Major Depressive Disorder 101

Major Depressive Disorder 101

Major Depressive Disorder, also known as Clinical Depression, is a very common and serious mood disorder characterized by persistent sadness, prolonged hopelessness, discouragement about the future, and loss of interest in favorite activities. Depression affects how we think, feel, and act. Not only does it cause mood and emotional state changes, it also produces physical symptoms, such as, lethargy, fatigue, weight fluctuations, and sleep disturbances. Depression in the number one reason individuals seek mental health services. Awareness and knowledge of this disorder is very beneficial to know and better help ourselves and everyone around us.

Depression Statistics

Depression affects 16 million Americans per year. 1 in 6 adults experience depressive symptoms at least once in their lifetime. 31% of college students experience depression. It is more prevalent around late teenage years and early adulthood. Depression affects women more than men, and can affect children and adults of all ages.

Causes of Depression

A multitude of things can trigger depression. Life events, death, job loss, poor living situation, breakups, mineral deficiencies, living with a chronic disease, hormone imbalances, and chronic stress can create prolonged feelings of anxiety and depression. There are so many factors that influence us. Biological, psychological and behavioral, and environmental and sociocultural factors all must be assessed and taken into consideration when getting to the root cause of depression. It is important to see the whole biopsychosocial picture for each individual case.

Genetic and biological factors play a role in depression. Research has shown a link to depression in identical twins. Poor regulation of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, and decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex and reward circuit in the brain are displayed in individuals affected by depression. Having the 5-HTTLPR gene puts individuals living in a high-stress environment at an increased risk of depression.

It is also important to consider psychological and sociocultural factors when it comes to depression. Prolonged stress, learned helplessness, negative thought patterns can all lead to depression. Poverty, job loss, homelessness, child abuse, trauma, a poor support system or a depressed inner circle of friends can cause depression. The state of an individual’s health and level of chronic disease greatly impacts mental health as well. The severity of depression depends on how badly an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities and interests is impacted.

Signs and symptoms of Depression

Depression consists of a variety of emotional and physical symptoms that last for at least two weeks. Low self-esteem, lack of energy, poor mood, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and being socially isolated are mood and emotional state fluctuations that people suffering from depression can go through. Physical symptoms include fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, joint pain, lethargy, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, and appetite changes. Depression literally impacts our mood, sleep, metabolism, mindset, appetite, energy level, and ability to perform everyday activities. This is very important to be aware of.

Dx + Testing

Testing for depression includes a DSM-5 screening or PHQ-9 screening questionnaire and comprehensive initial lab testing. Any nutrient deficiencies, thyroid dysfunction, and endocrine dysfunction must ruled out. Depression is diagnosed when an individual experiences loss of pleasure in usual interests, loss of ability to perform everyday activities, feelings of hopelessness, sleep disturbances, appetite changes and sleep disturbances over the last two weeks.

Depression Prevention, Tx and Mgmt

Treatment for depression consists of psychotherapy, medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exercise. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the mainstay treatment for depression. Working out daily is one of the best “prescriptions.” Practicing regular self care, yoga, meditation, and exercise helps prevent depression. Notify your primary healthcare provider any new depressive symptoms and see a professional mental health expert.

Keys to Success

Communicate and reach out to family and friends. Speak up and let people know how you are feeling so you can get the support you need. Have a creative outlet to focus and express your energy. Manage stress, get enough sleep, and eat regular meals. Consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium. Exercise and sweat daily. Move your body and release tension. Go for nature walks. Know you are not alone. It is normal and okay to seek professional help.

Final Thoughts

Major Depressive Disorder is a serious, common condition characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. It can be cured and treated successfully. Open communication, exercise, and following the treatment plan are of the upmost importance in treating and managing depression. If you have any suicidal thoughts, notify your healthcare provider or call 911 right away. Remember, you are not alone.

Thank you for reading this post.