The Struggle of Debilitating Depression
Debilitating depression occurs when the symptoms of major depression are so severe that you cannot function normally in one or more areas of your life. For instance, this severe depression can make it impossible to keep up with basic hygiene, housework, a job, or normal relationships with friends and family. There are some very serious consequences of untreated severe depression, including suicide, so it is essential to get professional treatment, preferably in a residential setting.
Everyone experiences depression in a unique way, even with common symptoms. Some people have more mild depressive moods or less frequent states of depression. Others are debilitated by these moods. They may not be able to function, struggling to do even the most basic daily tasks like bathing and getting dressed.
This degree of depression is not something anyone should have to live with for long. If you or someone you care about is struggling with severe depression, residential treatment is the best option for comprehensive care and lasting results.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a clinical mental health diagnosis, also called major depression and major depressive disorder. There are some different types of depression, but major depression is one condition that can vary in terms of how severe the symptoms are. A typical bout of sadness or low mood, sometimes triggered by a life change or situation, is not depression. To be diagnosed, you must have at least five of these symptoms for at least two weeks:
- A low, depressed mood with sadness and hopelessness, sometimes irritability or anger
- A loss of interest in activities or inability to get pleasure from normal activities
- Major, unplanned changes in eating and weight
- Insomnia or sleeping more than normal
- Agitation or retardation of movements and affect
- Fatigue and low energy
- Feeling worthless, guilty, and ashamed
- Struggling to think, make decisions, and focus on tasks
- Persistent thoughts about death or suicide, with or without suicidal behaviors
For a diagnosis of major depression you must have one of the first two symptoms and five or more in total. The symptoms must be persistent and cause significant impairment in your life.
When Depression Becomes Debilitating – Complications
Within the criteria for a diagnosis of depression there is a lot of room for variation. Some people may have these symptoms and struggle with them but still be able to function to some degree. Others may have more than five symptoms or experience some symptoms so severely that they can no longer take care of themselves or their homes, go to work, function at school, or manage their relationships.
Some signs that your depression has become debilitating include:
- Not showering or bathing for days or weeks
- Neglecting all types of hygiene, wearing dirty clothes, not brushing hair
- Forgetting to eat or eating only whatever junk food is available
- Being completely unable to function at work or in school
- Noticeable slowing of the ability to think or do anything remotely active, even just getting up and walking around the house
- Psychotic symptoms, like delusions or hallucinations, becoming physically immobile
This severe, debilitating depression must be addressed because it can cause serious complications, like substance abuse, physical injuries from self-harm, malnutrition, loss of a job or failing at school, damaged relationships, physical illnesses, and social isolation.
When Depression Is Deadly– Suicide
Another very serious potential complication of debilitating depression is suicide. Depression can actually kill, because you may get to the point where you see no other way to get relief than to take your own life. One out of five people with depression will attempt suicide, and those with severe symptoms are at a greater risk.
Treatment interventions can significantly reduce the risk of suicide. It is important to understand the warning signs of suicide to be able to help someone get treatment before it’s too late. If you are struggling it may be difficult to see the signs in yourself, but if you do think about death and suicide often, reach out for help. Some troubling signs include:
- Talking about death, being hopeless, feeling trapped, having no reasons to live, or pain and suffering that is unbearable
- Increasing risky behaviors, including substance use
- Actively looking for ways to commit suicide
- Worsening social isolation
- Saying goodbye to people
- Giving away items
- A sudden positive change in mood, or sense of relief
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Depression Can Be Worsened by Co-Occurring Conditions
Depression can be severe all on its own, but it often co-occurs with other conditions, and these can make it even worse. You may have depression with one or more of any other mental illnesses. Some common conditions that occur with depression are anxiety disorders and trauma-based disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Also common is the co-occurrence of a substance use disorder with depression. Some people may use drugs or alcohol to try to get relief from low moods and negative thoughts, while others may find that substance use precedes and triggers depression. Regardless, the outcome is the same in that one makes the other worse.
If you struggle with severe and debilitating depression it is essential that you get screened for substance use disorders and for other mental illnesses. Even if you are getting good treatment for depression, if you ignore other co-occurring disorders, your depression will persist. It may get better initially, but the substance use or additional mental illness symptoms will likely pull you back into a depression relapse.
Treating and Managing Severe Depression
Debilitating depression feels absolutely hopeless, but there is hope. Treatment, even for the most severe cases of depression, can be effective. If you are struggling, or someone you know is, take a look at residential treatment. This is the best option for someone with a debilitating mental illness, because it provides a safe place in which to spend an extended period of time focusing on getting better and learning how to live with this disease in the future.
There is no cure for depression, but with the right medical treatment and therapy you can learn to live with it, to manage symptoms, and to reduce the risk of having future episodes. Medical care is an essential part of this treatment, including antidepressant medications, but it is not the end of treatment.
A good residential treatment program will create an individualized plan for each patient that includes medical care and therapy. Various types of therapy, including behavioral therapies, will help you learn how to adjust to difficult situations in your life, recognize and change your negative thought patterns, engage in more positive behaviors, and develop coping skills for depressive episodes.
Residential treatment can also provide a wide range of supportive activities and treatments. Things like exercise and recreation, alternative and creative therapies, holistic medicine, lifestyle changes, and family and group support and therapy can reinforce the standard medical and psychotherapeutic treatments.
Having support from friends and family in the transition from treatment back home is also essential. If you have a loved one going through this right now, be there when they return home to provide a social support framework. And if you are returning home after care, seek out friends and family to spend time with and avoid isolation.
Debilitating depression is a reality for some people, but there is hope and help available. With treatment and support from loved ones, you can learn how to better cope with depressive episodes and reduce their frequency. You’ll learn how to make more positive choices to support good mental health and to live a more enjoyable, functional life.
If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia, and severe bipolar as well as co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.