What Is Major Depressive Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What Is Major Depressive Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Sadness is a natural, inescapable part of life. Sometimes life throws challenges at you that you haven’t prepared for. The loss of a loved one, a financial setback, or other situations are all common causes for sadness.

For most people, a time of sadness or grief usually lasts for a brief period. However, if you suffer from intense feelings of sadness for a prolonged period, you may suffer from major depressive disorder.

What is major depressive disorder, you ask? You may be more familiar with the term clinical depression, which describes the same condition. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mood disorder that affects a broad range of Americans, especially teenagers and adults aged 18-25.

We’ll explore this condition in-depth, focusing on its causes, diagnosis, and symptoms. We’ll also examine in brief some of its treatment methods. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

What Is Major Depressive Disorder? Examining the Types

As with many other mental disorders, MDD comes in a variety of forms. Among the three most typical variations are MDD with seasonal patterns, MDD with peripartum onset, and MDD with psychotic features.

You may have heard of seasonal depression before. This term refers to the first variety of MDD mentioned above. Seasonal depression results from a lack of sunlight brought on by the autumn and winter seasons.

This lack of sunlight affects the patient’s brain chemistry, leading them to manifest depression symptoms. Usually, this depression passes as spring weather returns.

The second type of depression we listed is more commonly known as postpartum depression. This type of depression affects up to 6% of women after childbirth.

Lastly, there’s MDD with psychotic features. This depressive disorder leads the patient to experience delusions and hallucinations, in addition to more typical depression symptoms.

Diagnosing Major Depressive Disorder

When doctors diagnose depression, they use a questionnaire to evaluate the patient’s symptoms. This evaluation comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

While MDD can affect anyone, its symptoms often vary between different age groups. As such, doctors use varying questionnaires for children and adults.

These evaluations seek to determine how the patient has been affected by symptoms over the past two weeks. A person can answer in five ways, with the “lowest” answer being that the listed symptom has did not affect them.

On the higher end of the spectrum, a patient could answer that the symptom troubles them daily. The symptoms listed include a range of mental health disturbances. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Repetitive thoughts and behaviors
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or action

Each of these symptoms can affect depression cases across the age spectrum. However, other domains affect children and adults differently.

Domains that are more likely to suffer for children and teenagers include attention deficiencies and increased irritability. Adults, however, may experience shifts in personality function, loss of memory, and increased dissociation.

Ages 6-17

For patients aged 6-17, physicians would ask about a variety of symptoms. We’ll discuss a few of these broadly in this section.

One critical component of depression cases is often a lack of sleep. In fact, insomnia ranks as a comorbidity with depression. Another factor in this lack of sleep is if the patient also experiences lots of energy with little sleep.

Children and teens with depression may also see increases in irritability. Their patience for others often dwindles, and they may also find themselves feeling sad or depressed for several hours.

Perhaps the most well-known symptoms are a dulled sense of enjoyment. Children and teens suffering from MDD often have less fun than they usually would, even doing their favorite activities. They may mask this lack of enjoyment by taking on several new projects or taking increased risks.

Lastly, patients in this age range often feel nervous, frightened, or anxious. Anxiety, too, is a comorbidity of depression. The two feed off of one another, each condition exacerbating the other.

Ages 18+

Many of the same symptoms affect adults as affect children. However, some new issues can develop in adults, not so commonly found in those under 18.

Adults with MDD are more likely to have memory struggles or recurring unpleasant thoughts and urges. They may experience a dysphoric separation from their body or their memories. Moreover, they often feel confused about their identity or what they want out of life.

In the worst cases, adults may consider self-harm. They often withdraw from others, retreating more into themselves.

Causes of MDD

Usually, MDD stems from one of three causes: genetics, biology, and environment. If a person in your family has depression, you’re more likely to suffer from it as well. Your biology also affects it.

As you grow older, your brain structure shifts. In certain cases, these shifts trigger MDD. Some research also indicates that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes MDD.

In women, hormonal changes can also increase the risk of MDD. This factor is often a root cause of postpartum depression.

Treatment For MDD

Perhaps the most common treatment for fighting MDD is psychotherapy. In many cases, patients with depression seek counseling to overcome specific problems, such as mourning a loss.

In other instances, depression patients may undergo cognitive behavioral therapy. This mode of therapy helps the person understand how their thinking, mood, and behavior interact with one another.

Other treatments for depression include lifestyle changes. Many patients find that living an active, healthy lifestyle helps them to manage depression.

Lastly, in cases of chemical imbalances or other physiological causes, physicians may prescribe antidepressant medication. This medication seeks to suppress the symptoms of depression by correcting the physiological issues causing it.

Find Your Prescription Treatment

If you came to this article wondering, “What is major depressive disorder?” then we hope you’ve found an answer. This mental health disorder affects a large swath of people. If you or someone you know suffers from this condition, seek treatment immediately.

To that end, if you’ve received a prescription for antidepressant medication, find it on our store today! We have a wide range of prescription drugs available for purchase.