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Choosing Inpatient Treatment for Depression

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When you’re in the midst of major depression, daily life feels overwhelming. The thought of getting dressed seems daunting; the idea of going out with friends, impossible.

You know that you need help, but looking at lists of residential treatment centers for depression seems like way too much. How do I find inpatient treatment for depression? Where do I even start? How am I supposed to choose between all of these different options?

If you’re stressed about seeking treatment for depression, don’t worry; we’re here to help.

In this post, we’ll lend a hand and walk with you through the most important questions to consider. We’ll cover what depression really is, how it’s connected to addiction, and how to select a program that will help you to heal on all levels.  

What is Depression?

First, let’s talk a bit about depression itself.

Depression does not manifest the same way in everyone. Some people with depression experience grief or sadness that just won’t go away, while others feel numb to the world and find themselves struggling to concentrate at work. 

These are just some of the most common symptoms of depression:

  • Pervasive feelings of sadness or apathy
  • Difficulty functioning at work, school, or other aspects of daily life
  • Loss of interest in activities the person used to enjoy 
  • Difficulty with memory and concentration
  • Increasing strain in relationships
  • Self-imposed social isolation, often avoiding even calls and texts from loved ones

You may have heard depression defined as a mood disorder, the result of abnormal brain circuitry, or simply a medical illness characterized by sadness and a loss of interest in life.

All of those definitions are accurate, but here’s one that you may not have heard: Depression is anger turned inward.

When people are depressed, they carry a lot of anger that they cannot or will not express.

Perhaps it’s because they don’t know how to communicate their anger safely, or because they’ve been told that all anger is taboo and off-limits.

Either way, they shut down their emotional response. Over time, that pushed-down anger manifests as depression.

While everyone experiences negative emotions from time to time, depression is different because it lasts for months or even years and affects your whole life. Most people with depression need treatment to heal completely.

Gender and Depression

Though both men and women deal with depression, it is far more prevalent in women. Part of the reason is that women are socialized to suppress anger rather than express it.

In turn, men may be more comfortable expressing anger, but they're generally socialized to suppress feelings of grief.

So many women have been taught never to acknowledge their anger … even when it’s warranted. But unspoken anger doesn’t just disappear. It has to go somewhere, so often women turn it inward unconsciously.  

As Carolyn Heilbrun observed in Writing a Woman’s Life,

“Forbidden anger, women could find no voice in which publicly to complain; they took refuge in depression.”

Depression and Addiction

What’s the connection between depression and addiction?

It goes like this:

  • Somewhere in your mind and heart, you have hurts that haven’t healed.
  • Those hurts might include social isolation, the loss of a loved one, abuse, or trauma.
  • These painful experiences can happen at any point in your life, but the hurtful events that occur when you’re young have a unique impact.

Did you know that it's not until you reach roughly the age of eight that your brain wires in such a way that you have a place to store traumatic events?

This is why hurtful events that take place when you're young have a disproportionately significant impact.

So you go through years with this unaddressed hurt, trauma, or grief. Eventually, it all starts to feel like too much.

You have a lot of anger that you’ve turned inward, and it becomes depression.

Depression-and-addictionAt this stage you have little energy for life, except when you’re feeling frantic with anxiety. You just want to feel better, to feel something like normal.

That’s the point at which you reach for a drink, a pill, a joint, or some other substance that will help you get a boost and numb out at the same time.

It works … at least temporarily.

Trauma and Addiction

Trauma and addiction tie in closely with depression, because depression is often caused by a traumatic event that lingers, unhealed, for years on end. Many people suffering from depression turn to alcohol or drugs in order to numb the pain.

But when you add using to the equation, a lot of shame and guilt comes along with that behavior.

In addition to the original hurt, you have self-recrimination and the belief that you’re a failure and a screw-up.

This only worsens your depression, which then drives your desire to drink or use. It’s a vicious cycle.

“When I experience a traumatic event - something that's traumatic to me - there's an emotional part of me that really gets stuck at that age. It continues to try to relate to the world emotionally with all of the experience and the skills of somebody of that age. 

That just doesn't work for us when we're adults, so it causes anxiety and fear and irrational behavior. When similar kinds of events happen to us as adults, then that younger part takes over emotionally and we act out.”

- See more in this interview on the link between trauma and addiction.

Until you face and heal the hurts, you’ll stay stuck. You’ll keep reacting with the irrationality and upset of a young, wounded child.

Getting Treatment for Depression

The good news is that you don’t have to live with depression. There are a number of treatment options that have been proven effective for people with any level of depression.

For some people with mild depression symptoms and no additional diagnoses, weekly counseling or group therapy sessions may be all that is needed to heal. For others, the depression may be too severe to cure without a more intensive rehabilitation program. 

Without treatment, depression often becomes worse over time. Social isolation and lower functioning reinforce feelings of fear and shame, worsening the depression in a spiral that never seems to end. If you feel that your depression is out of control or as though life is no longer worth living, don’t put treatment off for a moment longer. No one deserves to live that way — and you don’t have to. 

With help, you can make it past this difficult time and come to experience a genuinely happy and fulfilling life.

The Depression Treatment Process

There are many approaches to treating depression. The best one depends on you — your symptoms, your situation, and your motivation to heal.

Many people living with depression feel that they have lost control over themselves and their lives. If depression is wreaking havoc on your life and you feel that you need a complete turnaround, you may want to start with inpatient treatment.

Inpatient Depression Treatment

Are there residential treatment centers for depression?

