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Understanding Moderately Severe Depression

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What is moderately severe depression? How would you know if you or someone that you care about had this condition? And if you or your loved one were diagnosed with moderately severe depression, what treatment options would be most appropriate?

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, our depression treatment in Nashville can help you. Call us now at 615-234-9071 or verify your insurance today. 

What Is Moderately Severe Depression?

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes entries for several distinct types of depression, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and major depressive disorder with peripartum onset (which is the clinical term for postpartum depression).

To further enable clinicians to accurately describe how a patient or client has been affected by their condition, the DSM-5 also includes three severity specifiers that can be applied to any depressive disorder:

  • Mild: This indicates that the individual has been experiencing just a few symptoms. Though these symptoms can be somewhat distressing, the individual has been able to manage them effectively, so they have had minimal impact on their ability to function
  • Moderate: The moderate specifier is appropriate for someone who has developed a greater number of symptoms, or whose symptoms have caused greater functional impairment, than what a person with mild depression would experience.
  • Severe: Someone who is classified as having severe depression will typically have developed many more symptoms than are required for a diagnosis of a depressive disorder. They will be unable to manage these symptoms, and as a result they will have extreme difficulty functioning in one or more important areas of life.

You may have noticed that none of the three severity specifiers listed above answer the question that we posed in the introduction to this post: What is moderately severe depression? 

Here’s one way to think about it: Imagine ranking the amount, intensity, and impact of a person’s depression symptoms on a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing the least distress and 10 indicating maximum disruption. Someone who scored around 8 or 9 could be described as having moderately severe depression.

This scale – and the answer to the question, what is moderately severe depression, may make a bit more sense after you’ve read the next section, where we’ll discuss specific symptoms and their potential effect.

Signs and Symptoms of Moderately Severe Depression

As established in the DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria for depressive disorders include the following types of symptoms:

  • Recurrent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Diminished interest in – or inability to receive pleasure from – most activities
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite, resulting in considerable weight gain or loss
  • Abnormal sleep patterns, which can include either insomnia (difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping much more than necessary)
  • Observable signs of agitation or restlessness
  • Persistent exhaustion, fatigue, or lack of energy
  • Sense of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty focusing, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death, which may include suicidal ideation

A person who has moderately severe depression would likely be affected as follows:

  • They have eight or all nine of the symptoms listed above.
  • They have great difficulty managing these symptoms.
  • Their symptoms have had a noticeable negative impact on their performance in school, their productivity at work, and/or their ability to maintain healthy relationships.
  • It can be a struggle for them to get out of bed and get through the day. Some days, they simply can’t summon the energy or motivation to do so.
  • They may have begun to neglect their appearance and hygiene.
  • They’re not following a healthy diet plan, nor are they getting an appropriate amount of exercise.
  • They have withdrawn from friends and family members and stopped participating in activities that used to be important to them

It’s important to note that, since moderately severe is not listed as a severity specifier in the DSM-5, the effects listed above are somewhat subjective. A person who is diagnosed with a severe depressive disorder, but who has not been fully incapacitated by their mental health struggles, may be described informally as having moderately severe depression.

Recommended: What is High-Functioning Depression?

Treatment Options for Moderately Severe Depression

Clearly, moderately severe depression can prevent a person from enjoying a full, productive, and satisfying life. But there is reason for hope for people whose symptoms have had such a negative impact: Moderately severe depression can be treated. When a person gets the right type and level of care, they can learn to manage their symptoms and achieve a much better quality of life.

Treatment for moderately severe depression will likely involve a combination of medication and therapy.

First-line medication options for this condition include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs). For patients whose symptoms don’t respond to these medications, ketamine therapy or other alternatives may be beneficial.

The therapeutic component of treatment for moderately severe depression can include:

If a person’s struggles with moderately severe depression are related to a history of untreated trauma, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can be a valuable element of care. 

Also, if the individual has developed a co-occurring substance use disorder, it is vital for them to receive dual diagnosis services that focus on both their mental illness and their addiction. Failing to identify and address the full scope of a person’s needs can undermine their ability to maintain the progress they make while they are in treatment.

Get Help for Moderately Severe Depression in Nashville

Nashville Treatment Solutions offers personalized outpatient care for adults who have been impacted by moderately severe depression, other mental health concerns, and substance use disorders. 

Options at our depression treatment center in Nashville include a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP) with both day and evening sessions, and traditional outpatient rehab program. In every program, our patients receive customized services and close personal support from a team of highly skilled professionals.

To learn more about treatment for moderately severe depression, or to schedule a free assessment for yourself or a loved one, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.