For tips for coping with depression yourself, or helping someone you love who has depression, please visit how to help someone who has depression.
What is Major Depressive Disorder?
Major Depressive Disorder (also known as recurrent depressive disorder, clinical depression, or unipolar depression) is a form of depression that is characterized by an all-encompassing depressed mood and/or decreased interest in pleasurable activities nearly every day for at least two weeks. To be classified as a major depressive disorder, there must not be a history of manic, mixed, or hypomanic episodes. Major Depressive Disorder can either be a single episode or recurrent.
Depression is more than just a feeling of having the blues or feeling miserable. It isn't a weakness; nor is it something a person can simply snap out of. Depression is a chronic illness that typically requires long-term treatment possibly including medication, therapy, or psychological counseling.
Causes of Major Depressive Disorder:
Current models indicate that there are biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to Major Depressive Disorder.
There may be a prior genetic or learned susceptibility to depression that can raise the likelihood that a person will develop Major Depressive Disorder later in life. Major stressful life events as well as heredity contribute to the development of Major Depressive Disorder.
Insufficient production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine can cause Major Depressive Disorder. In Neurology, differences in brain structures between people that are and are not depressed have also been noted.
Alcohol, drug abuse, certain medical conditions (such as an underactive thyroid, cancer, or long-term and chronic pain disorders), certain medications, and sleeping problems can also contribute to the development of depression.
Who Gets Major Depressive Disorder?
Anyone can get Major Depressive Disorder, but there is a high hereditary link, either due to genetics or learned behaviors. While children and adolescents can and do get Major Depressive Disorder, symptoms often begin in the late twenties. People who have a history of traumatic experiences, have had family members that have attempted or completed suicide, or have few personal relationships are also at risk for developing Major Depressive Disorder.
Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder:
The main symptom of Major Depressive Disorder is a pervasive feeling of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration that interferes with daily life for more than two weeks.
Other symptoms may include:
- Agitation, restlessness and irritability
- Change in appetite and weight
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-hate and guilt
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Changes in sleeping patterns
This list is by no means all-inclusive or meant to diagnose Major Depressive Disorder. If you suspect you may have Major Depressive Disorder, call your doctor or a mental health practitioner.
Diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder:
Physicians or mental health practitioners will take a mental health history and discuss your mood as well as other symptoms with you. Health care providers may request blood or urine tests to rule out any physical/medical causes of depression. If this your symptoms come and go, it may be diagnosed instead as Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent.
Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder:
Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder often include antidepressants and therapy. While both are singularly effective, the combination of the two are often the best course of treatment, especially for severe depression. If depression is so severe that someone is feeling suicidal or cannot function in daily life, they may need treatment at a psychiatric facility to assist them in maintaining their own safety.
Treatment-resistant depression is not unheard of. Higher doses of antidepressants may be prescribed for patients with treatment-resistant depression, and a combination of medication may also be used. Please talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have with your medication, or if you do not believe the medication prescribed is working after the initial adjustment period is over.
Additional Major Depressive Disorder Resources:
Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance - The DBSA fosters an environment of understanding about the impact and management of these life-threatening illnesses by providing up-to-date, scientifically based tools and information written in language the general public can understand.
Mental Health America – Mental Health America envisions a just, humane and healthy society in which all people are accorded respect, dignity and the opportunity to achieve their full potential through meaningful social inclusion that is free from discrimination.
National Institute of Mental Health - The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.