Major Depressive Disorder

It may be easy to dismiss depression as the unfortunate consequence of a bad day or sad event, but for those who suffer from clinical depression know that it is a much more pervasive condition. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, clinical depression is characterized by consistent feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration. These symptoms usually interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday life and sometimes do not seem to have any definite cause. Thus, many experts believe chemical imbalances in the brain may be the reason in many cases. These imbalances may be hereditary or triggered by stressful life changes and traumatic events. According to The New England Journal of Medicine some behavioral changes to look for in someone suffering from depression are loss of sleep, appetite, sexual desire, and ability to enjoy work or time with friends.

Statistics of Major Depressive Disorder

Based on the broad criteria which defines clinical depression, here are some facts surrounding the condition:

  • In the U.S., depression occurs in more than 12% in men and 20% of women.
  • At least five symptoms of clinical depression must be exhibited for two weeks or more to be considered as a candidate for treatment.
  • The supposed heritability rate of depression is much lower than that of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
  • People with depression may have elevated levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone important in regulating blood sugar, fat deposition and stress reaction.
  • Adults with a history of physical or sexual abuse as children often exhibit chemical anomalies such as the aforementioned increase in cortisol.

Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder

As with any other illness, it is best to treat major depressive disorder early. Often times medications that the patient is currently using, or viruses or thyroid conditions are to blame for symptoms very similar to those of clinical depression. Talk to a doctor first to find out if there are any other factors that could explain depressive symptoms. Once a doctor can rule out those factors, he or she should refer the patient to a mental health professional who will then discuss possible family history of depression, symptoms and possible physical causes such as drug abuse. Ultimately, doctors most often prescribe medications or psychotherapy rather than alternative treatments. Still, keep in mind that medications such as antidepressants can cause mild and temporary, or in fewer cases severe and dangerous side effects, especially when mixed with other medications. A doctor should be contacted immediately if any unusual symptoms persist. Among these symptoms are suicidal thoughts or behavior, increased depression or agitation, sleeplessness and withdrawal. If you or a loved one is suffering from what seems like major depressive disorder, do not hesitate to contact a doctor or mental health professional. Happiness is always within reach if you are willing to face the problem and seek help. There are always others willing to assist you if you cannot do it alone.

View Resources

  • MedlinePlus – This site by the U.S. National Library of Medicine contains information such as possible causes of major depressive disorder and treatments. .
  • The New England Journal of Medicine – This is a peer-reviewed medical publication that offers articles on any subject in the medical field.

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