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December 1, 2022

What Is Major Depressive Disorder and How to Treat It?

Every individual has experienced the feeling of sadness and hopelessness at some point in their life. However, sometimes it can stop being just a feeling that will pass and turn into a severe mental condition – a major depressive disorder. But what is major depressive disorder, can it be treated, and how? Here is all you should know.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mental illness characterized by accentuated feelings of sadness, helplessness, and despair that last for a more extended period of time. It’s usually followed by a general lack of interest and can negatively affect all aspects of an individual’s life. People can experience one MDD episode in a lifetime, but recurrent episodes are more common and demand treatment (usually consisting of antidepressant medications and talk therapy).

What Is Major Depressive Disorder?

MDD, also known as clinical depression, is a common affective mental disorder but one that belongs to the more severe side of the depression spectrum. Loss of interest in the once enjoyed activities, mood deterioration, and low self-esteem that last for at least two weeks are the typical signs of clinical depression. However, MDD can be diagnosed only by a licensed specialist after careful examination and reports provided by the patient.

There are many misconceptions about depression – some look at it as a sign of weakness, and others think it’s something you can deal with on your own. However, some even don’t believe it’s real! It only makes those suffering from MDD stir to seek much-needed medical assistance.

The sad truth is that the prevalence of MDD is constantly on the rise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 8.4 % of the adult US population were diagnosed with at least one episode of MDD in 2020. It means that around 21 million people on a national level were coping with a serious mental illness that made dealing with their everyday lives much harder.

Are Gender and Ethnicity Related to the Development of Major Depression?

NIMH found that women are affected by MDD almost twice as often as men – and it can’t be all explained by hormonal differences. Here are some other reasons women are more at risk of experiencing symptoms of clinical depression:

  • Women often feel obligated to keep everyone around them happy, forgetting about themselves,
  • Women are more likely to become victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse,
  • Women face gender inequalities on many different levels.

Women of color, on the other hand, have an additional MDD trigger – we have to deal with racism daily. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that women of color face an overwhelming mental health crisis.

A study provided by the previously mentioned national institute shows that people of mixed ethnicity are at a bigger risk of suffering from MDD episodes. Another study that examined the differences in MDD manifestation concluded that Caucasians are more likely to experience acute episodes of clinical depression but that minority populations frequently suffer from prolonged and more severe forms of MDD. Add the fact that racial minorities often don’t have good access to medical care and professional therapists who can help them deal with stress and MDD. Many women of color are forced to suffer in silence, making MDD’s health consequences severe and long-lasting.

How Is Major Depression Diagnosed? The MDD Symptoms

MDD is a disorder many usually think of when discussing depression in general. However, no objective test for diagnosing MDD has been found until this day. The diagnosis is based on psychiatric evaluation, lab results, and physical examination.

In the US, many specialists use information and criteria listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition). According to it, one of the symptoms must be a loss of interest or mood declining for at least two weeks, and they must impact an individual’s everyday functioning. Additionally, a patient must experience at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling of sadness, despair, and hopelessness,
  • Sleeping too little or too much,
  • Not enjoying activities and hobbies they once loved,
  • Feeling frustration and anger without a valid cause,
  • Lack of energy and constant tiredness,
  • Significantly reduced or increased appetite,
  • Troubles with focusing and remembering,
  • Suicidal thoughts (or even suicide attempts)
  • Restlessness and feelings of anxiety,

Differencing MDD From Anxiety – Get All the Information

MDD and anxiety are two separate disorders but can often occur together. Moreover, one of these disorders is a risk factor for the occurrence of the other one. However, anxiety symptoms are not the same as those an individual going through an MDD episode experiences.

Anxiety episodes look similar to panic attacks – stomach ache, accelerated heartbeat, choking, and dizziness are manifestations that follow anxiety as well, but they just last much longer. On the other hand, the easiest way to differentiate between anxiety and MDD is by the dominant mood they are causing. While anxiety implies the feeling of worry, people going through depressive episodes feel sad and hopeless.

What Causes Major Depressive Disorder?

It’s not known what the exact cause of MDD is, but it is considered that social, biological, and psychological elements can all be triggers. Some of the factors that can increase the risk of clinical depression occurrence are:

  • Abuse
  • Childhood trauma,
  • Substance use,
  • Genetics (history of MDD in a family),
  • Loss of a loved one,
  • The negative impact of social media,
  • Specific medical conditions (like hypothyroidism or cancer),
  • Certain medications (such as corticosteroids),
  • Personal conflict,
  • Work stress.

What Is a Major Depressive Disorder Single Episode?

For someone to be diagnosed with MDD, they must suffer from at least one depressive episode. Depressive symptoms a person is feeling must be present constantly, almost every day, for a prolonged period. If the episode doesn’t seem to reappear, it will be diagnosed as Major Depression, Single Episode. However, when more episodes occur one after another, it is classified as Major Depression, Recurrent.

Some people suffer only through a single depressive episode – but that is not the majority. Studies show that around 60% of those who previously experienced one MDD episode will most likely suffer through it again. Of those who experienced the second episode, 70% are likely to suffer from a third – the more episodes a person experiences, the bigger are the chances that another one will appear.

Impact of MDD on Everyday Life

Individuals suffering from MDD have difficulties in functioning properly in every life aspect, which reflects on their quality of life. Interaction with others, working, studying, performing everyday chores, and dating with depression can become almost impossible. It’s not uncommon for education, career, and personal relationships to suffer when a person is experiencing severe mood deterioration. However, the longer these problems are ignored, the more severe consequences MDD will leave.

According to the predictions of the World Health Organization, by 2030, MDD will be the most common cause of disease burden worldwide – so it’s not something to take on lightly. Keep in mind that MDD is one of the mental disorders most commonly connected with suicide attempts. Studies have shown that many of those who had attempted to take their own lives (more than 60% on a global level) had suffered from MDD. Early MDD diagnosis and proper treatment can help individuals deal with all the bed in the world they struggle with and prevent suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

How to Treat MDD?

The important thing to realize is that MDD is one of the most severe but still treatable disorders – as long as you are willing to take care of yourself properly. Depending on the symptoms and their severity, your doctor may offer antidepressant treatment, talk therapy, or both. But does therapy work when it comes to MDD?

While medication can ease some MDD manifestations you’re feeling, they are not a good long-term solution. Seeking women’s therapy and women’s counseling, on the other hand, can have only a positive impact on your mental health – alongside finding the right social support and learning helpful self-care tips.

Therapists use many different methods in treating MDD, including psychodynamic, interpersonal, and cognitive-behavioral treatment. All you have to do is put yourself out there, find information on reputable counselors for women, choose those that suit you the most – and commit to treatment.

No Need to Research Further – Women of Color Therapy Can Help You Cope With Clinical Depression

If therapy for women of color is what you’re seeking, let us assist you in choosing a therapist and book your first therapy appointment. With our specially designed counseling for women and WOC workshops, we can help you deal with MDD. Together, we can fight it and reach the ultimate goal of improving your health and, therefore, your quality of life. There is no time to waste! Contact us now, find all the information you need, and use our resources to start working on a better tomorrow.