Dissecting Major Depressive Disorder

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — October 14, 2021 — 4 min read
We all get sad sometimes. But there is a big difference between feeling sad and having depression. Major depressive disorder (MDD), commonly known as depression, is a serious mood disorder. It causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think, and act. To be diagnosed, symptoms must last at least two weeks.

Who Has Depression?

Roughly 7% of the U.S. population has depression. It can occur to anyone of any age, gender, or ethnicity. However, it typically first appears during the late teens to early 20s. It is believed to be more common among women. However, that could just be because women are more likely to seek help. No matter who you are, signs of depression are never normal. If you have symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of depression can differ for each person. Not everyone who has depression experiences every symptom. Some symptoms may be more severe or last longer than others. Some common symptoms are:
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability that can lead to angry outbursts
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain, headaches, or digestive problems

What Causes Depression?

The exact cause of MDD is unknown and can differ between patients. Some factors known to increase the chance of developing depression are:
  • Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain.
  • Genetics: Depression can be hereditary. One family member having depression increases the odds for others.
  • Personality: People with low self-esteem, prone to stress, or generally pessimistic.
  • Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty.
  • Lifestyle changes: Circumstances changing due to an event or milestone. This includes losing a job, moving, pregnancy, divorce, death of a loved one, etc.
  • Physical Illness: A serious medical diagnosis, or lack thereof. Symptoms or prognosis can be difficult for you and your loved ones to handle.
You can help prevent depression by proactively seeking a therapist. It could be helpful to have someone navigate you through difficult times. They can also help recognize early signs and treat symptoms before they worsen.

Types of Treatment

Majority of individuals with MDD find treatment to be successful. Unfortunately, only about a third of people with MDD will seek treatment from a mental health professional. Many think they don’t need treatment or can treat it themselves. However, MDD is a serious condition that should be treated by a medical professional. Some effective treatment options are:


Antidepressants are medicines that treat depression. They help improve the way your brain uses chemicals to control mood or stress. These medications may take weeks to take full effect. You must continue taking the medication until instructed to stop by your doctor.


Regularly talking to a trained therapist helps you:
  • Identify the triggers that contribute to your depression
  • Replace negative behaviors with positive ones
  • Better cope with stress
  • Set goals
  • Stick to your treatment plan

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

This medical treatment is usually reserved for patients with severe MDD who have not responded to other treatments. It involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia. They typically receive ECT 2-3 times a week for a total of 6-12 treatments. 

Lifestyle changes

Creating healthier habits can help combat symptoms of depression. These could include:
  • Focusing on self-care
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Exercising
  • Sleeping more
  • Avoiding alcohol or drugs
  • Spending more time outside
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Setting realistic goals to build confidence and motivation

Get Screened

A depression screening can help spot the first signs for someone who may otherwise not seek professional medical advice. Anyone suffering from several depression symptoms above for more than two weeks should get screened. Screenings are free, anonymous, and confidential. Some reasons to get screened are:
  • Depression is a serious medical illness that requires treatment
  • Depression can lead to suicide
  • Symptoms of depression can be mistaken for a "normal part of life"
  • Depression can co-occur and complicate other medical conditions
  • Screenings are often the first step in getting help
Screenings are not a professional diagnosis. It will assess potential symptoms and provide a referral if needed. You should see a qualified mental health professional if you think you might have MDD.
mental health screening

Take a screening here.

Don’t Give Up

If you are diagnosed with depression, do not feel guilty or ashamed. It is treatable, but you need to take the first step. Take an online screening or meet with a medical professional today. Take back control of your life by learning to control your depression. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

If you are considering suicide, call our Access Crisis Line at 1-800-939-5911. You can also call 911 or your doctor if you are currently seeking treatment with a medical professional.
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