Major Depressive Disorder
About Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder, often called Clinical Depression, is a mental health disorder defined by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness and loss of interest in daily activities and general lack of pleasure in life that lasts for two weeks or longer. Depression goes far beyond “feeling sad”. The emotional symptoms, including hopelessness, anxiety and feelings of low self-worth, are often accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms. Sleeping problems, both from insomnia and sleeping too much, are common. Individuals with depression might have trouble focusing at work, remembering simple tasks and often find it difficult to muster up enough energy to get out of bed in the morning. A loss of appetite or onset of cravings can lead to problems managing a healthy weight, making matters worse for the affected individual.
Everybody is different, and every case of depression is different. Not all symptoms are felt by all affected individuals. Depression is the result of one or many underlying causes, and symptoms vary based on those triggers. Examples may include family dysfunction, past or recurring traumas, inflammatory conditions, hormone imbalances, etc. It’s important to note that Major Depressive Disorder isn’t just a bad day or a bad week – it’s an ongoing feeling of such hopelessness and fatigue that it requires professional help to overcome.
Why There Is Hope for those with Depression
Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders, affecting more than 250 million people globally. For those feeling overwhelmed by the emptiness and hopelessness that is characteristic of depression, it’s important to know that even the most severe cases of depression can be treated. The more quickly the disorder is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment will be and the sooner the person can regain agency over their life.
Helping a Loved One with Depression – Early Intervention
The key to overcoming depression is early intervention. Individuals experiencing the above symptoms are urged to get in touch with a mental health professional as soon as possible. If you aren’t ready or comfortable reaching out to a doctor, please tell a family member or friend – someone you can trust – and have them guide you in the right direction. Living with depression is often painful, lonely and can cause those affected to even have thoughts of suicide. If you or a loved one is considering the idea of attempting suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You and your life are worth it, and there are always people ready and available to help you through the darkest depths of depression.
Depression left untreated can be life threatening to the individual and devastating to the people around them. Loved ones are encouraged to know the signs of depression and to look out for them. It is often difficult to talk to a family member or friend when you think they are suffering. It may feel impossible finding the right time and place to bring up the topic, but your support is crucial to the well-being of the person affected. Let them know, without judgement, that you are there for them. And when the person is ready to open up, simply listen. Ask how you can help and guide them in a positive direction. The sooner a person with depression can be led towards treatment, the sooner they can rediscover the joy in their life.
How We Treat Major Depressive Disorder
Studies show that depression occurs for several reasons – genetics, biological factors, environmental factors and psychological causes. As a result, treatment strategies include lifestyle changes, medication, psychotherapy and a combination of all of the above. Because no two cases of depression are alike, treatment methods vary from person to person and can take time to get right.
Antidepressants are effective at treating depression by helping your brain use certain chemicals to control mood. Finding the right antidepressant can take some time, so it is encouraged that individuals work with a doctor to find the one that works best. Antidepressants can help reduce sleeping problems, reduce mental fog, regulate a healthy appetite and elevate overall mood when they work properly. After a few weeks on the right medication, individuals can start to feel better. Please note with antidepressants - if you are taking them and you begin to feel better, do not stop regular medication until consulting with a provider. Quitting them abruptly can cause depression to return. A medical practitioner can help you transition safely off the medication when you both decide it’s time.
Counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy can help individuals with depression. Evidence-based psychotherapy and holistic treatments focus on healthy changes to daily lifestyle habits and build the foundation for future well-being. Support groups and talking with others who have been diagnosed with depression can help individuals better understand the disorder and overcome it. Finding a core group of individuals you can rely on to talk through your experiences is essential for short and long-term recovery. Small adjustments to lifestyle, including reducing screen time, optimizing nutrition and a healthy relationship with exercise and sleep can greatly enhance your quality of life while treating depression.
What Ongoing Care for Major Depressive Disorder Looks Like
Life can be stressful for all human beings. Learning healthy ways to cope with stress long-term can keep individuals in good health. Finding activities that reduce stress, like yoga, walking in nature, and spending time with people that make them feel safe can all contribute to a healthy emotional state. For those in recovery for depression, it’s important to have friends or family members to call on in times of crisis. Reaching out to healthcare professionals at the earliest signs of a problem can prevent depression from spiraling out of control. Ultimately, creating a long-term treatment plan including medication and holistic methods with your provider is the best way to ensure a thriving, self-loving future ahead.