What Is Major Depressive Disorder?
A person can feel sad for a number of different reasons. Some may feel sad after losing a loved one or because they recently lost their job. Sadness is experienced by many and is part of life. These feelings of sadness are usually short-lived and will go away on their own. For others, persistent and deep feelings of sadness for extended periods of time can be major depressive disorder or MDD.
Some refer to MDD as clinical depression yet the symptoms are the same. MDD influences mood and behavior but can also affect physical functions as well. Many individuals with MDD have issues with poor sleep or insomnia and loss of appetite. Many activities that were once enjoyable are now not enjoyable and it can be difficult to even engage in day-to-day activities.
Symptoms of MDD include feeling sad most of the day and feeling sad every day. Some individuals have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep while some want to sleep more than usual. There are changes in eating habits and some people can gain or lose weight. Many individuals experience a lack of energy that is so intense that even performing mundane tasks can seem unbearable. There are also associated feelings of worthlessness and restlessness.
The causes of MDD are unknown but certain factors can contribute to the development of MDD. These factors include substance abuse, genetics, or stress. There are also physical problems that can contribute to depression including an underactive thyroid or certain medications. Whatever the cause and whatever the person experiences in terms of symptoms help is available.
Medication and psychotherapy are the preferred methods for treating MDD. Medications include antidepressant medications such as Prozac or Zoloft. These medications are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain believed to be associated with our moods. The SSRI helps to inhibit the breakdown of serotonin in the brain, which means there is more serotonin in the brain thereby increasing the amount of serotonin available.
Psychotherapy involves meeting with a therapist at least weekly to help adjust to a stressful event or through replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. The therapist can help increase self-esteem, improve communication skills, and find better ways to cope with problems. There are also recommended lifestyle changes that one should consider if experiencing depression. These include eating nutritious meals, exercising, and avoiding alcohol and processed foods.
Whether a person engages with a psychotherapist or prefers to take medication, MDD is treatable and designed to get one back on the road to a healthy life, psychologically and physically.