Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Understanding Psychotic Depression

Psychotic Depression Treatments

Pioneering 20th century psychologist Rollo May believed that depression is, essentially, the inability to build or conceive of a future [source: Jones-Smith]. For someone who has psychotic depression, that philosophy might apply with an even heavier force. A person who experiences both major depression and psychosis is seemingly stuck in a dark, confusing present with no way out. This is likely why depressives with psychosis are at a higher risk of suicide than are those without [source: MedlinePlus]. But while it might not feel like it to the person with the disorder, there are ways out of psychotic depression and into a brighter future.

People who have psychotic depression are usually given a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotics. Frequently prescribed antidepressants include fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, citalopram, escitalopram, paroxetine or sertraline; common anti-psychotic medications are risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine and ziprasidone. All of these drugs carry side effects, and it sometimes takes a little bit of experimentation (with the help of a doctor) to find the ones that work best for a particular person. It's for this reason that doctors prefer to initially treat psychotic depressives in a hospital environment until the right combination of medication is achieved.

Antipsychotics are normally necessary for just a short period of time. However, most doctors recommend that someone with major clinical depression take antidepressants on an ongoing basis. If medications aren't effective, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be considered as a treatment. Fortunately, drugs are usually successful at treating psychotic depression, and are considered the first-line of treatment.

Psychotic depression requires ongoing monitoring. Even though most people can expect to recover from it, continued treatment can help prevent recurrences of the disorder.

For lots more information on mental health, visit the links and resources on the next page.