Treatment-Resistant Conditions

Unlike traditional psychiatry, which rarely looks at the brain, Amen Clinics uses brain imaging technology to help identify brain health issues that may contribute to treatment resistance.

What are Treatment-Resistant Conditions?

Why do some people get better from mental health treatment, but others don’t? Sadly, far too many people who seek help for their symptoms don’t respond to front-line treatments. Despite prescriptions medications and other therapies, they don’t get relief from their mood swings, emptiness, nervousness, anger, inattention, or other symptoms. And in some cases, they continue to suffer, even after trying multiple medications and therapies. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Who Does It Affect?

Treatment resistance is seen in people with many mental health disorders, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Addictions
  • Schizophrenia


What are the Core Symptoms?

When standard treatments don’t resolve or improve your symptoms, or you have tried multiple medications or therapies without relief, it is a sign of treatment resistance.

What Causes Treatment-Resistance?

There are a number of reasons why people may not get well when treated for psychiatric symptoms. Some of the more common causes in traditional psychiatry are misdiagnosis, being unaware of co-occurring conditions, ignoring condition subtypes, intolerance to medication, and lack of compliance. Please see below for more details about the causes of treatment-resistance.

Treatment resistance is associated with:

  • Feeling like a failure
  • Feeling frustrated
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicide attempts

Why Choose Amen Clinics for Treating Treatment-Resistant Conditions?

Even if you’ve tried medication, tried therapy, or tried other treatments, and they haven’t worked for you in the past, there is still hope. It starts with getting an accurate diagnosis. At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and treat our patients. Brain scans help us determine if there are other co-occurring conditions, helping identify condition subtypes, and detecting underlying issues such as traumatic brain injuries. It also helps us monitor how well treatment is working so adjustments can be made for more effective results.

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Treatment-Resistant Brains Work Differently

When medication or other treatments don’t provide relief, it is often due to underlying brain health issues. For example, our brain imaging work has taught us that mental health problems aren’t single or simple disorders. They all have multiple types. Giving everyone the same treatment will never work. You need to know your type to get the right treatment. In addition, undetected traumatic brain injuries, chronic infections, or exposure to toxins may be contributing to symptoms.

Ready to learn more? Speak to a care coordinator today!

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How Common is Treatment Resistance?

Treatment resistance is seen in people with many mental health disorders, including:

  • ADD/ADHD: Studies show that as many as 80% of adults with ADD/ADHD don’t stick with their treatment plan.
  • Depression: A 2014 study found that after taking antidepressants, over 50% of depressed patients failed to experience full remission of their symptoms. And one-third still didn’t get the relief they sought after four courses of antidepressants.
  • Anxiety: Research shows that only about 60% of people with anxiety see any significant relief of their symptoms with treatment.
  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder treatment is still “plagued by inadequate response in acute mania or depressive episodes or in long-term preventive maintenance,” according to a review in Molecular Psychiatry. Experts in a 2015 article suggest that treatment resistance in bipolar disorder is indicated when two trials of medications have provided clinically unsatisfactory results.
  • Addictions: Substance use disorders are notoriously difficult to treat effectively for the long-term and the relapse rate is estimated at 40-60%.
  • Schizophrenia: Up to 30% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia don’t respond to treatment with two or more medications.


The Consequences Treatment Resistance

When you go months or years without getting the relief you want from your symptoms, it can be demoralizing. It may make you feel like a failure, or feel sad, frustrated, and hopeless. Not responding to treatment for a mental health condition can have devastating consequences. In fact, people with treatment-resistant anxiety have the highest rate of suicide attempts of any mental health disorder, according to findings in Molecular Psychiatry.


What Causes Treatment Resistance?

There are a number of reasons why people may not get well when treated for psychiatric symptoms. Some of the more common causes are outlined here:

  • Misdiagnosis: Unfortunately, traditional psychiatry remains the only medical specialty that rarely looks at the organ it treats. In conventional psychiatry, diagnoses are typically made based on symptom clusters, but because so many of the symptoms overlap with multiple mental health conditions, misdiagnosis is common. Without an accurate diagnosis, treatment usually consists of throwing darts in the dark. Healthcare professionals are quick to prescribe medications that may work for some people but can make other people worse!
  • Co-occurring conditions: Having multiple mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, or also suffering from substance abuse can make it difficult for traditional healthcare providers to make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Ignoring subtypes: At Amen Clinics, our brain imaging work shows that mental health conditions aren’t single or simple disorders. Based on our brain imaging work, we have identified 7 types of anxiety and depression, 7 types of ADD/ADHD, and 6 types of brain patterns associated with addiction. Giving everybody with depression the same treatment will never work. Knowing your type is critical to getting the most effective treatment.
  • Lack of compliance: Some patients have difficulty following a treatment plan, which prevents them from getting well. In some cases, this may be due to underlying brain issues that hamper their ability to plan and follow through. In other cases, it may be related to the stigma attached to taking psychiatric medication.
  • Intolerance to medication: Side effects associated with prescription medication may be so bothersome to certain individuals that they stop taking them.
  • Lack of social support: In order to get well, it’s important to have a solid support network. People who don’t have family or friends who are willing to help them in the healing process may have a more difficult time on the path to wellness.
  • Underlying risk factors: Traditional mental healthcare professionals may also miss underlying biological issues that can mimic or contribute to psychiatric symptoms. We have identified 11 risk factors that can create symptoms of mental illness. We use the mnemonic BRIGHT MINDS to make it easy to remember these risk factors:
      • B is for problems with Blood Flow
      • R is for Retirement/Aging
      • I is for Inflammation
      • G is for Genetics (family history)
      • H is for Head Trauma
      • M is for Mind-Storms
      • I is for Immunity/Infections
      • N is for Neurohormones
      • D is for Diabesity
      • S is for Sleep


“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.


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