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Major Depressive Disorder Treatment: Everything You Need To Know About Major Depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious mental health condition that can have a profound impact on a person’s life. It is estimated that it affects over 16 million adults in the United States alone and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, affects your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It is not the blues you can easily get rid of. Major depression can cause a number of emotional and physical issues. You may find it difficult to carry out your regular daily tasks, and you may have thoughts about your life being worthless.

Fortunately, with the right treatment, major depressive disorder is a treatable condition. This article discusses the various types of major depressive disorder treatments and the potential benefits associated with each of them.

What is Major Depressive Disorder?

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious mental health condition characterized by a depressed mood that lasts for an extended time and affects the person’s daily functioning. It could disrupt a person’s capacity to work, rest, learn, eat, and take pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable.

It is important to note that major depressive disorder is not a sign of personal weakness but rather a medical condition that requires proper diagnosis and treatment.

Major depressive disorder is typically diagnosed based on a person’s symptoms and history. Major depressive disorder diagnosis is made by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, who will evaluate the person’s symptoms and ask questions about their personal history. The diagnosis of major depressive disorder is based on criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Major Depressive Disorder Symptoms

While the symptoms of depression can vary from person to person; there are also common signs that indicate the presence of this condition. Major depressive disorder criteria for diagnosis according to the DSM-5 include experiencing low mood or lack of interest and enjoyment for two straight weeks. Along with these, the following must also be present to make it a total of five or more symptoms in a patient.

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Low energy or tiredness
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Lack of focus
  • Feeling restless and irritated or slowed down and lethargic
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Major depressive disorder also presents specific features or subtypes. Let’s have a brief overview of these subtypes.

Diagnosis Description Symptoms
Melancholic depression Melancholic depression can especially get worse in the mornings after waking up.
  • Loss of pleasure in everyday activities
  • Lack of response to stimuli that are often enjoyable (even when something good happens, it does not cause many feelings)
Psychotic depression Psychotic depression is major depressive disorder with some form of psychosis. 
  • Delusions or hallucinations
Atypical depression Atypical depression is characterized by mood reactivity and more interpersonal difficulties.
  • Mood reactivity (the mood lifts with positive situations)
  • Hypersomnia
  • Significant weight gain or increased appetite
  • Leaden paralysis (heavy feeling in arms and legs)
  • Sensitivity to interpersonal rejection leading to serious impairment in social and professional spheres
Peripartum and postpartum depression Peripartum and postpartum depression are forms of depression that can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth.
  • Lack of interest in the baby or motherhood
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Excessive worry about the baby’s health or well-being
  • Difficulty sleeping, even when the baby is asleep
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) Seasonal changes affect one’s mood and result in a mental disorder.
  • Depressed mood from fall/winter to spring
  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating and weight gain
Anxious Depression Anxious depression is characterized by high levels of anxiety.
  • Feeling restless and tense
  • Concentration problems
  • Feeling of impending doom and losing control
Catatonic Depression Features of catatonia must be present during an episode of depression for the most part. 
  • Stupor
  • Negativism
  • Inability to express emotions
  • Extreme social isolation
  • Psychomotor retardation
Mixed Depression Manic/ hypomanic symptoms are also present during a depressive episode.
  • Elevated mood
  • Grandiosity
  • Excessive talking
  • Increased energy
  • Involvement in dangerous activities
  • Insomnia
  • Racing thoughts

Causes of Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder can be triggered by a variety of factors. While it is not known exactly what causes the disorder, it is believed to be a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental influences.

  • Genetics. A strong link exists between major depressive disorder and genetics. People with a family history of depression are at an increased risk of developing major depressive disorder themselves. Studies have shown that identical twins are more likely to develop major depressive disorder than non-identical twins, which points to a genetic component.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that act as messengers between nerve cells. Common examples of these chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Their imbalances can lead to depression.
  • Hormones. Hormonal imbalances can also be linked to major depressive disorder. During puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, hormones can fluctuate significantly. This can lead to changes in mood and an increased risk of developing depression.
  • Stress. Stress can be both a cause and a symptom of depression. People who are exposed to long-term stress, such as from physical or emotional abuse, may be more likely to develop major depressive disorder.
  • Drug abuse. Substance abuse, whether it be alcohol or drugs, is a risk factor for developing major depressive disorder. The use of drugs and alcohol can lead to imbalances in brain chemistry and hormones, which can trigger depression.
  • Other factors. Low self-esteem, a negative outlook on life, or social isolation can also contribute to the development of major depressive disorder.

