Five Things to Know About Major Depressive Disorder

by Anne Marie Dietrich, MD

While most people experience periods of sadness or helplessness, a significant part of the population deals with Major Depressive Disorder, a serious mental health condition that needs to be addressed through professional treatment. About 16 million American adults, or nearly 7% of the population, experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

Here are five things to know about Major Depressive Disorder or MDD.

1. Major Depressive Disorder is the most common form of depression.

Although the full term “Major Depressive Disorder” is used less often than simply “depression,” it is the official term for the most common form of the disorder. “Clinical depression” is also frequently used. People who experience Major Depressive Disorder find that their mood affects all parts of their lives. You can learn more about other types of depression here.

2. Symptoms can vary between people.

Major Depressive Disorder can manifest in a variety of ways, and each individual experiences symptoms differently. If you experience symptoms or signs nearly every day for at least two weeks, you might be suffering from depression.

Symptoms can include the following:

  • Feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in certain hobbies or activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Changes in sleep or appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Recurring aches or pains

3. A variety of factors can cause depression.

There is no one single cause of depression. It may occur spontaneously or be triggered by a certain event. Based on years of research, scientists believe that a few different factors may contribute to depression.

Trauma can cause depression, especially when experienced at an early age; how the brain responds to stress can be affected by trauma. Major life events, such as finances, moving, or relationship changes can also potentially have an effect. Genetics and brain structure can also affect whether or not someone develops depression; some disorders tend to run in families. Other factors to consider include other medical conditions, such as chronic pain or drug and alcohol abuse.

4. Women and young people are more likely to be affected.

Major Depressive Disorder affects all kinds of people, but women are 70% more likely than men to experience it. Additionally, depression affects young people more so than any other age — people ages 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people 50 or older.

5. While there is no cure for Major Depressive Disorder, it is treatable.

When struggling with depression, it’s common to feel hopeless about the future, however, there are a variety of treatments available. The most commonly prescribed treatments include various forms of therapy, medications, improved sleep hygiene, exercise/yoga, and some supplements. Often a combination can lead to better patient results. You can learn about specific types of therapies and medications from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Antidepressants can help alleviate symptoms, but some people need to try various medications or dosage amounts before they find a regimen that works for them. The Genecept Assay, a genetic test, can potentially help a clinician determine which medication(s) might work better for a patient, leading to more personalized treatment, and hopefully improved outcomes. Learn more about the testing process and how it may be able to help your patients. If you are a patient, learn how you can get the Genecept Assay from a clinician.

About the Author

Anne Marie Dietrich, MD

Dr. Dietrich attended the University of Maryland Medical School and completed her psychiatry residency at Georgetown University. She is a psychiatrist who has been in private practice for 25 years in Alexandria, VA, and enjoys working with all ages, from adolescence to seniors.

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