Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder is sometimes referred to as clinical depression, major depression or unipolar disorder. This mental illness causes loss of interest in pleasing activities and daily routine, due to a very low swing in mood. Self-esteem is often affected and this condition may lead to suicidal tendencies or neglect of self-care and duties.


Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder


Symptoms of major depressive disorder are often similar to those of other mental illnesses and afflictions. The major sign to look for when mental illness is suspected is that of interference with normal daily routine and required activities. If one is suddenly neglecting hygiene, housework, shopping, family or fun, a mental illness may be the cause. The following are symptoms that may point to major depressive disorder:

  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Reduction in good hygiene
  • Very low self-esteem
  • Melancholy and deep sadness
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Excessive hopelessness, self-hatred, guilt or regret
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea or diarrhea


Causes of Major Depressive Disorder


The exact cause of major depressive disorder, like many other forms of mental illness, is unknown. However, there are lifestyles and significant life events which may lead to this condition. Likewise, an event, such as trauma or illness, does not necessarily need to have occurred for depression to develop. A combination of biological, physical and social factors can all contribute to the onset of this disorder. Depression may result from a genetic predisposition of the illness, coupled with exposure to stressful life events. Often, older people who have recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or those whose quality of life is limited by stroke or other diseases, are at risk of developing major depressive disorder. Excessive use of drugs or alcohol can contribute to similar symptoms, or lead to the development of this disorder.


Diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder


Due to the potential difficulty in distinguishing major depressive disorder with other mental illnesses, it's recommended that a professional opinion be sought. Psychiatrists and psychologists will normally conduct an evaluation offering questions to the person experiencing the symptoms, as well as that person's family, friends and significant others. While there is no medical test that can determine diagnosis, other tests may be run, to rule out any physical impediments that may be causing symptoms.    After reading test results, evaluating the patient's thoughts, outlook, symptoms and mental state, a diagnosis can then usually be made.


Treating Major Depressive Disorder


Treatment options for major depressive disorder are often aimed at management of the disorder by way of alleviating symptoms. Forms of treatment usually fall into three major categories: psychotherapy, medication and electroconvulsive therapy.  In addition to options from these categories, it's been reported that exercise can lift moods by releasing certain body chemicals which have a positive effect on the brain. Alternative therapies, such as meditation and relaxation techniques may help as well, by encouraging whole-body healing. An explanation of the three traditional options for treatment is as follows:

  • Medication – anti-anxiety, anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medication may be prescribed for treatment of symptoms of major depressive disorder. In most cases, medication can be beneficial for short term relief. There are many options for different types of medication, depending upon the individual case.
  • Psychotherapy – this type of counseling is usually reserved for patients in the teen years of life, but can also be of benefit in groups. Many types of psychotherapy offer new techniques for coping with this disorder, and to re-learn negative behaviors and thoughts that may have been habitual since childhood.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy – this type of treatment is usually only administered to patients with sever major depressive disorder, who are a risk to themselves or others. A procedure is performed whereby pulses of electricity are sent through the brain. This is thought to induce a seizure which releases effects of the condition for a period of time.