5 Most Common Signs of Severe Depression
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Everyone feels a bit down every now and then. There are also many people that struggle with depression that causes pervasive feelings of sadness that interfere with their ability to carry out their daily activities or maintain relationships with people around them. But for some people, their depression symptoms are more severe than others.

Major depressive disorder is different for everyone. While some people who have been diagnosed with MDD have relatively mild symptoms, others have more severe symptoms that may require a higher level of treatment. But what does severe depression look like? That’s what we’re here to answer.

Read on to learn about the basics of severe depression, the most common signs to look for and how the severity of your depression is measured.

What it means to have severe depression

Major depressive disorder, also known as depression, is a common mood disorder. It can result in overwhelming and persistent negative feelings, including sadness, hopelessness and malaise. The symptoms can range in severity from person to person.

Severe depression is a type of major depressive disorder, but it’s not a separate diagnosis. Having severe depression often means that you’re experiencing many symptoms at one time. Those symptoms have a significant impact on your day-to-day life. 

Depression can also worsen over time, especially due to changes in life circumstances. A person can have mild to moderate depression at first diagnosis, but their symptoms can become severe from situations such as a loss of a loved one or the ending of a relationship.

5 most common signs of severe depression

While all cases of depression cause persistent negative feelings, someone with a severe level of the mood disorder can have debilitating symptoms that interfere with every part of their life. If someone has severe symptoms, it can be hard for them to even get out of bed in the morning.

Here are some of the most common signs of severe depression:


  • Difficulty feeling joy — Constantly feeling sad and hopeless is the most common sign of depression. When you have a severe case of depression, you can struggle to find joy in anything, from activities to quality time with others.

  • Inability to care for yourself — If depression makes it difficult for you to get out of bed, all the other daily responsibilities for your wellness fall to the wayside. It can be difficult to find the energy or motivation to feed yourself, brush your teeth or shower.

  • Sleep issues — Depression can cause you to sleep either too little or too much. Depression can often cause insomnia. But excessive sleeping is especially common in severe depression. It can be seen as an “escape,” as you believe that you have nothing to wake up for.

  • Psychosis — In the most severe cases of depression, you may experience psychosis, which refers to delusional thinking and hallucinations. Psychosis often requires hospitalization. Psychotic depression is another subset of major depressive disorder.

  • Suicidal thoughts — If you’re struggling with depression, the overwhelming negative thoughts and emotions can lead to you thinking about ending your life. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

How to determine if you have severe depression after exhibiting common symptoms

If you’re experiencing common signs of severe depression, it’s important to immediately discuss your thoughts, feelings and behaviors with your mental health provider. They can use a variety of depression assessment systems to measure the severity of your symptoms so that they can provide the proper treatment and support.

Here are a few of the most common depression assessment systems:

  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) — Features 21 self-report items with multiple choice responses

  • Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) — Features 20 self-report items pertaining to symptoms of the last week

  • Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) — Features 21 items used to determine severity of symptoms before, during and after treatment, but only scored on the first 17 items

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help treat your common symptoms of severe depression

Depression can make it difficult to find the motivation to do almost anything, including getting the treatment you need. At Lightfully, we’ll be with you every step of the way. We’ll help loosen the hold that common depression symptoms have on your life so you can work toward a happier and healthier future.

You can find the help you need to treat your symptoms with our four programs: Residential Treatment, virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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