What is Severe Clinical Depression?
Severe clinical depression is a treatable illness that affects more women than it does men. In fact, 20% of women in the U.S. are affected with some form of depressive mood disorder while 12% of men are affected. It’s one of the most common mental health disorders people will seek help for. There are 14.8 million adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. alone that are affected by major depressive disorder. These figures were published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
It’s common for people to get anxious or depressed from time to time in modern society. When someone suffers a great loss like death of a loved one, there is the potential of temporary feelings of depression. The deep depression symptoms of sadness, loneliness, nervousness, anxiety, and fear goes away though.
For people with severe clinical depression, these feelings don’t go away. It’s such a serious disorder that it gets in the way of daily life. People believe that life isn’t enjoyable and may feel like life isn’t worth living. The longer the symptoms loom, the worse the depression can get.
There are ways to reduce symptoms of major depression. It is a debilitating disorder but the good news is, up to 80% of patients can significantly reduce symptoms when given the right treatment. There are a variety of ways that one steps out of depression which we will discuss in this article.
Statistics on Depression in the US
Depression itself is a short term condition that leaves you feeling sad, unmotivated, and disinterested. They’re often referred to as having a case of the “blues.”
When these feelings don’t go away after two weeks or more, this indicates a more severe depression. Major depression affects how you feel, behave, think, and function.
Statistics show that there were 15.7 million adults over 18 in the US that had experienced at least one depressive episode. That’s 6.7% of Americans.
Up to 5% of Americans suffer from major clinical depression at any given time.
Two out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression.
Ten Ways to Cope with Depression
Some patients don’t know what to do when severely depressed. It often takes a loved one to recognize the change in the person and help them seek out options. Treatment options for major clinical depression are grouped into two major categories. The non-pharmacologic, which is a holistic, non-medicated approach. The pharmacologic approach is the use of one or a combination of medications.
You may feel uneasy about taking antidepressants to relieve the symptoms of extreme depression. They can make you feel fuzzy and the side effects may be intimidating. There have been many cases where people become addicted or dependent on antidepressants. This can lead to the need for drug detox and rehab. They are useful when used properly but not for the long term. Holistic therapy should most certainly be incorporated, which should allow you to stop taking antidepressants when the time is right. Staying in close contact with your doctor about a short-term medication plan is key.
1. Learn About Your Illness
A few things may help you when you’ve been diagnosed with severe clinical depression. Knowing the parameters of the illness will help you cope with it. You’ll want to figure out if your symptoms have something to do with an underlying medical condition you have. If so, you will be treated for that condition before beginning to manage your depression with therapy or medication.
It’s important to know the severity of your depression so you and your doctor can manage it properly with the right treatment.
There are helpful online depression tests that help you figure out if you have clinical depression and how severe it is. It is a self-test to give you an indication of where you stand with the disorder but you should also see your doctor so you can redo the test in the office. Doctors will often use these two tools to figure out if a patient has clinical depression:
- Burns Depression Checklist
- Depression Anxiety Quiz
2. Incorporate Medication to Get a Handle on Depression
While not always the case, it may be necessary to take medications alongside holistic therapy. Those with severe clinical depression may be prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s).
Zoloft and Prozac are SSRI’s and while they are effective, they can cause dependency. Holistic treatment must also be a large part of treating depressive episodes. When someone with clinical depression becomes addicted to antidepressants, they now have a co-occurring disorder. This is a complex disorder that involves a specific kind of therapy. It is not easy to overcome and this is why caution should be taken when taking any antidepressants.
Antidepressants are helpful because they successfully influence the part of your brain that is causing depression. The problem is, if mismanaged, they can make things worse. Dealing with addiction while also trying to cope with depression creates further complication with your mental wellbeing.
3. Go Through Talk Therapy to Find Your Personal Power
Positive coping skills for easing depression symptoms include talk therapy. Also known as psychotherapy, it is one of the best treatments for major depression.
Talk therapy puts you in charge of managing your feelings and is one of the important steps to get out of depression. The more you talk, the more you feel as though you’re gaining control of your life. You also gain confidence, which is essential according to the depression coping skills list.
There are various therapy options for clinical depression. These therapies for depression change behaviors, thinking, and emotions. They are as follows:
Behavioral Activation Therapy
Studies have been conducted to see the efficacy of behavioral activation therapy for major depression. Many patients don’t want to take medication and trials haven’t released good results with cognitive therapy as a treatment. Behavioral therapy has been compared to both cognitive therapy and antidepressants. Severely depressed patients benefited far more from behavioral activation therapy than they did from cognitive therapy.
