Although sadness is a normal part of life, most people find that their sadness comes and goes quickly, and is usually tied to a challenging life experience, such as losing your job or going through a divorce.
However, sometimes feelings of sadness become more intense and last for an extended period of time.
We’ve put together a major depression inventory to help you understand what major depression is, what causes the condition, what the symptoms of major depression are, and how it can be treated.
What is major depressive disorder?
Major depressive disorder, also known as major depression or clinical depression, is a serious mental health condition and mood disorder marked by feelings of persistent and intense sadness.
Major depressive disorder has significant physical and emotional effects and can impact many different areas of your life, including your appetite, sleep patterns, ability to do activities that you normally enjoy, and more.
The condition is extremely common, affecting more than 7% of adults in the United States in any given year.
What causes major depressive disorder?
As is the case with many mental health conditions, the exact cause of major depressive disorder is not entirely known.
In fact, it is believed that a combination of factors play a role in the development of major depressive disorder. Factors known to be involved in the development of major depressive disorder include:
- Brain chemistry: Major depression is strongly linked to changes in the chemistry of the brain. Specifically, changes in neurotransmitters, the body’s chemical messengers, can affect the function of these chemicals and impact mood stability. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters that are strongly linked to depression.
- Family history: People with a family history of major depressive disorder and other mental health conditions are more likely to experience major depressive disorder themselves. Therefore, it is possible that the condition has a genetic component and that certain genes may play a role in causing depression.
- Hormonal shifts: There are many different times in our lives when our hormonal balance shifts, including during puberty, during pregnancy, following the birth of a child, and menopause. Thyroid imbalances can also contribute to depression. It is common for people to experience major depressive disorder in conjunction with hormonal shifts, so it is believed that hormones play a role in the condition as well.
- Biological differences: Major depressive disorder has been found to cause physical changes in the brain. While it is unknown how significant these changes are and how much they impact normal activity, these biological differences may help eventually pinpoint the cause of depression.
What are the symptoms of major depressive disorder?
One of the major hallmarks of major depressive disorder is that symptoms typically occur nearly every day and last for most of the day. Unlike other periods of sadness, symptoms must persist for at least two weeks or more in order to be diagnosed as major depressive disorder.
- Feelings of intense sadness
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Increased feelings of fatigue or loss of energy
- Insomnia or sleeping too much (changes in sleep patterns)
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts, ideations, or behaviors
- Significant changes in weight (loss or gain of more than 5% of body weight in one month)
- Decreased interest or pleasure in doing activities that you used to enjoy
- Difficulty completing daily tasks or activities
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- Physical symptoms like headaches or back pain with no obvious cause
- Outbursts of frustration, irritability, or anger, even over small things that wouldn’t normally bother you
Symptoms of major depressive disorder are typically severe enough that they cause noticeable issues at work, school, social activities, and in relationships.
In order to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, patients must experience a change in previous functioning, have symptoms for a minimum of two weeks or more, and must experience either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities. Additionally, patients must experience at least five of the symptoms listed above during the course of the two weeks.
Who is most at risk of experiencing major depressive disorder?
While some people may only experience one depressive disorder episode over the course of their lifetime, others may experience multiple episodes. Although anyone can experience major depressive disorder, women are more than twice as likely to experience the condition than men. It is believed that the hormonal changes women experience during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, delivery, and menopause are at least partially to blame for the increased risk. Additionally, women also balance the demands of career and home in a way that is different than men, which can cause depression due to the increased pressure to succeed in both areas.
What is the treatment for major depressive disorder?
There are several different ways to treat major depressive disorder, including the use of antidepressant medications, participating in psychotherapy, and making positive lifestyle changes.
There are several different types of antidepressant medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and other medications.
SSRIs include medications like Prozac and Celexa, which increase the amount of available serotonin in the brain.
SNRIs operate on both serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in the brain and include medications like Cymbalta and Effexor.
Other types of antidepressant medications include tricyclic antidepressants and atypical antidepressants such as Wellbutrin.
Speaking to a mental health professional is the only way to get a prescription for these medications, but that doesn’t mean you have to visit a doctor’s office. Online mental healthcare clinics like YANA can quickly connect patients with mental health professionals. YANA’s services in particular include an initial evaluation with a doctor, a prescription for medication (if needed), and free medication delivery for a low monthly fee.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is an excellent treatment option for people with major depressive disorder. It can help you work through situations that are particularly stressful or traumatic, help replace negative thoughts or behaviors with healthier, positive ones, improve your ability to communicate with others, increase your self-esteem, and help develop healthy coping mechanisms.
There are many different kinds of psychotherapy, and your mental health professional will be able to help you choose the kind that is right for you. Group therapy can help people find community among individuals experiencing similar issues, such as grieving the loss of a loved one.
Living a healthy lifestyle can also help improve symptoms associated with major depressive disorder. Eating a balanced, healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night, and avoiding alcohol and certain processed foods can improve your energy levels and help you feel better, especially in conjunction with antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.
If you’re ready to take the first step toward getting the treatment you deserve, click here to get started with YANA. YANA is an online mental healthcare clinic that’s easy to use, affordable, and effective. It connects you to the help you need all from the comfort of your own home. With expert mental health doctors ready to meet with you, a tailored treatment plan is just a few clicks away.