We all have moments when we feel down in the dumps, but when that depression encroaches on how we live, on our daily activities, and on our feelings of self-worth, that’s a sign of major depression, which is also known as clinical depression, or major depressive disorder. There are many types of depression, and major depression is the most severe form of the disorder.
What Is Major Depression?
Major depression can be identified by the patient feeling a persistent, enduring sense of hopelessness. When this is the case, it becomes too difficult and burdensome to put in the effort to maintain normal behavior, such as:
- Meeting the standards of professional and academic behavior
- Spending time with friends and family
- Enjoying hobbies and activities
- Eating and sleeping
A patient may also feel the following effects as a result of major depression:
- A constant state of fatigue
- Feelings of unfounded guilt or worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate and focus
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Weight loss or weight gain
While these effects are true of any form of depression, they have to be in place for two weeks for a diagnosis of major depression, consuming most of each day of that period. For weight fluctuations to be a diagnostic criterion, they have to account for five percent of the patient’s original weight over the period of a month.
In 2012, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that around seven percent of the adult population of the United States – about 16 million people – experienced a period of major depression in a single year.
While major depression can strike anyone, regardless of race, demographics or lifestyle, there are certain factors that put more people at risk than others. Poverty, childhood abuse and a family history of depression can make a person more likely to develop major depression as they get older. Extreme amounts of grief, whether from the death of a loved one or due to divorce, can also be a trigger.
Treating Major Depression
Major depression is a serious condition, but there are a number of ways it can be treated. Antidepressants like Zoloft (belonging to the family of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are a popular method of pharmacological treatment, with Zoloft being prescribed more than 29.5 million times for major depression in adult patients in the US in 2007 alone. SSRIs help restore balance in the brain’s neurotransmitters by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin, which is considered to help in feeling good and positive.
Given the severity of major depression, a comprehensive treatment plan will include both a course of antidepressants and psychotherapy, the latter of which helps address the emotional and psychological causes behind the depression. A common form of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, whereby a psychologist helps their patient understand the dynamics behind the onset of a depressive period. That understanding is used to develop healthy ways of dealing with the effects of the depression.
Major depression is very difficult to live with, but there is always hope in treatment. At Black Bear Lodge, we know that living with depression is not simply a case of waiting until it passes, which is why we want to help you as much as we can. If you have questions about what you’re feeling, if you’d like to start a treatment program, or if you’re concerned about a friend or family member, we’re standing by to answer your questions and begin the process of healing and recovery.