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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.

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.

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 publically 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.

Residential Treatment Centers for Depression

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 with 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.

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.

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!

You also want to look at the center’s addiction treatment modality. That's a fancy term for the 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.

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.

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

Read more about this in Alcoholism and Depression: Common Companions of Dual Diagnosis.

Next steps

If you think residential 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.

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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