Psychotic Depression: Watch Out for This Severe Disorder

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  • Aside from exhibiting the hallmark symptoms of major depressive disorder, which include hopelessness, sadness, loss of appetite and irritability, individuals who are struggling with psychotic depression feel guilt-ridden, paranoid and may experience hallucinations and delusions
  • Conventional treatment for psychotic depression involves a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, but keep in mind that these may only exacerbate the condition

Most people with mild forms of depression eventually feel better through counseling, trying natural remedies such as light therapy and aromatherapy and/or addressing certain lifestyle factors.

But there are depressed people whose condition worsens. If unaddressed, those with severe depression can become prone to hallucinations and delusional thinking.

What you should know is that when delusions and hallucinations are present, it’s no longer a typical case of clinical depression — it can actually be classified as psychotic depression. Here’s what you need to know about this condition.

Basic Facts About Psychotic Depression

Also known as delusional depression, major depressive disorder with mood-congruent psychotic features or major depressive disorder with mood-incongruent psychotic features, psychotic depression is a condition wherein a person experiences the hallmark symptoms of clinical depression (sadness and hopelessness) along with symptoms of psychosis — this means seeing, hearing, smelling or believing things that are not real.1

At least 5 percent of people with major depression experience psychotic depression, and even though it is less common than other forms, it’s actually the most severe form, as people with it break away from reality.2

According to an article published in the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation website, psychotic depression is often undiagnosed, as patients often refrain from voicing out their fears, out of distrust or shame.

It’s estimated that anywhere from 14 to 50 percent of patients with depression experiences this severe disorder, and it mostly occurs among geriatric patients.3

How Will You Know If You’re Suffering From Major Psychotic Depression?

Aside from exhibiting the hallmark symptoms of major depressive disorder, which include hopelessness, sadness, loss of appetite and irritability, individuals who are struggling with psychotic depression feel guilt-ridden, or are paranoid and/or may experience hallucinations and delusions.

These behaviors are almost always reflective of the individual’s severely depressed mood. For example, they may become convinced that they’ve committed a crime or they are to blame for bad things happening around them.4

Some patients also feel as if there’s a “parasite” eating away at their intestines — and that they deserve it because they have been “behaving badly.”5

Psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation may be seen in people with psychotic depression. The former means not being able stay still or relax, and being prone to constant fidgeting, while the latter refers to slowing down of thoughts and physical movements.6

Cognitive impairment, anxiety, hypochondria and trouble sleeping are other symptoms of this type of depression.7

Psychotic Depression Can Have Frightening Effects

What makes psychotic depression highly alarming is that aside from being difficult to diagnose, those who suffer from it are also prone to a higher risk of suicide, much greater than other types of depression.

The delusions and hallucinations can also be scary, and the individual may be prone to self-harm or may injure others. Therefore, properly diagnosing this illness is important.

Conventional treatment for psychotic depression involves a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, but keep in mind that these may only exacerbate the condition. Before undergoing any treatment or taking any medication, make sure you discuss your options with your physician thoroughly, so you can come up with an effective (and drug-free) treatment plan.

MORE ABOUT DEPRESSION

Depression: Introduction

What is Depression?

Depression in Men and Women

Childhood Depression

Depression During Pregnancy

Depression Duration

Depression Causes

Types of Depression

Depression Symptoms

Depression Effects

Depression Treatment

Depression Prevention

Depression Diet

Postpartum Depression

Manic Bipolar Depression

Major Depressive Disorder

Depression Test

Chronic Depression

Seasonal Depression

Psychotic Depression

Depression FAQ

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