Clinical depression involves symptoms like mood, appetite, and sleep changes, a lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, and persistent feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. In addiction to these typical characteristics, some people also experience signs of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.
What Is Psychotic Depression?
Approximately 3% to 11% of all people will experience major depressive disorder at some point. Among severely depressed people, about 14.7% to 18.5% will develop depression with psychotic features.
People with psychotic depression may see and hear things that aren’t there, have irrational thoughts, or believe others are out to harm them. Psychotic depression can also cause unpredictable mood swings, a disrupted sleep cycle, and neglecting self-care.
Psychosis is also a feature of other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. However, people with psychotic depression usually have delusions or hallucinations that are consistent with their depression symptoms, such as worthlessness, guilt, or failure. In contrast, psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia are often bizarre or improbable and have no obvious connection to a mood state.
What Causes Psychotic Depression?
Like other mental illnesses, psychotic depression stems from a complex interplay of factors. We don’t know enough to pinpoint what causes this condition, but tendencies that might make someone more prone to develop it include the following.
- Being a woman: Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. Women make up about two-thirds of people diagnosed with major clinical depression.
- Having a traumatic childhood: People who experienced adversity as children are more vulnerable to depression and other chronic illnesses.
- Having family members with depression: The tendency toward depression, especially severe depression, tends to run in families. If you have a parent or sibling who has had depression, you are more likely to develop it yourself.
The theory that a combination of genes impact depression and its symptoms explains why not all people with depression develop psychosis. Another hypothesis is that depressive psychosis involves chronically elevated levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.
Diagnosis and Treatment
While the distorted reality associated with psychosis can be challenging and make you question everything around you, a diagnosis and treatment regimen can help you regain control of your life. To diagnose psychotic depression, doctors usually start by asking questions about your medical and family history. They may also run tests to rule out other potential causes of psychotic symptoms, such as drug abuse, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.
Often, psychotic depression responds well to therapy and a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotic medications. The American Psychiatric Association also recommends electroconvulsive therapy as a first-line treatment for psychotic depression.
Talk to Someone Who Can Help You
Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers provide mental health outpatient care at all our locations for a wide range of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, and social stressors. Master’s-level therapists provide all our mental health counseling and therapy, ensuring you receive high-quality care from knowledgeable experts.
If you are struggling with depression symptoms, reach out to us to request help today.