Major According to the Diagnostic and Statistical

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a mood
disorder that causes intense and continuous feeling of sadness and loss of
interest for prolonged periods of time (Belmaker & Agam, 2008). It is also
referred to as clinical depression (Belmaker & Agam, 2008).  MDD is one of the most common mental
disorders in the United States (Hasin, et all, 2005). Roughly 5% of Americans
over age 18 can report experiencing recent episodes of depression (Hasin, et
all, 2005). However, people of all ages can be affected (Lewinsohn, et. All, 1994; Lewinsohn, et. All,
1998; Widom, et. All, 2007).  MDD is diagnosed after a psychiatric
evaluation. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM) the criteria to be diagnosed with MDD is you must have 5 or
more symptoms, and experience them at least once a day for a period of more
than 2 weeks (American Psychological Association, 2013).  Symptoms of MDD include: a) constant feeling
of sadness, emptiness, and/or irritability nearly every day, b) thoughts of
self harm or committing suicide, c) reduced interest in activities that were
once enjoyed, d) difficulty sleeping or wanting to sleep more than usual, e) loss
of, or significant reduction in, energy, f) difficulty focusing, g) maintaining
conversations, h) increased difficulty with decision making, and i) changes in
appetite that lead to weight gain or loss (American Psychological Association,
2013).  In addition to psychiatric
evaluations, physical exams and lab tests for underlying physical health
problems, such as proper thyroid functioning (Fava & Kendler, 2000). 

causes of MDD are unknown (Fava & Kendler, 2000; Otte, et. All, 2016). Risk
factors, such as environmental and biological factors, can increase risk of
developing the condition by affecting brain chemistry (Fava & Kendler,
2000; Otte, et. All, 2016). MDD can be difficult for people to “snap out of
it”.  Chemistry and hormone balance may
lead to difficulty for maintenance of a stable mood. Genetics is a risk factor
for MDD.  For example, first-degree
relatives, whether they did the rearing, or not, can influence how prone one is
to developing the disease. Environmental factors that can exacerbate the
symptoms of depression (Fava & Kendler, 2000; Otte, et. All, 2016;
Sullivan, et. All, 2000). Such examples include: a) lack of support system, b) stress,
c) illness in self or loved one, d) legal difficulties, e) financial struggles,
f) job problems, g) history of abuse (drug, alcohol, physical, emotional,
and/or sexual), and h) other maladaptive coping skills (Belmaker & Agam,
2008; Fava & Kendler, 2000; Otte, et. All, 2016; Sullivan, et. All, 2000).  When treating MDD, one may experience
additional complications that make overcoming the disease more difficult. These
can include:  a) obesity and weight
related illnesses, b) pain management and physical illness, c) alcohol and/or
drug abuse, d) co-morbid psychological disorders, e) family/relationship
hostility, f) work/school complications, g) social isolation, h) previous suicidal
attempts, i) self-mutilation (i.e., cutting), and j) shortened lifespan due to
medical condition (Belmaker & Agam, 2008; Fava & Kendler, 2000; Otte,
et. All, 2016; Widom, et. All, 2007).

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We all experience low moments in life.

However, MDD differs from this due to the amount, length, and the intensity of
the symptoms (American Psychological Association, 2013; Belmaker & Agam,
2008).  Ways to reduce the risk factors
of MDD include: a) stress management, b) reach out to family and friends, c) get
treatment at the earliest sign of a problem, and d) consider getting long-term
maintenance treatment (Belmaker & Agam, 2008; Blumenthal, et. All, 2007;
Clen, et. All, 2011; Fava & Kendler, 2000). 
When prevention is not enough, treatment is needed.  MDD treatment can be multifaceted. The two
most common ways MDD is treated is through medications and/or psychotherapy
(Belmaker & Agam, 2008; Blumenthal, et. All, 2007; Clen, et. All, 2011;
Fava & Kendler, 2000). Common medications used to treat depression are Selective
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Prozac, Celexa, Tricyclic
Antidepressants, Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft (Medications for Depression,
n.d.; Fava & Kendler, 2000; Lopez-Munoz & Alamo, 2009; Tricyclic antidepressants, 2016). 
Psychotherapy can be helpful for the patient to discover and further
understand issues that are causing or worsening the illness, improve conflict
and stress management, affect and self-esteem enhancement, refine communication
skills, develop positive coping skills, and recapture a sense of satisfaction
and command in one’s own life (Blumenthal, et. All, 2007; Clen, et. All, 2011;
Fava & Kendler, 2000). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is common type of
therapy that is used for psychotherapy (Fava & Kendler, 2000; Piet & Hougaard,
2011). Lifestyle adjustments, such as improved nutritional habits, avoiding drugs
and alcohol, consistently exercising, and better sleep quality can help ease
certain symptoms. People with severe MDD or thoughts of harming themselves may
need to enter an inpatient psychiatric facility. Others may take part in an
outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve (Blumenthal, et. All, 2007).

If medication and therapy have not shown to be effective, Electroconvulsive
Therapy (ECT) may assist in recovering from the illness (Fava & Kendler,

Sadly, MDD is sometimes left untreated
(Coryell, et. All, 1995). However, depression has been shown to be one of the
disorders that is effectively treated, better than other mood disorders
(Belmaker & Agam, 2008; Blumenthal, et. All, 2007; Clen, et. All, 2011;
Fava & Kendler, 2000). Medication and therapy have successful in
alleviating the symptoms. Episodes and periodic stressors can lead to the
symptoms returning. It is recommended that people treat the illness similar to
physical disorders, in where they consult with a mental health professional
frequently when symptoms arise (Kessler, et. All, 1996; Fava & Kendler,
2000). When treating depression, following recommended treatment plan is
important (Blumenthal, et. All, 2007). Missing therapy sessions and follow-up
appointments may slow down recovery (Blumenthal, et. All, 2007). Prematurely
halting the intake medications is not recommended unless instructed to do so by
your healthcare provider (Blumenthal, et. All, 2007). Calling the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a local crisis or mental health service can help
people who are in immediate help (Home, n.d.). These can be free and available
24 hours a day (Home, n.d.).