Major Depressive Disorder

major depressive disorder symptoms

What Is Depression?

Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) is a psychological disorder characterised by feelings of intense sadness and/or a loss of motivation and enjoyment in life. Depression is more than feeling sad, it is a serious mental health problem that can have impacts on that person personal and professional life. Depression often begins in the teens, 20s or 30s, but it can happen at any age.

Major Depressive Disorder symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Predominant depressed mood (sometimes with periods of irritability)
  • Lac of enjoyment in life and things that gave you joy
  • Loss or increase in weight due to appetite changes
  • Changes in sleeping
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Feeling physically heavy and lacking motivation
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Trouble making decisions that used to be easy
  • Feeling like your thinking is slowed
  • Feeling like every day is “ground hog day”
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

major depressive disorder symptoms

As I discussed, depression is more than feeling sad. The symptoms must:

  • last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression
  • Not be due to a medical condition (e.g. head injury as that is another form of depression)

How common is it?

  • 3 million Australians are living with depression or anxiety
  • On average, around 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience some level of depression.
  • Only 35 per cent of Australians with anxiety and depression access treatment.
  • Men are less likely to seek help than women, with only 1 in 4 men who experience anxiety or depression accessing treatment.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, it’s estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS. 

What are the risk factors?

  • Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life. However, depression can occur in people with no family history, which is why some scientists believe it can be a product of both genes and life experiences.
  • Personality: People with low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism, or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, may be prone to depression.
  • Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems
  • General Medical illnesses: Increased rates of depression have been reported among patients with several general medical illnesses. Among these are cardiovascular disease, AIDS, respiratory disorders, cancer, and several neurologic conditions

How Is Depression Treated?

Treatment of choice for depression includes both Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Meta-Cognitive Therapy (MCT). These approaches are complementary, relatively short-term therapies, focused on assisting the individual to identify unhelpful thoughts, beliefs about thinking, unhelpful behaviours and problematic emotional experiences to learn or relearn healthier skills and habits. Both are well validated, widely used therapies which are stand-alone treatments and/or with medication. Research indicates that individuals who learn CBT and MCT strategies to assist with their depression continue to improve over long-term follow up. Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment can take a few weeks or much longer. In many cases, significant improvement can be made in 10 to 15 sessions.

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