Treatment Options for Major depressive disorder

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, ask for professional help to get the treatment you need. Treatment for major depressive disorder typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can support a person with managing their symptoms and let them understand the thoughts and feelings that may be contributing to depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are the two most commonly used psychotherapies for major depressive disorder treatment.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an evidence-based therapy for treating major depressive disorder. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected and that we can change our feelings by changing our thoughts and behaviors. CBT aims to teach individuals how to identify and challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, adaptive ones.

In CBT for depression, individuals are taught how to recognize and modify faulty thinking patterns and beliefs. It helps people change the behavior that contributes to their depression to alleviate their symptoms. In addition, CBT often focuses on helping individuals manage stress and increase their problem-solving skills. CBT has been found to be highly effective for depression, with individuals reporting a significant reduction in depressive symptoms following treatment.

Interpersonal therapy is a form of psychotherapy focusing on interpersonal relationships and how they affect a person’s mental health. IPT has been used to treat a range of mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder.

IPT helps people understand their relationships with others and how it contributes to their depression. It also encourages them to make changes to improve their relationships and communication with other people. Techniques used in IPT may include exploring patterns of communication, developing problem-solving skills, and improving interpersonal skills.

With IPT, an individual may challenge negative thinking patterns and develop more positive ways of looking at situations. Through this process, people learn to take responsibility for their own behavior rather than blaming themselves for their depression. IPT also helps people identify and address problems in their relationships more effectively.

Overall, IPT is an effective treatment for major depressive disorder. It can help reduce symptoms of depression, develop better interpersonal relationships, improve interpersonal functioning, and enhance the quality of life.

Medication

Medication, such as antidepressants, can also help manage your major depressive disorder symptoms. Common medications used to treat the major depressive disorder include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram, and escitalopram;
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as venlafaxine, duloxetine, and desvenlafaxine;
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and doxepin;
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and isocarboxazid;
  • Atypical antidepressants, such as bupropion, trazodone, and mirtazapine.

Only a certified healthcare professional can prescribe medication for your major depressive disorder treatment, so consult with your doctor before starting any medication. These medications may take several weeks to become fully effective, so patience is important.

Remember that medication should not be taken without the approval and supervision of a doctor. Your doctor will be able to provide more information about the medications available, their side effects, and their interactions with other medications. The most common side effects from these medications may include nausea, weight gain, dry mouth, fatigue, low sex drive, and insomnia. If side effects become severe, you should consult your doctor to adjust your treatment plan if necessary.

Lifestyle Changes

Another form of major depressive disorder treatment that has gained popularity in recent years is alternative therapies. While medication and therapy are essential parts of treatment, lifestyle changes can also play an important role in managing and reducing symptoms. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to manage your major depressive disorder:

  1. Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential for your mental and physical health. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants late in the day.
  2. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression. It can also help improve your overall health by fixing your sleep quality and energy levels, decreasing stress, and more. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week.
  3. Eat a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet can help boost your mood and energy levels. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and saturated fats.
  4. Stay connected. Socializing with friends and family can make you feel supported and less isolated, and it improves your overall mood. Make an effort to stay connected to those close to you, and make plans to get together regularly.
  5. Practice relaxation. Stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms of depression. Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or meditation may lower stress and improve your mental health.

If you’re living with major depressive disorder, taking care of yourself and making healthy lifestyle choices is important.

Final Thoughts on Major Depressive Disorder Treatment

Studies have shown that the most effective treatment for people with major depressive disorder is a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Psychotherapy can help individuals understand and cope with their depression, while medication reduces depression symptoms. Finally, lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, spending time in nature, getting enough sleep, following a healthy diet, and practicing relaxation techniques, can also help.

It is important for individuals experiencing symptoms of major depressive disorder to seek professional help. If left untreated, major depressive disorder can become more severe and cause further complications. With the right treatment and support, individuals can recover from major depressive disorder and live happy and productive lives.

Get professional online depression treatment at MEDvidi from licensed specialists in your state. You will get a personalized treatment plan to cope with your major depressive disorder and support on your journey from a top medical clinic’s team. Taking the first step towards treatment can feel daunting, but it is the best way to take control of your mood and overall well-being.

Find additional mental health professionals that treat Major Depression.

Dr. Taryn Fernandes, MD
Author: Dr. Taryn Fernandes, MD

Born and raised in Northern California, graduated from San Diego State University in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. Continued my education with a double Master’s degree in healthcare administration and management and biomedical sciences. Finished my education with an MD from Chicago medical school in 2016. Attended internal medicine residency program at Northwestern Medicine and began practicing in 2020. My primary practices have been mental health, medical weight loss, Geriatrics and Regenerative Medicine. My practice philosophy is providing evidence based, patient centered care. I believe mental wellness is the starting point in achieving overall health, happiness and success. With the correct tools and guidance, the possibilities are endless. I am honored to guide patients along their journey to reach their personal health goals.

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