This type of therapy is a basic coping strategy for the treatments of all kinds of depression. It is a short-term treatment that has been shown to positively affect one’s mood. When you’re suffering from symptoms of major depression, you don’t enjoy anything. You may actually avoid pleasurable activities, pushing away any possibility of happiness.
Behavioral activation is a therapy that increases your contact with things that can enhance your mood. Positive rewarding activities will be implemented. You and your therapist will creates goals for the short term and then you work to meet those goals.
The goals you choose should be something you enjoy. They should be in alignment with the life you want to live. Maybe you want to get into meditation or doing yoga. You may wish to help others out and start spending some time at a soup kitchen. Even just helping a friend out or donating food to a charity can be things on your list.
These goals should be worked out especially when you’re feeling depressed. You begin to see the connection between how you behave and how you feel due to that behavior. Knowing that you are in control of your life and your mood is a powerful healing therapy. You may have to do in conjunction with antidepressants for the first while.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is being used in conjunction with behavioral activation therapy. It is believed based on studies being conducted that ACT is an essential part of treatment when it comes to clinical depression. This particular type of treatment influences how you think in meaningful ways that will last.
This psychotherapy helps you cope with difficulties that occur in life. It has only recently been getting attention as of late but has long been used as a means of therapy for mood disorders. It is a mindfulness-based therapy. The theory is that great well-being is possible when you’re able to overcome negative thoughts.
You’ll look at your character traits and how you behave. This will enable you to reduce coping methods that aren’t working in your life. ACT will also address how committed you are in making positive change in your life. You will learn what to do when you’re not able to stick to your goals.
The three areas of ACT include:
- Accept your reactions while maintaining a presence.
- Choose the direction you truly want to go.
- Take action on what you want.
If there is a situation you’re unable to control or a trait within yourself that is hard to change, acceptance is key. You will learn how not to obsess or worry over things that may cause you to become depressed. When you ask “why” you may end up feeling helpless. Part of the ACT process is accepting the reality of your life and working through it.
Things that can help include:
- Letting any feeling and thoughts occur without acting on them. Don’t resist or cling onto these thoughts.
- Pay attention to your weaknesses but be aware and grateful of your strengths.
- Let go of perfectionism and be okay with not being great at everything.
- Acknowledge your life is difficult sometimes as opposed to avoiding that reality.
- Realize that you’re in control of how you think, feel, and act.
Defusion a skill set that will allow you to defuse major depressive episodes. Through realizing how you think and feel in realistic terms, you can help yourself through psychologically heightened moments effectively. Unrealistic thoughts can cause sensations in the body that are uncomfortable. When you use certain skills, you can counteract the feelings coming up that have no basis on fact. This helps you manage emotionally charged situations.
Some of the strategies that will help you include:
- Observe your feelings and the physical sensations in the body.
- Observe how you talk to yourself. This is known as your ego mind. Spiritual practices will tell you that the ego mind is the source of any unhappiness we experience.
- How are you seeing your experiences? Are they realistic?
- When you talk to yourself in a negative way, counteract it with realistic messages.
- Re-evaluate your experience when you’ve found a new outlook on them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that modifies thought patterns. This is believed to change behaviors and moods. It is often used when someone is suffering from an addiction to substances. The therapy has been around since the late 1950’s. CBT for depression is a cognitive and behavioral therapy. Your therapist is going to help you figure out what your negative thought patterns are. You will also work together to figure out what kind of behavior you respond with during times of stress or challenges.
How your actions affect your feelings and thoughts will be a large focus. In addition, how you see yourself and how you see others. Once you’ve pinpointed your negative thoughts and the behaviors that follow, you can create a better, more balanced way of managing stressors and challenges. This should minimize upsetting behavior and depression can even be eliminated. With CBT, you will focus on improving your state of mind.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
This type of therapy is used to help patients with clinical symptoms of major depression. Research has shown that it’s effective to put focus on the state of your life right now. It can allow you to change how you’re feeling because you feel more in control. It focuses and your past and present social roles. It also puts a focus on how you interact with others. A therapist will choose no more than two problem points in your present life. This might include fights with friends or loved ones, the loss of a loved one, a big changes in life like retirement.
IPT doesn’t deal with inner conflicts from something that’s happened in the past. It is designed to help you find better ways to cope with problems you have right now. The two subtypes of IPT are for short-term treatment of a depressive episode. It will usually involve you meeting with your therapist for two to four months. Treatment will end when symptoms have subsided. The second kind of more like a maintenance. It is long term and helps prevent of reduce episodes of depression. This kind of therapy can go on for two to three years on a monthly basis.
