Major Depressive Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Being sad or unhappy is a natural and normal feeling that most humans experience. The loss of a loved one, moving to a new city, or any unexpected changes in life can cause these feelings of sorrow. Generally, these feelings are short-lived and fade with time.

However, when these feelings of sadness remain for a longer duration than usual, probably weeks or months, then it is called depression.

Major depressive disorder or clinical depression is a serious mood disorder. Depression is usually not considered a health condition or an illness. Being depressed is usually misunderstood or thought to be a sign of weakness and those who are depressed don’t realize they need help.

An individual with major depressive disorder shows signs and symptoms like any other health condition. Let’s examine these symptoms.

Symptoms Of Clinical Depression

Negative Emotion Or Pessimism Is A Symptom Of Depression

The signs and symptoms of depression may vary from person to person. The symptoms may be mild or severe. However, if an individual

experiences some of the following symptoms for most part of the day, every day, for two weeks, then that individual is suffering from clinical depression. The symptoms are as follows:1

  • Constant sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Restlessness or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Causes Of Clinical Depression

Substance Abuse Can Trigger Depression

The exact causes of depression are not known even today. Some researchers suggest that it may be caused due to a combination of factors like genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Some types of depression run in families and other types can occur even if your

family doesn’t have a history of the illness.

Some of the possible causes of depression include the following:2

  • Substance abuse like alcohol and drugs
  • Certain medical conditions like underactive thyroid, cancer, or long-term pain
  • Certain medications such as steroids
  • Sleep-related issues such as insomnia
  • Stressful life events such as death or illness of a loved one, divorce, childhood abuse or neglect, loneliness, unstable relationships
  • In midlife or older adults, medical illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, Parkinson’s disease

Treatment For Clinical Depression

Treating depression involves either medication, therapies, lifestyle changes, or a combination of two or more of these.

1. Medications

Antidepressants Can Treat Depression

Antidepressants are medicines prescribed by the health professional to treat depression. It is believed that when you are depressed there are chemical changes that occur in the brain. Antidepressants help improve the way the brain uses the chemicals that control the mood and stress.

Antidepressants usually take time to have an impact on the body – about two to four weeks.

Once you begin taking these medications, it is important to continue them unless told by the doctor to stop them. It is also important to communicate with your heath professional about the medicines you take regularly if any. This is important because some antidepressants may interact with certain medicines causing other side effects.

2. Therapies

Psychotherapy Can Help Treat Depression

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can help treat people with depression. There are different kinds of psychotherapy that help treat depression in different people. These therapies include:3

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy can help the individual with depression get rid of negative thinking and can help interpret the environment and other interactions in a positive way.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): This therapy deals with behavior. It helps the individual work through troubled relationships.
  • Problem-Solving Therapy (PST): This therapy helps the individual cope with stressful life experiences. It is an effective therapy for
    older adults with depression.
  • Computer/Internet-Based Therapies: These are therapies that you can find online and they are as effective as face-to-face therapies.

3. Lifestyle Changes

Managing Stress Can Help Treat Depression

The way an individual lives has a great impact on depression. Here are a few lifestyle changes that can be incorporated to treat depression.

  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise like a daily half-hour walk can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other brain chemicals just like antidepressants do.
  • Eat well: Eating healthy is important for physical and mental health. Having small, balanced meals throughout the day will provide enough energy and minimize mood swings.
  • Get enough sleep: Make sure you sleep well for eight hours. Lack of sleep can increase fatigue, irritability, and moodiness.
  • Spend time with loved ones: Spending time with friends and family will not make you feel lonely – a risk factor for depression. Volunteering is an effective way to help yourself and others.
  • Reduce and manage stress: Stay away from activities that stress you out. This can aggravate
    depression. If work is causing you to stress out, try to manage and minimize its impact on your life.

Living with depression can be difficult, but it is always important to know that you are not alone and you must reach out to someone who can help you cope with difficult situations. Do not keep feelings to yourself and mask the pain you are going through. You’ll only know how liberating it is to share once you’ve done it. So, don’t hold back and make your life’s journey worthwhile.