Is There Rehab for Depression?

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Rehab is frequently most associated with drug and alcohol treatment, but it is also a treatment option for people with depression and other mental health conditions. Rehab can provide a safe place for people who might need extra support, care, and supervision while they receive treatment for their condition.

Depression Rehab

Depression rehab typically includes both individual and group therapy, as well as medication management. This type of care can help people who are struggling with depression to learn how to cope with their symptoms, manage their medications, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Inpatient care can also provide structure and support that benefit people struggling with depression.

This article discusses why rehab might be a good option for people struggling with depression. It also covers some of the reasons why someone might opt for rehab versus outpatient therapy. 

What Is Rehab for Depression?

When people are dealing with a mental health condition such as depression, the approach to treatment that is right for them often depends on the level of care and support that they need.

The lowest level of treatment is outpatient therapy, which involves meeting with a therapist one or more times each week. It may also involve the use of medications such as antidepressants. This is an appropriate and effective option for many people, particularly those with mild to moderate depression.

Rehab for Depression Basics

Rehab for depression, on the other hand, represents a higher level of care that may be appropriate for a person experiencing more severe symptoms.

Rehab often involves inpatient care in a hospital setting but could also involve partial hospitalization or living in a residential care setting for a period of time. This level of care provides access to mental health services, medical care, supervision, and emotional support.

Reasons to Go to Rehab for Depression

There are several situations where rehab services can be the right choice for treating depression. 

Inpatient care may be recommended if a person is experiencing suicidality, catatonia, malnutrition, or a comorbid medical condition that makes managing their symptoms in outpatient settings challenging.

Risk of Self-Harm or Suicide

Rehab may be a preferred choice if a person has a history of experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If the risk is imminent, however, a person will often be hospitalized until their condition has stabilized enough to go to a rehab facility. 

Once stabilized, a rehab center for depression is a place where they can get help and learn how to deal with their challenging emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. 

If someone is feeling suicidal, it's important to get them to a safe place where they can be monitored and get the help they need.

Crisis Support

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Not Responding to Outpatient Treatment

For some people, outpatient therapy isn't enough. If traditional therapy and medication aren't working, inpatient care might be a better option. This type of care can provide a higher level of support and supervision.

A person's needs can also change over the course of treatment. Research suggests that progress should be monitored during treatment so that an individual’s treatment plan can be adjusted to accommodate their needs. If a person is not experiencing adequate improvements with outpatient therapy they may decide to switch to a rehab or inpatient option.

Need for Additional Structure and Support

Depression rehab can provide the emotional support and daily structure that some people need while they deal with symptoms of depression and work toward recovery. This treatment can help people struggling to stick with their outpatient treatment plan. It can also provide a sense of community for people who feel isolated and alone.

There Are Co-Occurring Conditions

Some rehab facilities treat singular mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use. However, other rehab centers are equipped to handle situations where people have one or more co-occurring conditions.

It is not uncommon for people who have depression to also experience other mental health issues at the same time. According to one study, 64% of people with mild depression, 72% with moderate depression, and 78% with severe depression also had a comorbid mental disorder. Conditions that commonly co-occur with depression include substance use disorders and anxiety.

Having more than one condition is associated with increased symptom severity, including a higher risk for suicide, slower recovery, a higher risk for relapse, and greater resistance to treatment.

Because rehab offers continuous, comprehensive support, it may be particularly helpful for people experiencing complications from comorbid conditions. 

Signs and Types of Depression

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness or emptiness
  • Anger or irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Guilt or feelings of worthlessness
  • Problems concentrating or making decisions 
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as headaches or back pain

Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. It can also be short-term or long-lasting. People with mild depression may still function relatively well, while those with severe depression might have trouble carrying out everyday activities.

There are also several different types of depression, including: 

  • Major depressive disorder: This is the most common type of depression. People with major depression have symptoms that last for at least two weeks.
  • Persistent depressive disorder: Also called dysthymia, this is a less severe form of depression that can last for months or years.
  • Psychotic depression: This type of depression includes all the symptoms of major depression as well as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) or delusions (false beliefs about reality).
  • Postpartum depression: This form of depression can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. Symptoms usually begin within the first few weeks after giving birth, but they can also occur later.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): This is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It is characterized by symptoms of depression that begin during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
  • Situational depression: This type of depression is brought on by a specific event, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss.
  • Atypical depression: This form of depression, officially known as major depressive disorder with atypical features, includes differences in mood reactivity that are not seen in typical presentations of depression. In atypical depression, there are temporary improvements in mood when positive events happen.

