Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and can go undiagnosed for years. The good news is that depression responds well to treatment. Though everyone feels sad or blue sometimes, severe depression causes changes in eating, sleeping and social habits. If you or a loved one are struggling with day-to-day functioning, you may be experiencing severe depression. Identifying symptoms is the first step in getting help to improve your quality of life.
Signs and Symptoms
Severe depression almost always leads to an impairment in daily functioning, according to Depression.com. This means that normal activities like showering, household tasks, socializing and working will require an enormous amount of energy to complete. Routine activities of daily living may start to seem completely overwhelming or even impossible. Severe depression is also marked by loss of interest in sex and other previously pleasurable activities like sports or hobbies. Sleeping too much or insominia is another sign of clinical depression. In addition, overeating or a loss of interest in food may also be a sign that someone is depressed.
Where to Get Help
Nearly every community has a community mental health center. This may be a freestanding clinic or part of your community hospital. These provide outpatient services, meaning you don't have to be hospitalized to see a doctor or counselor. To find out where yours is located, you can contact your county's Board of Social Services or local hospital and ask how to access mental health services.
Many people who have severe depression avoid seeking treatment because they are afraid of taking medication or being hospitalized. Remember, there is no obligation to do anything you don't want to. The doctor or therapist will simply speak with you, make an assessment and offer you treatment options.
Untreated episodes of severe depression last an average of 11 weeks, according to Dr. Phillip W. Long of Mentalhealth.com. In this era of widely available treatment (on any budget), it is unnecessary to suffer for months.
Most depression responds best to a combination of anti-depressant medication and a course of talk therapy (meeting weekly or bi-monthly with a therapist). Depression can be situational, following a death, divorce or lost job; a hereditary chemical imbalance; or the result of past sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
Talk therapy is helpful in determining and addressing the underlying causes of your depression. Depression can also be complicated by other issues such as substance abuse, eating disorders or self-mutilation (cutting). A therapist or counselor can direct you to specific programs for these problems.