Knowing when to commit yourself or a loved one to the hospital to be treated for severe depression can be a very gray area. I wish there were a set of directions much like those when you are in labor: if contractions come within five minutes of each other and last a minute, pack your bags.
Some physicians will make the decision for you, but usually it is up to you. Here are a few guidelines.
1. When you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else.
If you are very suicidal and have gone as far as making plans, you should be in a safe place where you don’t have to rely on sheer willpower. All of us who have experienced severe depression know that willpower eventually caves. The pain is just too intense. Likewise, if you are with young children or other people you could harm in a fit of rage, if you don’t have full control over your emotions, you should admit yourself into the hospital.
2. When you need to be treated aggressively.
You can be treated more aggressively in the hospital because of the close monitoring. Your doctor can change meds — try new combinations, etc. — in a fashion that would take weeks or even months with outpatient care. Because the support staff offers round-the-clock care, any unfavorable medication reactions are caught immediately. This can give your recovery a much-needed jump-start.
3. When you need ECT treatments.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a form of neurostimulation therapy that has a high success rate for treating persons with severe and chronic cases of depression, especially those who have failed to respond to medication and psychotherapy. ECT involves applying electrical pulses to the scalp to induce seizures throughout the brain while a person is under general anesthesia. The procedure is usually performed inpatient because you can recover from the anesthesia in a safe environment and your doctor can closely monitor your progress.
4. When you can’t function.
If you can’t stop sobbing at work, in front of your kids, and have little control over your emotions, in general, you should consider hospitalization. If you can’t eat or sleep, shower or get dressed, the bare minimum tasks of functioning as an independent human being, you may be better off in a place where people can care for you.
Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.