Understanding Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder is a mental disorder characterized by a persistent low mood as well as loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities.  It is also known as major depression, unipolar depression, unipolar disorder, clinical depression, or simply depression.

Causes of depressive disorder

Research have concluded that major depressive disorder is caused by a complex combination of biological, psychological, and even social factors.  The precise cause varies from one individual to another. 

Depression is also hereditary to an extent, estimated to be approximately 40% for women and 30% for men.  Meanwhile evolutionists believe that major depression might be expected to reduce one’s reproductive fitness.

Symptoms of depressive disorder

Major depression can be so serious that it affects one’s ability to work, family and school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health.  People suffering from major depressive episodes usually experience a pervasive low mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in activities they used to enjoy. 

They may also get preoccupied with feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness or hopelessness.  Other symptoms include poor concentration or memory, withdrawal from social situations and activities, decreased appetite, insomnia, chronic pain, reduced sex drive, and thoughts of death or suicide. 

In severe cases, depressed people may experience psychotic symptoms like delusions or hallucinations, usually of an unpleasant nature.

How depressive disorder is diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made if a person has suffered one or more major depressive episodes.  It is based on the patient’s self-reported experiences and observed behavior. 

This disorder has no laboratory test, although physicians often test for physical conditions that may cause similar symptoms before arriving at a diagnosis.

How to treat depressive disorder?

Common treatments for depression include psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, and electroconvulsive therapy.  Psychotherapy is the used for people under 18, while electroconvulsive therapy is only used as a last resort. 

Treatment is usually given outside the clinic or hospital, only treating it in an inpatient unit if there is a significant risk to self or others.