IPT believes there are four basic problems areas that cause depression of any kind. The therapist will help you define which area of your life is causing the depression. The therapist then helps you cope with these areas of your life.
These four problem areas include:
- Unresolved grief – Traditionally, bereavement has you back to normal emotionally within a few months. Sometimes, grief can be delayed or it can last longer. Some may even experience distorted grief where they don’t feel the raw emotions but instead experience other symptoms.
- Role disputes – This happens when you and people you care about in life have different expectations about your relationship.
- Interpersonal deficits – If you’ve had problems keeping your good quality relationships, you may need to focus on this area and try to improve the situation.
- Role transitions – When life changes and your role is meant to change with it, you may not know how to deal with the change. This can cause depression and should be addressed.
4. Find Activities to Prevent Stress
Stress is a major contributor to both anxiety and depression. When you’re recovering from clinical depression, one of the steps you can take is to calm your mind and body. This can be done with a few different activities.
While they may seem trivial, the point is to reduce stress. Take a bath, do some yoga, or learn to meditate. There have been countless studies that have found yoga and meditation are extremely helpful. They can reduce stress within the nervous system and prevent the onset of acute anxiety. These activities can help you become more aware of your thoughts and the tension in your body.
5. Boost Your Self-Esteem to Influence Serotonin Levels
There is a close connection between depression and low self-esteem. Finding ways to make yourself feel good is an important part of fighting off depressive episodes.
Do things you’re really good at daily. This will help to remind you of your worth. Practice positive thinking by focusing on your best qualities and by practicing gratuity. Being grateful has been proven to positively influence serotonin levels. It stops you from falling into a pity party scenario which only exacerbates depression Serotonin is one of the chemicals in the brain that causes you to feel happiness. This is helpful in reducing the feelings of depression.
6. Maintain a Healthy Social Life to Prevent Further Depression
It may seem challenging to get out socially when you’re experiencing depression but it can be helpful. It’s natural to withdraw socially and want to spend time alone. Your need to isolate yourself is a symptom of severe clinical depression.
Several studies show that people who are in a state of depression will push people away. This only creates further isolation, which makes it feel worse. Spending time with friends and loved ones, whether enjoyable or not, will help you to feel better and prevent a further downward spiral.
7. Lean On Your Loved Ones for Support
It’s not always easy to know what to do when you’re severely depressed. You may have lost hope and have feelings of self-worth. This is where your friends, family, and professional support staff can help. Allow yourself to be cared for. Your friends and family can be a fantastic support system if you let them. When you feel severely depressed, it is natural to withdraw and stop communicating, even though you need help.
Your loved ones can help you feel that you’re not alone. They will encourage you to make healthy steps towards alleviating your depression.
If you can’t lean on your family or friends, there are therapists and support groups for depression. They will understand what you’re going through and you can talk in a safe space.
8. Get Plenty of Rest so You Can Manage Your Days
Severe clinical depression symptoms include problems with sleeping. Either you sleep too much or you don’t get any sleep at all. A good, restful sleep contributes to your mood and your ability to deal with daily responsibilities.
Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. An hour before going to bed, get off the computer or T.V. You may even want to try meditating before bed. Focus on relaxing the muscles of the body and shutting the mind off for the evening.
9. Exercise Offers Physiological Benefits
You may not know what to do to improve your life if you have severe depression. One thing is for certain, exercise will only help and never harm your mood. While antidepressants have their place in relieving symptoms of depression, it’s not a long-term solution. Treatments like exercise have been found to be equally as effective as medication (without the side effects.)
Research shows that exercise is extremely beneficial in helping against depressive episodes. There have been 25 studies that have proven exercise prevents depression. Exercising increases serotonin and endorphins, which are contributors to the feeling of happiness. When you conquer a physical goal, you gain back confidence. Boosting the heart rate for at least 30 minutes daily, three times a week can greatly reduce stress.
The best kind of exercise for reducing depression is rhythmic exercise. This includes walking, swimming, dancing, or any other exercise where you use your arms and legs.
10. What you Eat and How it Influences Depression
Food has been found as one of the important sources of easing depression. Nutritious foods promote the release of serotonin, regulates sleep patterns, and mediates your mood. What you eat is going to affect how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Let’s first touch upon foods that you should avoid. They affect your brain negatively, which has a direct effect on how you feel. You should avoid the following foods:
- Trans fats
- Foods high in preservatives or hormones.
- Avoid sugary snacks and baked goods.
- Fatty foods like pasta, burgers, and French fries.
Other useful tips for optimal eating:
- Don’t skip meals as you can become irritable.
