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What Is MDD? The Ins and Outs of Clinical Depression

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Depression is a mental health issue that can range in severity. Some people experience mild forms of depression. Others suffer from a more persistent and severe form known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression. Mental and behavioral health professionals make a diagnosis of MDD once you’ve had at least two weeks of persistent symptoms. These symptoms can be severe and cause issues in your daily life.

People from all walks of life experience depression, but there are treatment options available. Footprints to Recovery offers a full continuum of mental health treatments for depression. We can also assist with any co-occurring substance use disorder. Trusting a treatment center with your depression treatment is one of the most important things you can do to turn your life around.

man suffering from clinical depression

What Is MDD (Clinical Depression)?

Depression caused by grief or stress is normal and passes over time. Clinical depression is a condition outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It can interfere with things like going to work, excelling in school, eating habits, sleeping patterns, and enjoying life.

Depression is a term often used in a broad sense. Feeling depressed due to a situation or person is not the same thing as having MDD. Clinical depression can affect anyone, but some people are at a higher risk for developing it.

Some risk factors for clinical depression may include:

  • Traumatic experiences
  • Death of a loved one early on in life
  • Chronic medical issues
  • Financial problems
  • Being pregnant or in menopause
  • A family history of depression or other mental health issues
  • A history of substance abuse

Anyone can develop clinical depression, regardless of their background or other factors. Along with adults, both children and adolescents can experience symptoms of depression. Some research shows that women are more likely to get diagnosed with depression. But that doesn’t mean it’s less prevalent in men. Men are often less willing to talk about their feelings, so many never reach out for help.

If you think you’re struggling with persistent depression, it’s important to seek treatment from a mental health professional. Only trained experts can help diagnose and treat MDD in a safe and effective way. Footprints to Recovery offers treatment for major depressive disorder so you can get your life back on track.

What Are the Symptoms of Clinical Depression?

There’s a lot more to MDD than just feeling sad. Symptoms of clinical depression can include:

  • Feelings of emptiness, despair, and sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Oversleeping or not sleeping enough
  • Changes in appetite or development of an eating disorder
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Suicidal thoughts

People with symptoms of depression may also isolate themselves from friends and family and find it difficult to function at home or work. This can lead to a snowball effect where depression worsens due to the problems it creates in other areas of life.

Complications Caused by Clinical Depression

Depression is the kind of issue that can impact not just you, but everyone around you as well. The condition tends to get worse without treatment.

Some of the complications that can arise due to clinical depression include:

  • Weight gain
  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Self-harm

The Difference Between Depressive Disorders

While clinical depression shares some symptoms with other types of depressive disorders like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and postpartum depression (PPD), there are key differences. SAD is a type of recurrent depression that occurs during the winter months when daylight hours are short and people have less exposure to natural sunlight. This form of depression usually resolves itself by springtime. PPD is another type of depression that can affect people after childbirth and may include feelings of guilt, despair, anxiety, and exhaustion.

Clinical depression can last much longer than these other depressive disorders and does not always have an external trigger. Clinical depression can co-occur with bipolar depression, meaning you experience both manic episodes (highs) and depressive episodes (lows).

How Is Clinical Depression Diagnosed?

Clinical depression is diagnosed after a comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional like those at Footprints to Recovery. This assessment usually includes:

  • A physical examination
  • Interviews with you and your family members
  • Psychological evaluations
  • Evaluation of any current or past mental health issues
  • Discussion of any current medications
  • Discussion of any family history of depression
  • Discussion of any substance abuse issues
  • Any other factor that could contribute to the symptoms of clinical depression

Other mental health conditions like mood disorders, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders can include depression as a symptom. Your clinical team will rule out these issues during your consultation using the latest evidence-based diagnostic techniques.

After the evaluation, clinicians at Footprints to Recovery can make an informed decision about whether clinical depression is present and what the best course of action is for treatment.

Can Clinical Depression Be Prevented?

Anyone can experience depression. Preventing it from happening at all is something that’s currently being studied. There are countless ways to improve and maintain your mental health. From holistic practices like meditation, yoga, or acupuncture to behavioral therapies administered by a therapist, there are valuable treatments that aid in the fight against major depressive disorder.

