Severe Depression and 2 Treatments for It
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Severe Depression and 2 Treatments for It

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Do you feel like you are struggling with depression and constantly in a low mood? If this sounds like you and your depressive symptoms have lasted longer than a few weeks and are affecting your life, you may be struggling with severe depression


Severe depression is not a diagnosis, but a clinical term for major depressive disorder (MDD). It is a mental health condition that causes persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. It’s more than just feeling down for a few days. It happens for extended periods and can significantly impact your daily functioning and quality of life. An estimated 21 million American adults and 5% of adults worldwide are affected by MDD each year. 


What can lead to severe depression?


There isn’t a well-known cause of severe depression. It can happen as a result of a combination of risk factors, including:


  • Family history
  • Brain chemistry
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Significant life changes
  • Chronic illness or pain
  • Personality traits


Signs someone is struggling with severe depression symptoms


Severe depression can appear in several ways that can vary from person to person. These symptoms can include:


  • Persistent sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Drastic appetite or weight changes
  • Loss of self-care
  • Sleep changes
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Psychosis
  • Thoughts or feelings of wanting to end your life or harm yourself


How is the severity of depression diagnosed?


Severe depression, like MDD, requires a diagnosis from a health care professional. To diagnose this condition, a health care provider will do a thorough evaluation that can include:


  • Physical exam
  • Lab tests
  • Psychological evaluations
  • DSM-5 diagnostic 


Treatment options for severe depression


There are a couple of treatment options available for people who are struggling with severe depression. These include:


  • Psychotherapy — Psychotherapy can be like having a guide who helps you untangle the thoughts and emotions that severe depression can cause to tangle up in your brain. This can look like sitting down with a clinically trained therapist and having open, honest conversations about what you’re dealing with. Therapy involves learning to regulate emotions, practice coping skills, reflect on patterns of behavior, and make positive life changes. 


You will receive effective help, learning how to develop healthy coping skills and strategies to navigate the ups and downs of life with better ease. There are different types of psychotherapy. They have different approaches to help you, but the main goals are to help individuals develop coping strategies, reduce symptoms, and prevent future episodes of depression. These can improve the quality of your life. 


Commonly used psychotherapy techniques can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and cognitive processing therapy (CPT). 


  • Medications — Neurotransmitters— serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine — are crucial in helping to regulate your mood, energy and overall brain function. When you are struggling with severe depression, these chemicals in your brain often aren’t doing their job. Medications like antidepressants can help regulate the chemical levels and reduce your symptoms. While they can’t cure depression, they can be a useful tool to manage depression symptoms. It’s also important to remember that these medications don’t start working overnight. They can take several weeks to fully kick in. It may also take some trial and error to find the best dose or type of medication. Once they start working, it can feel like a heavy weight is lifting off your shoulders. Medication should always be prescribed and managed by a healthcare professional.


The process-based therapy difference for treating severe depression


There are over 500 psychological therapeutic approaches. Mental health conditions may have  formal descriptions, but they affect each person uniquely. Process-based therapy can address an individual’s unique symptoms in a comprehensive manner. It’s distinctive approach allows a clinical therapist to create a personalized framework. This framework is meticulously designed to meet each client’s specific needs and challenges. It integrates the most effective elements of evidence-based approaches, which can include CBT, ACT, DBT and CPT. This treatment allows for whole-person-centered care rather than just treating the diagnosis. 


PBT targets the underlying drivers of severe depression and its symptoms by focusing on four core processes. These four core processes can include:


  • Difficulty with emotions — PBT can focus on specific emotional dysregulation and avoidance that can be caused by severe depression. It can help address the difficulties you are having with regulating your emotions. You will also learn coping mechanisms that can help you avoid distressing feelings.


  • Difficulty with thoughts — You may be struggling with shame and other negative self-beliefs. Through PBT, you can challenge these negative self-beliefs and thought patterns and replace them with positives.  


  • Difficulty with relationships — Severe depression can cause you to have social withdrawal, strained relationships and interpersonal conflicts. This withdrawal can leave you feeling disconnected and isolated. PBT can help you address these challenges and repair or rebuild relationships. 


  • Difficulty with behaviors — Avoiding or not doing activities or disconnecting from relationships can happen because you lose interest or passion while in the grips of severe depression. PBT can help you explore the underlying causes of feeling like you’ve lost purpose and help you reconnect with your interests and passions. This can help you reclaim the joy of doing activities and reconnect relationships. 


By targeting these interconnected core processes of severe depression, real change becomes possible. Your care team will ensure that your treatment plan is tailored to maximize the potential for you to achieve meaningful progress and claim lasting improvements in your mental health. 


Discover the process-based therapy difference at Lightfully 


At Lightfully Behavioral Health, we understand that you are more than your severe depression symptoms and diagnosis. Our holistic treatment approach of process-based therapy helps ensure that you receive a treatment built to meet your needs. 


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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