Major depressive disorder (MDD) — also referred to as clinical depression — and Dysthymia are two of the most common types of depression. While there are some less common types too, MDD is a condition that is quite common among people today. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 7% of the adult U.S. population has this devastating mental condition at any given time.
What is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)?
MDD is a serious mood disorder that can greatly affect a person’s life and day-to-day activities. It is a medical condition in which a person constantly experiences a constant state of sadness and grief for at least two weeks. Apart from affecting mood and behavior, it affects the person physically too. The person suffering from this type of depression often faces trouble while sleeping and experiences changes in his or her appetite.
Symptoms of MDD
A mental health professional or psychiatrist makes an MDD diagnosis based on the person’s feelings, behavior patterns, and symptoms. They also do counseling with the depressed person to identify the symptoms and analyze his or her mental condition. Generally speaking, a person suffering from major depression can experience five or more of the following symptoms:
- Extreme feeling of sadness and irritability
- Depressed mood most of the day and a feeling of emptiness
- Loss of interest in most activities
- Weakness and restlessness
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Difficulty in concentrating, thinking and making decisions
- Changes in eating habits or loss of appetite
- Feeling guilty
- Physical pain
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
What Triggers MDD?
While the exact cause of this kind of depression isn’t known, there are several factors that can trigger this condition. Those factors could be genetic, environmental or it may also be triggered by certain stressful events in life. Generally speaking, some common causes of major depression disorder are:
- Stressful life events such as loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or separation
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Certain medical conditions, such as cancer or underactive thyroid
- Certain medicines such as steroids
- Major life changes such as moving, job change or retirement
- Social isolation, loneliness or feelings of being deprived
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Personal conflicts in relationships
Treatment of MDD
A healthcare provider can take the help of both medication and psychotherapy to treat the condition of a depression person.
- Medication: The medicines used to treat depression are known as anti-depressants. While some medicines are mild, others can cause several side effects, including sleepiness and weight gain. Even some MDD medications can also increase suicidal thoughts in people who have just started treatment. Therefore, it’s always advisable to talk to your healthcare provider about concerns you are having with the prescribed medicines.
- Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, involves meeting with a therapist regularly to talk about your condition and related issues. Psychotherapy can help the depressed person replace negative beliefs with a positive attitude, increase self-esteem, regain a sense of satisfaction and control in his life and improve communication skills. Your psychiatrist may also recommend you group therapy which gives you the ability to share your feelings and thoughts with people who can relate to how you’re feeling.
The Bottom Line
People having major depressive disorder may feel hopeless and worthless at times, but it’s important to remember that you can bring a major improvement in your condition just by changing your lifestyle and attitude towards life. By ditching alcohol and drugs, and adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can help yourself to a great extent.