Benefits of Rehab for Depression

There are many benefits of rehab for depression. This type of care can provide the structure and support some people need to recover. It can also offer a sense of community and belonging for people who are feeling isolated. 

Inpatient care is not the right choice for everyone. Understanding what this level of treatment can provide can help people determine if this is the best choice for their treatment.

Safety

For people who are coping with severe symptoms of depression and thoughts of self-harm or suicide, inpatient rehab can provide a safe place to get help. During treatment, people can access round-the-clock professional help, including medical care, psychotherapy services, and emotional support.

Because rehab allows people to receive constant monitoring, it can also provide a great deal of comfort and peace of mind for those concerned about their safety.

Rehab can also provide a calm setting away from the stress of regular daily life. This can allow people to focus fully on their treatment and recovery.

Professional Support

Inpatient depression rehab offers access to 24-hour-a-day support from mental health professionals. Working one-on-one with a therapist, an individual's treatment plan may focus on helping them alter distorted thinking patterns, change destructive behaviors, and develop new coping skills to help improve their outlook and increase their resilience.

The available treatments might vary but may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or interpersonal therapy.

In addition to talk therapy, your treatment may involve using medications such as antidepressants. Because depression does not have a single cause, research has found that combining therapy and medication is often the most effective approach.

Coping Strategies

Symptoms of depression can include low mood, fatigue, loss of interest, low motivation, and changes in sleep and activity levels. Because these symptoms can be so disruptive, it can be incredibly difficult to stick to the coping strategies that are essential for treatment and recovery.

In the safe, structured setting of a rehab facility, people with depression can get the support and encouragement they need to forge and maintain healthy habits.

Peer Support

Rehab for depression can provide the sense of community and peer support that people need. When people are dealing with depression, they may withdraw socially, leading to loneliness and isolation.

Evidence suggests that when people feel that they don't have social support, their mental health outcomes tend to be worse. One systematic review, for example, found lack of perceived social support has a detrimental impact on symptoms, social functioning, and depression recovery.

Such results suggest that interventions incorporating social support may be more successful and have a greater impact on the overall prognosis.

In rehab, people can connect with others who understand what they are going through. These connections can provide much-needed social support and camaraderie as people work to recover.

Increased Structure

People with depression often have difficulty following treatment recommendations and sticking to a schedule. Because rehab tends to be highly structured, it can help people stay on track with their treatment plans.

In addition to scheduled treatments and therapies, people in rehab may also have set times for meals, recreation, and sleep. This structure can provide a sense of stability and help people manage their symptoms.

Improved Outcomes

Depression is a serious mental illness, and it can be difficult to recover without professional help. Inpatient rehab provides people with the opportunity to receive comprehensive, coordinated care from a team of professionals. This level of care can lead to improved outcomes and a greater chance of long-term recovery.

Recap

Rehab for depression can have a number of benefits, including increased safety, access to professional support, help with new coping strategies, peer support, and increased structure. Such benefits may contribute to better treatment outcomes.

When to Get Help

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to seek professional help. If you are struggling to function in your day-to-day life, or if your depression is causing you to feel hopeless or suicidal, it is vital to get help immediately.

If you are not sure where to start, you can contact a mental health professional or your primary care doctor. You can also call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you are in crisis and need immediate help.

Your doctor may recommend medication, therapy, or a combination. If you have suicidal thoughts, it is important to tell your doctor or therapist so they can create a safety plan with you.

What to Expect

What can you expect if you decide that rehab is the best choice for you? During the intake process, you will be asked questions about your symptoms, their severity, and the challenges you are dealing with in different areas of your life. In some cases, the intake team may wish to interview family members or loved ones to learn more, and they may obtain your medical history from past providers to learn more about how your depression has been treated previously. 

Once you have been admitted, you will likely be given different psychiatric assessments to learn more about your symptoms and evaluate any co-occurring conditions. After developing a clear picture of your condition and needs, your treatment team will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

The services you might find depend on the rehab facilities, but they may include:

A Word From Verywell

Inpatient rehab can provide the comprehensive care you need to recover from depression. With the help of a team of professionals, you can develop healthy coping strategies, learn to manage your symptoms, and regain control of your life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, don’t hesitate to get help. It is always better to seek professional treatment than to cope with the condition alone.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.