Some common ways to prevent depression and mental illness include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • A support system of trustworthy friends and family
  • Avoiding substance abuse
  • Limited time spent on social media
  • Regular sleeping patterns
  • Seeking professional help when you feel depressive symptoms arise

How Is MDD Treated?

Some of the treatments and therapies used to treat clinical depression include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, that focuses on helping you recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. You identify unrealistic or unhelpful depressive thoughts, such as, “Everything in my life is terrible” and replace them with more positive ones. That might be something like, “There are some difficult situations in life, but I can handle them.”

CBT is proven to be effective in treating clinical depression. It can help you gain insight into your behavior and thought patterns and better understand how they affect your emotions. CBT provides new skills to help you cope with difficult situations. Thus, you become more aware of how your thoughts influence your behaviors.

Other Forms of Psychotherapy

At Footprints to Recovery individual therapy is a key part of MDD treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy might be part of that, but there are other forms of talk therapy as well. One example is interpersonal therapy. This kind of talk therapy is designed to help you improve your communication and social skills. This can help stave off the feelings of loneliness and isolation that often come with depression.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

In some instances, a clinician may prescribe medication to treat depression. There are many options when it comes to medication, so working with a professional mental health specialist is always advised before starting a medication regimen.

Antidepressants are the most often prescribed medications for depression. They work by altering levels of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These regulate your depressed mood and emotions. Different types of antidepressants target different neurotransmitters. This means a medicine may work for someone else and not for you. It may take some trial and error to find the right medication for your mind and body. Your Footprints to Recovery clinical team is on hand to assist with any treatment programs involving medication.

Antidepressant medications used to treat clinical depression include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Pristiq, Effexor, and Cymbalta
  • Atypical antidepressants like Wellbutrin and Remeron
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like Amitriptyline and Amoxapine
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like Zyvox and Matulane
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Is There a Connection Between MDD and Addiction?

It’s common for people with depression to turn to substance abuse to control their depressive symptoms and self-medicate. This behavior can make depression worse over time as a substance use disorder carries serious mental and physical health effects. Treating depression starts with identifying any co-occurring addiction to drugs or alcohol through a process called dual diagnosis. This kind of treatment aims to address the root causes of both depression and addiction so you can move forward to a brighter future.

Clinical Depression Treatment

At Footprints to Recovery our team is well equipped to treat major depressive disorder. Here are our levels of care:

  • Medical detox: It’s common for people suffering from clinical depression to turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their feelings of sadness. This opens the door for a substance abuse disorder. Treating both co-occurring disorders at the same time is key for effective recovery. Detox is the process where you rid the body of drugs and alcohol under the supervision of Footprints to Recovery’s clinical team.
  • Inpatient treatment: Residential treatment involves living full-time at our treatment facility attending therapy daily. Inpatient treatment offers valuable structure so you can focus all your efforts on overcoming clinical depression. Treatments include evidence-based and holistic therapies compiled into an individualized recovery plan.
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP): For those who need the structure of inpatient care with the flexibility of outpatient, a PHP is a great option. Partial hospitalization for MDD involves spending five days a week at our facility for treatment. Programs last for around six hours per day, and you live at home or one of our sober living facilities when you aren’t in treatment. The goal of PHP is to begin the transition from recovery back to normal life.
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP): Intensive outpatient care is similar to a PHP, but you spend less time in treatment and more time working on a stable life outside of recovery. An IOP treatment meets between three and five times per week and allows for more flexibility with obligations like family, work, or school.
  • Outpatient rehab: Outpatient treatment for MDD offers the most flexibility in recovery. You attend treatment just once or twice per week. The rest of the time, you’re working on integrating back into normal life free from mental health disorders like clinical depression. Outpatient care also involves aftercare planning so you have a system of support to draw on after leaving our facility.

You can request an appointment with the team of clinicians at Footprints to Recovery today. A consultation will help you learn more about the symptoms and causes of depression. Treating MDD starts with a caring and compassionate. Footprints to Recovery mixes this with the latest behavioral therapy. Getting help right away is critical, as the risk of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempt is higher among those suffering from depression. Contact Footprints to Recovery today and find the help you’ve been looking for.

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Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

Jenna Richer
Medically Reviewed by Jenna Richer, MSW, LCSW
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