self-identified as experiencing TRD. They reported that:

  • 51% of them had experienced 10 or more bouts of depression,
  • 63% had visited an Emergency Room for their depression
  • 19% had been admitted to hospital with 37% of those staying for 11 – 30 days,

TRD is debilitating and distressing. Fifty-five percent of MDSC’s respondents said they would try just about anything if there was a chance it would help.

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