Should you only be looking for the strongest antidepressant for your severe depression?

It’s important to recognize when you need help, especially when it comes to your mental health. The first step in your mental health journey is recognizing when you have distressing emotions, thoughts and behaviors that are interfering with your daily life. If you take a major depressive disorder quiz, and work with a mental health provider to determine your diagnosis, then the next step is finding the best treatment option for you.


A common treatment option for mental health disorders, such as depression, is medication to help manage your daily symptoms. When it comes to depression, there are a variety of antidepressants that your mental health provider may recommend. But strong antidepressants shouldn’t be your only treatment option for severe depression.


Read on to learn about the basics of severe depression and antidepressants as well as common antidepressant options that are available. We’ll also discuss what other treatment options can be utilized in conjunction with, or even in place of, antidepressants to consider for severe depression.


What is severe depression?


Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes persistent and overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness and malaise. It can interfere with your ability to carry out your daily responsibilities as well as create and maintain healthy relationships with those around you. 


A mental health provider can determine the severity of your depression, often ranging from mild to severe. It’s important to note that while severe depression is usually seen as a type of major depressive disorder, it’s not a separate diagnosis. Depression can also become more severe as time goes on, or be affected by challenges and difficult situations, such as the loss of a loved one or losing a job.


Severe depression symptoms are the most intense manifestations of major depressive disorder, including:


  • Suicidality
  • Loss of pleasure in activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt


The purpose of antidepressants


When you seek treatment for your depression, your mental health provider may suggest an antidepressant prescription. An antidepressant is a medication that is used to manage the symptoms of depression. It’s also used as a treatment option for a variety of other mental health disorders, including:



For many people, antidepressants are an effective way to reduce depression symptoms, balance emotions and boost overall quality of life. 


The 5 most common antidepressants


If your mental health provider prescribes you an antidepressant medication, it’s likely an SSRI, or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. They are the first-choice medications by mental health providers for major depressive disorder. SSRIs help to reduce the symptoms of severe depression by increasing the serotonin in the brain. 


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood and emotions as well as digestion and appetite. It’s sometimes referred to as the “happy” chemical, because it’s responsible for relaying feelings of contentment and optimism.


The most common antidepressants are all SSRIs. The five most common antidepressants are:


  1. Citalopram (Celexa)
  2. Sertraline (Zoloft)
  3. Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  4. Paroxetine (Paxil)
  5. Escitalopram (Lexapro)


Everyone reacts differently to antidepressants, and your mental health provider will determine which kind will work best for your symptoms and medical history. 


Each one also has the risk of side effects, which is one of the reasons why a strong antidepressant shouldn’t be the only treatment option for severe depression. 


Why the strongest antidepressant shouldn’t be the only treatment for severe depression


Even though strong antidepressants are a safe option for severe depression, they shouldn’t be the only treatment option that you explore. Research shows that medication works best when it is paired with psychotherapy. 


Therapy is an important treatment because it allows you to work through every facet of your severe depression to learn about the root of your distressing thoughts, emotions and behaviors. The goal is to help you find healthy coping skills to manage them. Depending on your symptoms, there are some types of therapy that can even be used in place of antidepressants.


At Lightfully, we utilize process-based therapy as our clinical model. This is a personalized approach to mental health treatment that goes beyond your diagnosis to help treat your entire well-being. It utilizes an integration of evidence-based approaches like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to center on four core processes that drive mental health symptoms, like those associated with severe depression: 


  • Emotion dysregulation and avoidance 
  • Shame and cognitive fusion
  • Meaninglessness and stagnation
  • Disconnection and isolation


Lightfully Behavioral Health can help you treat severe depression with therapy


Even though strong antidepressants can help many people manage the symptoms of their severe depression, it’s important to know that there are other treatment options that you can couple with them, like our process-based therapy. For some people, it may even be able to take the place of antidepressant medication.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to get help for your severe depression, 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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