- Try to eat something every three hours.
Foods that should be incorporated into your diet to help combat depression include:
- Dark leafy greens like kale; they are an inflammation fighter that are dense in nutrients.
- Walnuts boost your mood and are an Omega 3 fatty acid, giving you additional energy.
- Avocado contains oleic acid, which gives you brain power. This can help with the reintroduction of new habits.
- Berries repair your cells and are an antioxidant.
- Mushrooms can help lower your blood sugar, which can help you relax.
- Tomatoes contain a natural depression fighter.
- Beans are a mood-stabilizing fiber.
- Seeds like hemp seeds or chia seeds are a big source of Omega 3’s which help fight against depression and give you extra energy.
- Apples contain antioxidants and fiber, giving you greater energy, combatting the lethargy of depression.
- Thiamine as it’s a natural mood booster. It’s been shown that a deficiency in thiamine can trigger depression.
- Chicken, eggs, and citrus fruit are helpful in making you feel better when you have depression.
- Any omega-3 fatty acid is important because it stabilizes your mood. Salmon, tuna, herring, and anchovies are high in omega 3.
What Causes Depression and Anxiety?
Depression and anxiety mood disorders are different. However, if you have ever been depressed, you may also experience the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. This include nervousness, the inability to sleep, problems with concentration, and irritability. Sometimes, you can bounce from anxiety to depression and back to anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety and depression do differ. While some of the symptoms are similar, each disorder has its own causes and come with their own emotional symptoms that lead to separate behaviors.
Major depression is characterized by a minimum of five diagnostic symptoms. At least one of the symptoms will include an sense of sadness that you can’t shake. You lose interest in activities and pleasure feelings are nearly impossible to experience. Here are the combination of factors that make up severe clinical depression:
Neurotransmitters in the brain speak to one another. This is how your brain receives messages. The regulation of how many neurons are transmitted is believed to play a big part in depression. The communicating neurons determine things like your mood, attention, and sleep.
Depression can come from an avalanche of negative life events. Constant stress at work is a common trigger for anxiety and depression. Abuse in the early years of someone’s life can cause severe clinical depression also.
Genetics Plays a Part
It’s been shown that people who have family members with clinical depression are three times more likely to suffer from clinical depression.
Monoamine Deficiency Theory
Researchers developed this theory with the belief that the deficiency of neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine is a leading cause of depression. Antidepressants were developed to influence these neurotransmitters.
Serotonin is a major factor for depression and it’s even capable of regulating the other neuron systems, dopamine and norepinephrine.
There is hard evidence that connects serotonin and depression through a tryptophan depletion. This is the amino acid that feeds serotonin. When you take it away, the body doesn’t make as much serotonin and patients start to get symptoms of depression.
Signs of Depression
There are a variety of different forms of depression so the signs and symptoms will vary for each patient. With major depression, there are certain symptoms that indicate this type of illness. They might be as intense as retardation or suicidal thoughts. They can also share common symptoms such as a feeling of worthlessness, which would exist with other forms of the mood disorder.
If you’re not sure yet if you have depression, there are common signs that you can look out for. You can also look out for them within a loved one. Sometimes, it takes an outside perspective to help someone recognize that they have depression. Here are the signs to look for:
- You feel helpless and lose hope.
- You lose interest in activities you used to enjoy.
- You feel tired regardless of how much sleep you got.
- Your appetite changes so you either eat far more or far less than before.
- You have a hard time concentrating even on the simplest of tasks.
- You have negative thoughts you can’t seem to control.
- You feel irritable and may become aggressive or short-tempered.
- You may engage in reckless behavior like excessive drinking or drug abuse.
- You hate yourself, you feel worthless, and you feel constant guilt.
- You have aches and pains without really having anything wrong with you. This can include muscles, stomach, back, and headache pain.
Part of the reason for prescription medication targeted for major depression is due to these symptoms that put you at risk of losing everything. There is the possibility that you may lose your job, or drink yourself into debt. Depressive disorders can make you feel as though you can’t push forward in your life. This is often why people will turn to addiction when they’re suffering from a mood disorder. Sadly, the antidepressants that are meant to help can become the source of that addiction if not properly managed.
Common Depressive Disorders
The depressive disorders that are most common include:
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
PDD was formerly known as dysthymia and is a long-term form of depression. Long-term meaning that it last for at least two years. It isn’t as severe as major depression but it is a constant stream of symptoms that are similar. Common symptoms include a feeling of hopelessness, a loss of interest in activities, a lack of productivity due to fatigue, a sense of low self-esteem and a feeling of inadequacy. With PDD, these symptoms can last for years and cause many problems in your life. Due to the nature of the way you behave, this disorder can interfere with your responsibilities and your relationships.