The answer is yes, but not nearly as many as there are for addiction-only residential treatment.

Most often, you'll find that residential treatment centers that treat depression address what is known as "dual diagnosis." Dual diagnosis is a co-occurring condition of a mental or emotional health issue — like depression — accompanied by substance abuse or addiction.

So when you're looking at various residential treatment centers for depression, look at the amount of measurable, verifiable dual diagnosis supports they have in place.

Inpatient or residential treatment allows you to fully focus on healing, delving deeper into the underlying issues that must be addressed to recover from depression.

At a residential treatment center, you will have a combination of treatment opportunities. Participants often spend time taking part in a combination of one-on-one counseling, group exercises, educational lectures or videos, light yoga, and other healing activities. 

Retreat-style treatment centers create an environment that is especially conducive to healing. Participants often have their own room at a secluded treatment location where there are minimal interruptions from the outside world. Rather than dealing with work or difficult relationships every day as you try to recover, you can focus on healing until you are ready to rejoin the world.

At a residential treatment center, you can have the time and space you need to heal once and for all.

Outpatient Treatment and Continuing Care

People who have just come out of residential treatment or who have milder symptoms often benefit from continuing treatment as they resume their regular lives. Therapists use a combination of therapy formats to help people recover:

  • Individual therapy allows people to process emotions in-depth, away from their time with other people.
  • Group therapy allows people to work through depression together with others who are going through similar experiences. Participants can work together to learn more and practice life skills while also building a stronger support network.
  • Medication management helps many people deal with depression, including more than a few people you probably know! Medical professionals sometimes prescribe mood stabilizers so patients can manage their depression symptoms while they are learning new coping mechanisms or going through talk therapy. Later on, the medications may be reduced or even eliminated.

With time and the right treatment, you can fully recover from depression and live a fulfilling life.

Finding a Facility that Supports Depression Recovery

Since most people dealing with addiction have a dual diagnosis, it’s imperative to seek holistic addiction treatment that addresses the mental health issues that fuel addiction.

But there’s an important caveat. Often you’ll see rehabs listing dual diagnosis treatment on their websites … without reflecting that claim in their daily schedules.

What does that mean? 

Specifically, you want to look at the number of professional counseling hours that each facility provides.

Unfortunately, many recovery programs put the cart before the horse. Such facilities focus on behavioral modification without first dealing with the emotional and mental issues behind the depression or addiction.

It’s sad but it’s true: many rehabs offer only their state-mandated minimums. Some well-known rehab centers devote less than a handful of hours per week to therapeutic counseling.

They fill up their schedules with AA meetings or spa services … but neither of those activities qualify as mental health treatment!

Behavioral therapy is part of the solution, not the whole solution.

So when you're looking at various residential treatment centers for depression, look at the amount of measurable, verifiable dual diagnosis supports they have in place.

Depression and Addiction Treatment Philosophies: 12-Step vs. Alternative

When you are choosing a rehab program, you also want to look at the center’s addiction treatment modality. That's a fancy term for the philosophy or approach the treatment center employs in their program. 

You’ll want to examine whether the program is offering only behavior modification training without addressing the underlying mental and emotional issues driving addiction.

At a high level, there are two broad addiction treatment modalities: 12-Step and 12-Step Alternative

12-Step programs are based on the 12 Steps that Alcoholics Anonymous developed in the 1930s. These steps have a spiritual emphasis and have been adapted for other drugs and addictions over the years.

While you can find 12-Step programs just about anywhere in the United States today, they are not effective for everyone. Many people find that they do not adequately address the underlying emotional issues behind addiction. Studies find that overall success rates are relatively low ― less than 5%, according to some. 

There are many treatment methods that fall into the 12-step Alternative category, including aversion therapy, behavior modification, and holistic treatment.

Aversion therapy attempts to create a negative association with the person’s drug of choice, usually by inducing unpleasant experiences like electric shocks or sickness. This alternative treatment works when addiction is purely physical, but it often just results in the person switching addictions if there are underlying emotional issues.

Behavioral modification replaces unhealthy habits with healthier ones. However, it doesn’t address underlying issues, so it is most effective when done as part of a holistic approach.

Holistic treatment programs address both the addiction itself and the underlying emotional, spiritual, or psychological issues. They often combine addiction-focused approaches with counseling aimed at healing depression and trauma. Unlike other modalities, holistic programs are specifically designed to address dual diagnoses.

Next steps

If you think residential depression treatment might be the right path for you, we're here to help, The Clearing provides participants with over 120 hours of professional counseling during their 28 days with us. When we say that we specialize in dual diagnosis treatment, we mean it.  

Many of our participants deal with depression; in fact, we see depression and anxiety as the two most common mental health concerns running alongside substance abuse. We have helped many people who had lost hope to overcome depression and experience a complete turnaround in their daily lives. 

Our retreat center is set on a secluded estate on San Juan Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. We are one of the only 12-Step alternative residential inpatient programs in the Pacific Northwest.

If you'd like to inquire about our program or just get some zero-pressure, confidential advice about treatment options, call us at (425) 275-8600. Or download our free eBook, Dual Diagnosis: Healing the Root Causes of Addiction.

Dual Diagnosis free eBook

Caroline McGraw

This post was written by Caroline McGraw

In addition to her work as "the voice of The Clearing", Caroline Garnet McGraw writes about trading perfectionism for possibility at A Wish Come Clear. Visit and receive your free Perfectionist Recovery Toolkit today!

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