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Anyone who has battled clinical depression knows it is a force to be reckoned with. Depression can come on suddenly with no warning or may develop over a period of time.
A severe bout of depression can upend your life, causing impairment of functioning. This means every facet of your life is impacted, such as being unable to work or take care of yourself.
The severity of the depression is what dictates the recommended course of treatment. If you want to learn more about how to treat severe clinical depression, read on.
What are the Signs of Severe Clinical Depression?
The signs and symptoms of severe depression are the same as those of major depressive disorder. What makes the condition “severe” is the level of impairment in functioning the patient is experiencing.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad and hopeless. Negative emotions like hopelessness, despair, worthlessness, guilt, helplessness, and self-loathing may persist. These emotions increase the risk of suicide in severely depressed people.
- Changes in appetite and weight. When depressed, some may find themselves eating more as a coping mechanism, leading to weight gain. Others may be so sad and depressed that they lose their appetite, which may result in weight loss.
- Loss of interest in life. One of the signs of severe clinical depression is the gradual loss of interest in things the person once enjoyed. They may withdraw from hobbies or social events, and become secluded.
- Sleep problems. Depression may cause excessive sleeping (hypersomnia) or insomnia.
- Intense fatigue. Low mood often causes a deep sense of fatigue. This impacts functioning at both home and work, as the person does not have their usual level of energy.
- Irritability. Some who struggle with clinical depression may find themselves feeling more irritable than normal. This is especially common in men or teens that battle depression.
- Cognitive impairment. Someone with depression may notice they have more trouble with focus and concentration. This can make it hard to pay attention and make decisions. They may also find their thought processing seems slower than normal.
- Suicidal Ideation or Suicide Attempts. It has been found that a majority of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental health disorder. Most frequent are depression, bipolar disorder, or even substance use disorder.
Is it Clinical Depression or Bipolar Depression?
While both depression and bipolar disorder are mood disorders, there are distinct differences between them. Your doctor will assess your symptoms to determine which form of depression you have.
The main difference between these two mental health disorders is that bipolar disorder will also involve manic episodes. If you have a history of severe mood swings between the depression and mania, you likely have bipolar.
Depression with Comorbid Substance Use Disorder
It is common for someone with major depression to self-medicate, or numb the symptoms, with alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse rates are high among people with severe depression, especially alcohol use disorder.
What may start as an attempt to soothe oneself from the symptoms of depression, alcohol use can start to increase. This occurs as tolerance builds, and it takes more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect.
Comorbid depression and substance use disorder is called dual diagnosis. Recovery will not endure unless both of these disorders are treated. A dual-diagnosis treatment program will encompass both the psychiatric care needed for the depression, as well as addiction treatment.
Severe Depression and Increased Suicide Risk
The most worrisome symptom of severe depression is suicidality. This is the term used to describe an obsession with death and suicide. If you or a loved one is struggling with severe depression, be aware of these warning signs for suicide:
- They believe they have become a burden to others.
- They say they feel hopeless, or that they have no reason to live anymore.
- They acquire the means to commit suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling drugs.
- They mention wanting to die, or come right out and say they are suicidal.
- They have sleep problems such as excessive sleeping or insomnia.
- They start withdrawing socially and become secluded or isolated.
- They increase their use of alcohol or drugs.
- They engage in reckless behaviors.
- They appear more agitated or anxious.
- They may mention they feel trapped in their pain.
- They exhibit mood swings.
- They begin giving away items that have special meaning.
Is Severe Clinical Depression a Disability?
Depression may become so impairing that you are unable to perform work duties, which may qualify you for government benefits. However, the SSDI has very clear criteria that must be met to receive benefits:
- Your depression must prevent the performance of “substantial gainful activity” for at least one year. This means if you are still working and earning over the stated limit, your claim will be denied.
- You must have a severe medically verifiable mental or physical condition that is verifiable through medical sources. In the event of depression, this means a doctor or psychiatrist must provide records of your battle with clinical depression.
Treatment for Severe Clinical Depression
Fortunately, there is help available for depression. After a thorough psychological evaluation is completed, the doctor will create a treatment plan. For those with severe clinical depression, the best treatment solution is a residential mental health treatment program.
A residential program provides a high level of care within a private estate-type setting. Treatment includes:
- Medication. With about thirty types of antidepressants available, your meds will be reviewed, tweaked, or changed if they are not working. The doctor may switch you from one SSRI to another, or change the class of antidepressants entirely.
- Psychotherapy. The type of therapy you receive is based on your specific risk factors for depression. For instance, if your depression stems from trauma, you will engage in a trauma-based type of therapy. If your depression is rooted in childhood issues, psychodynamic therapy would be beneficial. CBT is the most used type of therapy for depression because it helps you change your thought patterns.
- Holistic. You will engage in healthy habits, like exercise, a healthy diet, and stress reduction activities like yoga and mindfulness meditation.
- TMS. TMS is a brain stimulation technique that has shown great promise in relieving symptoms of severe depression within 4-6 weeks.
Mental Health Hope Offers Guidance for Severe Clinical Depression
Mental Health Hope is a free online provider of support for those who are struggling with a mental health challenge. If you or a loved one is battling clinical depression, please reach out to us today at (877) 967-9274.