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Depression and Depressive Disorders

Everyone feels sad from time to time; sadness is a normal part of living. But when it’s pervasive, persistent, and accompanied by feelings of worthlessness, or a loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities, or other symptoms, it may be more than sadness. It could be clinical depression.

Prospective patient and family member read Austen Riggs literature together

You Are Not Alone

Unfortunately, severe depression and persistent depressive disorders are increasingly common in today’s world. You might experience these conditions in response to social distress or adverse life events, like the loss of a job or a loved one. Genes play a role, too, but in a highly complex way involving the interaction of genetic material with life experiences like childhood adverse experiences or childhood or adult trauma. In short, depressive disorders result from a combination of factors. They also frequently occur alongside other mental disorders that complicate response to treatment, leading to so-called treatment-resistant depression.
Chronic depression (and many other mental disorders and symptoms) is best understood as a biopsychosocial phenomenon—a complex interaction among your biology (bio), your inner thoughts and emotions (psycho), and the social environment (social). Depression often saps your motivation and hinders your ability to function in daily life. There are a variety of depressive disorders that cause suffering and disrupt your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Your symptoms can vary from those of others, in both number and intensity, yet some consistencies are recognized. The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM-5—a reference commonly used by mental health professionals in the US—lists nine defining symptoms of depression:
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood most of the day, most days
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Persistent loss of energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Significant change in appetite resulting in unintended weight loss or weight gain
  • Agitated or restless behavior or mood, or slowing down of movement and thought processes
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism; recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
Depression can be quite serious and life-threatening if untreated. The good news is that depression—even treatment-resistant depression—can respond to clinical depression treatments.

Our Treatment for Depressive Disorders

At the Austen Riggs Center, we have successfully helped many patients overcome severe depression and depressive disorders of all types. In fact, we are known as the place “where treatment-resistant patients become people taking charge of their lives.”
We treat major depressive disorders through our understanding of all mental illnesses as a complex and highly personal interplay of biology, social stress, and psychological factors. At Riggs, the whole person is the focus of the treatment, not only discrete symptoms. Because while symptoms must be addressed, they also have meaning. We work with you as a person with your own unique life story and your own problems and strengths.
Our treatment approach centers on intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy four times a week with a doctoral-level therapist, exploring your lived experiences to identify patterns and the impact of losses that may be outside your awareness but that influence your decision making. Once aware of these factors and able to face blocked feelings, you are freed up to make better choices.
To augment these regular psychotherapy sessions, medication is usually part of treatment for depression at Riggs. We have been trailblazers in developing what we call psychodynamic psychopharmacology, a way of using medications for their biochemical benefit, while also carefully attending to their quite important meanings.
In addition to therapy and medications, our open setting with its Therapeutic Community Program mobilizes the powerful potential impact on depression of social learning from interactions with peers—a profound opportunity to learn about things we do that we cannot see but that others can help us see and address.
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Admission Process

If you’re considering Riggs treatment for yourself or a family member suffering with a depressive disorder or other mental health issues, please contact Admissions for personalized assistance. Clinicians: If you are considering referring a patient to Riggs, please contact Admissions to consult on the specifics of your patient’s case.

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If you’re ready to take the first step toward recovery at Riggs, please contact us.

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