Bipolar Disorder (BPP)
Bipolar disorder shifts the cycle of your moods. You will experience major highs and then crash down to extreme lows. These episodes are known as mania and hypomania. Bipolar was once known as manic depression. It is classified by a mood cycle that changes from extreme highs known as manic to severe lows known as depression.
When going through the manic phase, you’ll feel full of energy along with irritability, grandiose ideas, fast talking, racing thoughts, poor judgment, and inappropriate social behavior.
When going through a depressive episode, you’ll exhibit signs of severe depression. These signs are the same as someone suffering from major depression. The mood swings between manic and depressive are often gradual but occasionally they come on quickly.
Major depression is diagnosed through testing where you experience five or more of the depressive symptoms for at least two weeks. When you go through an episode of major depression, most people find it so disabling that they can’t function properly. They have a hard time sleeping, working, studying, or eating. These episodes may happen to some people a few times during life. When tragedy occurs such as a death in the family or the end of a treasured relationship. This type of depressive episode may happen often in some people’s’ lives.
It’s important that you treat major depression because it likely won’t improve if you do nothing about it. Usually, when it hits, you won’t want to do anything about it. You don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. This is where the antidepressants are one of the important steps to deal with depression. Once your brain chemistry has become balanced and normalized, you can start to do the holistic healing. Otherwise, people are a risk of attempting suicide.
The Various Types of Major Depression
There are a few different kinds of major depressive disorder. They have different causes but will have similar symptoms. They are divided into sub types that express how long they last and their defining characteristics.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Caused by the time of year. This is between the winter months where there is much less sunlight. The National Institute of Mental Health says the most effective treatment is light therapy. It may take more than light therapy for some. Often counseling and medication are incorporated.
This develops if you have been hallucinating or believe in delusions you’re hearing, seeing, or thinking. You are not in reality. This type of clinical depression can occur from a tragedy. Patients are more susceptible to this mood disorder if they have experienced other forms of depression in the past.
This occurs after women deliver babies. Mothers will experience hormonal changes after they give birth. They also experience stress while raising a new child. The body changes as well and women will often be sleep deprived. This can cause a dramatic change in mood. Interestingly enough, it’s been found that parents who adopt will suffer similar symptoms of postpartum depression.
This type of the disorder exhibits common signs of depression such as weight loss and a lack of interest in activities. The feeling of depression can feel similar to losing a loved one. Intense grief is a common feeling with this kind of depression.
Related directly to your mood and how you interact with other people. The symptoms can include hypersomnia, a feeling that your limbs are heavy and extreme social anxiety.
This form of the disorder can cause motor problems and often come with behavioral issues. You may be immobilized or experience involuntary movements. It’s classified as a psychotic disorder that can cause great risks to your well-being. It is challenging to treat this type of depression and any underlying disorder that may be occurring with it. The symptoms severely interfere with a person’s’ life.
Antidepressants and Holistic Therapy
You may want to try seeking out a naturopath or a psychiatrist to discuss what holistic options are available to you. If you’ve been diagnosed with depressive disorder and a form of addiction (co-occurring disorder), you can get into a holistic plan to help both disorders. It may take some time to find treatment that will work for you. It is important to find the right solution for you however or depression can take over your whole life.
Antidepressants may be a good temporary solution for you. There are issues with these types of medication however. Studies have found that they can change your personality. Drugs like Paxil will help you feel happier and less stressed. However, they can alter personality traits that are connected to depression. This include neuroticism and extraversion traits. This allows you to manage your life and the symptoms of depression until your holistic efforts have shown results. Some antidepressants can have long term symptoms based on the chemical changes in your brain. This can include weight gain, other mood disorders, and problems with your gastrointestinal system, headaches, and emotional numbness.
Antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft can affect your personality. It was once believed that the change in character was due to the improvement of your mood. They have found now that it’s the SSRIs that have an independent effect on your personality. There is also the concern for the brain zap. They are a common withdrawal symptom when you go off antidepressants. They are a brief electric shock sensation in the brain. It may extend to other parts of the body.
Withdrawal symptoms will often occur because most people on antidepressants for major depression will have to stay on them for six months after depression has ceased. This can cause dependency or even drug addiction. If you stop earlier, it can cause depression to come back. While you are taking antidepressants, it’s important that you commit to the holistic approaches also. This will help you recover and master the tools that will ensure you can prevent depression from coming back. These tools can also help you reduce symptoms if you do feel depressed.