Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and apathy. Depression can make you lose interest in things that you once loved and feel hopeless.

Someone suffering from depression may find it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning due to lethargy, apathy, and a feeling of meaninglessness. Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental diseases in the U.S. In 2015, nearly 7% of Americans over the age of 18 had an episode of major depressive disorder. [1]

Besides the more observable symptoms of major depressive disorder (i.e. isolation, moodiness, weight loss, etc.), suicidal ideation is another very prevalent occurrence with those suffering from this illness. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people. A major cause of suicide is mental illness, very commonly depression. [2] If you have attempted suicide or you think about suicide, then you can reach out for help by contacting the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Not all depressive disorders are created equally. Some common forms of depression include seasonal affective disorder (SAD), psychotic depression, postpartum depression (“baby blues”), persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder to name a handful. Each of these depressive disorders have their own distinct symptoms that vary from one another. However, what doesn’t vary with these disorders are the main symptoms of depression, such as sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness.



Causes of major depressive disorder

Though there are many different factors that can predispose someone for developing this disorder, the medical journal Neuron cites genetics as a very significant cause of major depressive disorder, with “an approximately 3-fold increased risk for Major Depressive Disorder in the 1st-degree relatives (i.e. parents, siblings, offspring) of individuals with Major Depressive Disorder versus the general population.” [3] Another very significant factor that may contribute to someone developing major depressive disorder is one’s environment.

According to Mayo Clinic, biological differences, brain chemistry, hormones, and inherited traits may all be factors for someone developing depression. Depression often begins during the teenage years, 20’s or 30’s. However, it can develop at any age. Interestingly, more women than men are diagnosed with depression. However, this may be due in part because women are typically more likely to seek out treatment as opposed to men. [4]

Symptoms of major depressive disorder

Some common symptoms of depression include loss of interest in things once loved, loss of appetite, and lack of energy. They may feel as though their life has no purpose and that everything is meaningless. Not every symptom will apply to any given individual. There will be some variance that will occur from person to person. Below, you will see some of the most common symptoms of major depressive disorder:

  • Deep sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in things once loved
  • Hopelessness
  • Apathetic toward most things
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of motivation

Diagnostic Criteria of major depressive disorder

To get diagnosed with major depressive disorder you will need to get a psychiatric evaluation by a psychiatrist or an accredited therapist. Upon meeting with her, you will be asked about your family history, as well as what symptoms you are feeling. The medical professional may also ask you a series of questions to see how severe your depression is. Among some of these questions may be “How many times per week do you feel sad?” or “Have you lost interest in doing things you once enjoyed within the past 6 months?” Questions like these or ones analogous to them can help the healthcare professional decipher whether or not you have major depressive disorder.

Treatments for major depressive disorder

Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for depression. Talk therapy and medication can be very effective at helping to treat the symptoms of this illness. Group therapy, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and even light therapy may be able to significantly help improve symptoms. The type of therapy that will benefit you best will depend on may different factors. So, it’s important for you to ask your doctor or therapist what all of your options are, as well as what your insurance will cover.

Antidepressants such as Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, and Wellbutrin are just a handful of many drugs that may be able to help treat depression. Antidepressants take time to work before you will feel the true benefits of them. Usually, it will take around 2 to 4 weeks before you can expect to feel the full effects of the medication. Oftentimes, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before the mood improves. So, it’s important to give medication a chance to get into your system before you reach any sort of conclusion about its effectiveness. [5]



Exercising for depression is another very effective way to help treat major depressive disorder. According to Harvard Medical School, engaging in low-intensity exercise over a long period of time encourages the release of proteins called growth factors. Growth factors cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. Essentially, the improvement in brain function as a result of the growth factors makes you feel better. “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller. [6]

Other ways that you can effectively treat depression is by eating a healthy diet, as well as using mindfulness exercises for depression like I showed you in the beginning of this article. Nevertheless, talk to your doctor to see what the best option is for you. You may want to have some questions written down about any concerns you have so you can have them ready for when you see your doctor or therapist. This may help to relieve some of the uncertainty you may be experiencing about the treatment process.


References

1) “Major Depressive Disorder (Clinical Depression).” Health Line. https://www.healthline.com/health/clinical-depression
2) “Depression and Suicide.” University of California Santa Cruz. https://caps.ucsc.edu/resources/depression.html
3) Lieber, Arnold. “Major Depression.” Psy Com. https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.major.html
4) “Depression (major depressive disorder).” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
5) “Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
6) “Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression.” Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression