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Published On: February 10, 2016|Categories: Mental Disorders|

We’ve all experienced intense sadness at times and may have stated that we felt depressed. While depression is a common term in today’s language and most of us can empathize with the feeling, feeling depressed isn’t the same as having a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder. 

In this article, we’ll explain what major depressive disorder is, what major depressive disorder risk factors are, the diagnostic criteria used to identify and treat it, and what you should do if you suspect clinical depression in yourself or someone you know.

What is major depressive disorder?

Major depressive disorder, often abbreviated as MDD, is a mood disorder that is characterized by persistent sadness. There are other related mood disorders, like persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder and psychotic depression, but MDD is the most common depressive disorder and the one most commonly referred to when people talk about depression.

What causes major depressive disorder?

MDD, like other mental health disorders, does not have a single root cause. While a person may experience triggering events, like job stress or a breakup, depression has many underlying causes. The following are factors that can contribute to the onset of clinical depression, according to Mayo Clinic.

  • biological differences in the brain
  • brain chemistry and neurotransmitter levels
  • imbalance of hormones
  • genetic predispositions (for example, the presence of MDD in your family may increase your likelihood of being affected by the condition)

Experiencing these causes does not guarantee a person will struggle with clinical depression, but these signs can indicate that depression is more likely to present at some point.

What are major depressive disorder risk factors?

In addition to the cause of major depressive disorder, there are also risk factors that may trigger the onset of this brain disease. While most biological causes cannot be changed with our current medical tools, the risk factors can be addressed to decrease a person’s chance of depression.

  • low self-worth
  • a tendency towards cynicism
  • dependency
  • a pessimistic perspective
  • a history of trauma, including physical abuse, sexual assault; verbal harassment, experiences in combat, financial strain, the death of a loved one or an experience in an accident
  • struggling with identity or sexual orientation
  • experiencing another mental health disorder
  • experiencing a substance use disorder
  • chronic pain
  • certain drugs and medications

Many people who struggle with a severe major depressive disorder are faced with multiple risk factors. Healing from MDD includes treating the depression and decreasing the impact of the risk factors. This can reduce the chances of a flare-up of MDD in the future.

What are the major depressive disorder criteria for diagnosis?

Noticing extreme sadness in yourself or a loved one is often the easy part. Noticing specific major depressive disorder criteria is much different. In order to receive a proper diagnosis, you’ll need to visit a medical doctor or qualified mental health professional. However, you can use the following diagnostic criteria to explain your symptoms:

  • a change in the previous functioning
  • the presence of symptoms for at least two weeks or more
  • a loss of interest or pleasure
  • feeling sad or irritable for the majority of the day on most days
  • sudden appetite or weight fluctuations
  • difficulty falling asleep or oversleeping
  • low energy
  • depressed mood
  • feeling restless or agitated
  • feeling worthless, hopeless or shameful
  • struggling to remember things
  • having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • having thoughts about self-harm
  • having a plan to harm yourself or someone else

If you or someone you know is thinking about attempting suicide, it’s time to seek emergency help. Call the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. This number is easy to remember and can provide help in a dire situation. You can also call 911 if you fear that someone is going to attempt to inflict self-harm or become a threat to someone else.

What should I do for major depressive disorder treatment?

If you think you might meet major depressive disorder criteria, it’s time to start thinking about treatment. When you get connected to mental health care, you’ll get access to a formal diagnosis, an intake assessment, the appropriate level of care, therapy, medication and any physical care you may need.

Waiting for major depressive disorder treatment is a dangerous gamble. The best thing you can do is call as soon as possible to get connected to people who will prioritize your healing from a gentle and compassionate perspective.

Major depressive disorder treatment, depending on the severity, may start with inpatient (residential) or outpatient (non-residential) treatment. You’ll be matched with a counselor or therapist who can help you process emotions, discover the root of your distress and find ways to cope with sadness and re-engage in your life.

You’ll also be coached through lifestyle changes to promote and support your mental wellness. This can include recreational therapy, healthy eating, exercise, mindfulness, animal-assisted therapy, social interaction and so forth. A continuum of care can ensure that you’re always receiving the level of care that you need in your healing process.

When you invest in your own well-being through treatment, you’ll find that all of the tools you need are provided for you. All you need to do is make the call. That’s why you should connect with The Light Program. You’ll find friendly and caring staff are ready to kick-start your journey towards recovery so you can find lasting happiness.

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