What is Major Depressive Disorder? How is it treated?
For 1 in 4 American adults, depression—also called major depressive disorder and clinical depression—is a life-impairing and sometimes life-threatening medical mental health condition.
If you suspect you or a loved one suffers from depression, understanding what depression is and how it is treated are vitally important first steps.
What is depression and how is it different from sadness?
Sadness is an emotion we all experience in life. It usually results from a direct situational cause—perhaps in response to loss, a sudden, drastic or unforeseen change in life circumstances, or adversity. Sadness typically lasts a short time, and doesn’t significantly interfere with your normal day-to-day activities, responsibilities and relationships.
With sadness, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Depression differs in that it is more than “about of the blues.” A person suffering with depression can’t simply “snap out of it.” They typically experience a range of characteristic symptoms over an extended period of time. These symptoms are severe enough to have a noticeable impact on all areas of life.
With depression, it feels as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel—just more darkness.
Signs and symptoms of major depression commonly include:
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Disinterest or a loss of pleasure in life’s activities
- Anxiety, irritability, restlessness, agitation or anger
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Extreme appetite or weight changes
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or becoming easily distracted
- Reckless behavior
- Thoughts of suicide
Major depression’s cause and types
A specific cause of major depression has not been identified. Its recipe includes many ingredients. A person’s genes, brain chemistry, life experiences, and psychological and spiritual health can all be contributing factors.
Just as there are many types of coughs—all with similarities, but each with different causes and treatments—varying types of depression have been identified by their characteristics.
- Major Depression (often called Clinical Depression) is the severe form of depression, including a number of the above signs and symptoms experienced for longer than 2 weeks.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder is a longer lasting but often less intense form of depression, where a client experiences a depressed mood most of the day, for more days than not, and for 2 years or longer.
- Post-partum Depression occurs in women after delivering a baby, due to hormonal and physical changes along with stressors associated with pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by decreased sunlight and colder temperatures during the winter months, typically including feelings of fatigue, increased appetite, slower thinking, and sadness.
- Bipolar Disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes, experiencing periods of extreme highs (mania) followed by extreme lows (depression).
- Depression with psychosis occurs in about 10-15% of major depressions, including some form of psychosis, hearing voices (auditory hallucinations), seeing visions (visual hallucinations), or odd beliefs (delusions).
Applying a BioPsychoSpiritual Treatment Strategy
Depression can be effectively managed and even cured when we address all three spheres—body, mind and spirit. Medication, psychological awareness and skills, and spiritual truths and principles are all integral parts of a life-transformation process—rediscovering life, beyond depression.