Depression is a fairly common mental health illness that adversely affects an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Also called major depressive disorder, the condition is classified as a mood disorder.
Signs that indicate the presence of the disorder vary from mild to severe. The symptoms of depression include persistent sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, poor concentration, changes in appetite and weight, as well as suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Moreover, despite being a mental disorder, the condition does not only impact an individual’s emotional state, but their physical health and well-being, as well. The effects of depression include social isolation, panic disorder, chronic pain, fatigue, and unstable personal relationships.
Major depressive disorder also has distinct features that set it apart from a case of the “blues.” The characteristics of depression are extreme sadness, self-loathing, loss of interest and pleasure in activities previously enjoyed, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness.
Despite the often-debilitating symptoms, depression is fortunately manageable and treatable through the use of approaches that keep symptoms at bay. Treatment for depression usually involves the use of medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Major depressive disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by feelings of intense sadness, low self-esteem, and a reduced interest in activities a person used to enjoy. Depression primarily affects an individual’s emotional state to the point of causing impairments in daily functioning.
It is widely believed that early and appropriate management of the symptoms of depression makes treatment more effective.
Depression can cause symptoms that may manifest in psychological and physical ways. The signs of major depressive disorder are listed below.
Other signs of major depressive disorder include:
The main symptoms of major depressive disorder are persistent low mood, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, poor concentration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, as well as suicidal ideation and attempts. However, certain symptoms tend to be more common in some genders.
For instance, some symptoms of major depressive disorder that are more commonly seen in women include anxiety, fatigue, ruminating thoughts, increased irritability, and mood swings. Females develop depression at much higher rates than men, and they may also suffer from the condition throughout different stages in their lives, such as during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and even after giving birth or having a miscarriage.
Needless to say, major depressive disorder has debilitating effects on women, especially during pregnancy and after giving birth. They may become unable to look after themselves during pregnancy and may not follow recommendations. Having postpartum depression may also make it more difficult to tend to the needs of the baby and to bond with them.
On the other hand, the most common symptoms of major depressive disorder in men include angry outbursts, social isolation, spending a lot of time at work or struggling to function in daily duties at work, and displaying controlling or abusive behaviors. Males with depression are also more likely than women to have problems with drug or alcohol use and engage in risky behaviors as a result of the condition.
Male depression greatly impact men as they are more likely to go undiagnosed due to the stigma surrounding the disorder, and they are also more likely to commit suicide. This is because men are reluctant in discussing their symptoms and have an increased risk of acting impulsively on suicidal thoughts.
The condition also affects the LGBTQIA+ community at higher rates than straight and cisgender people. Some symptoms of major depressive disorder that are more common in LGBTQIA+ people include self-harm, low self-esteem, sleep disturbances, substance abuse, and suicidal behaviors.
A combination of factors such as bullying, rejection, isolation, stigma, and safety issues contribute to the development of depression in the LGBTQIA+ community. These challenges make them more likely to struggle with their mental health than people in the general population.
People with major depressive disorder have persistent feelings of sadness, a lack of interest in normal activities, and a plethora of physical and emotional problems that result from the condition.
The often-debilitating symptoms of depression can significantly reduce a person’s ability to effectively function at work or home. Signs that are indicative of the disorder can also hurt relationships with family or friends, as a depressed person can be challenging to deal with. Strained relationships further contribute to worsening self-esteem and make the afflicted person even more isolated, exacerbating depression.
The causes of major depressive disorder are physical changes in the brain, brain chemistry, hormone levels, and genetic features. Evidence exists that several regions of the brain lose gray matter volume (GMV) and shrink in individuals with depression.
Higher rates of GMV loss are observed in those who have ongoing depression with serious symptoms. Abnormal brain chemistry is another factor that contributes to the development of depressive disorders. Having low levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine can cause symptoms of the condition.
Changes in hormone levels could result in the onset of depressive states. Different periods of time including postpartum period, menopause, and menstrual cycle can trigger changes in hormone states, increasing a person’s risk for depression.
Major depressive disorder may also be an inherited condition. One may be more likely to experience a depressive disorder at some point in their life if they have blood relatives who also have depression or another mood disorder. Although the exact genes involved in the condition are still unknown, researchers believe that having a combination of certain genes could lead to major depressive disorder.
A complex interplay of factors may constitute what is depressive disorder. The risk factors for major depressive disorder are listed below.
Other risk factors for major depressive disorder include:
Different types of the illness are named according to causes and symptoms. The types of major depressive disorder are listed below.
Other types of major depressive disorder include:
Major depressive disorder is diagnosed by using varied diagnostic tools such as a physical exam, lab tests, and psychiatric assessment. A physical exam may be done by the doctor to determine if any other health conditions might be causing one’s symptoms.
This could include lab tests such as blood work to check for thyroid problems or vitamin D deficiency, which could both cause symptoms of major depressive disorder. However, if other underlying health concerns are ruled out, a patient may be referred to a psychiatrist for a more in-depth psychiatric assessment.
A psychiatric assessment involves a mental health professional asking about the patient’s thoughts, symptoms, and feelings. The psychiatrist may also use a specialized questionnaire to help an individual answer questions about their symptoms. The diagnosis will then be based on their symptoms and answers, and will be compared to the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Major depressive disorder is more common in women, individuals who experienced adverse life events, those who have a family history of depression, and people who lack social support.
Women are more likely to develop depression than men. This may be due to hormonal changes they experience at different stages of life, such as puberty, during pregnancy, and after giving birth or suffering from a miscarriage.
People who went through adverse life events such as unemployment, death of a loved one, and physical or sexual abuse are also at an elevated risk of developing major depressive disorder. The condition can run in families as well, as those who have a personal and family history of depression and other mental health problems such as bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse have a genetic predisposition to depression.
Lastly, those who suffer from a lack of social support are more likely to develop major depressive disorder, as they often report having no family, friends, or relatives they can count on in times of difficulty.
Seeking treatment for major depressive disorder is extremely important in attaining the right level of care and social support a person needs. If left untreated, depression can cause significant impairment in an individual’s work, family, and social life. The most common treatment options for major depressive disorder are listed below.
Several mental health conditions tend to have overlapping symptoms, including depression. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the key to a positive health outcome. Some of the psychological problems that are similar to depression are listed below.
Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a physician, an author, and a fitness lover, and he has a deep-seated desire to assist others in leading happier and more fulfilling lives.
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