Treating depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s rarely a homerun on the first try. Many patients are only able to reach remission, or have no symptoms or residual problems, after trying several different medications. Some patients will have to try first, second, and even third line treatments before finding an effective drug .
You may experience residual symptoms when a medication isn’t effective or isn’t suited to your symptoms. Here’s a list of the telltale symptoms of untreated or unresolved depression.
Fatigue is a common initial symptom of depression. Many people who are undertreated for depression will continue to suffer from fatigue. Some residual symptoms, including fatigue, can also be side effects of the medication you’re taking. However, you shouldn’t simply assume that the fatigue is a side effect of the medicine or a residual symptom. It may also be a sign of a medical disorder (like thyroid disease).
Fatigue can sap your energy and deplete you of the desire to be physically active or productive — an important part of treating and coping with depression. Talk with your doctor if you feel tired all the time or start feeling increasingly tired.
Can’t get enough shut-eye, no matter how hard you try? Insomnia may be a sign of unresolved or undiagnosed depression, or of a poor response to treatment. It could also be a side effect of your medication. Whatever its cause, insomnia is a serious problem, especially since it can increase a person’s likelihood of considering or committing suicide
Untreated or undertreated depression may leave you indifferent in your personal or professional life. People with residual symptoms of depression have higher levels of absenteeism from work. And when they do work, they’re less productive, suffer more interpersonal challenges, and experience less job satisfaction.
Anxiety is a red flag for people with major depressive disorder (MDD). That’s because anxiety is often a hallmark sign that a person will be be more likely to experience a recurrence of MDD. It also means a person may take longer to respond to medical treatment. If anxiety isn’t resolved with a first-line treatment, and especially if if it isn’t resolved with a combination or augmented therapy, talk with your doctor about the possibility of an anxiety disorder or other related condition.
It’s no secret that many people with depression struggle with thoughts of suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide are depressed or have another serious mental health disorder. Suicidal thoughts are more than just fleeting fantasies about harming yourself. You may also think about how “beneficial” it would be to your friends and family if you were no longer alive.
If you find yourself contemplating suicide or talking about it with others, seek help from a mental health specialist immediately, or call 911.
Alcohol or substance abuse in a person being treated for MDD is a warning sign of a larger problem. Someone with depression may be using alcohol or other recreational substances to cover up or reduce other residual symptoms or comorbid conditions, like an anxiety or personality disorder.
Aches and pains shouldn’t be ignored when you have MDD. It may be easy to blame old age or changes in the weather, but backaches, muscle aches, joint pain, and even stomachaches may be a sign of unresolved depression. Speak with your doctor if these aches are constant or aren’t easily treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.
It may be hard to pin residual symptoms of depression to your condition. These symptoms are sometimes the result of an entirely separate, untreated disorder. They may be a sign that your primary depression problem is still present, in other cases. Treating them may not be as simple as taking another medication.
Loyola University researchers found that patients with MDD who experience residual symptoms have higher rates of heart attack and stroke. Also, people with untreated MDD will suffer from the condition longer, increase their risk of additional health problems, and need increased medical services throughout their lifetime. More importantly, their risk for suicide is significantly higher as well. The longer MDD goes untreated or undertreated, the more treatment-resistant it may become.