Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression, is a mental disorder distinguished by debilitating melancholia and a markedly diminished loss of interest in all or most daily and once enjoyable activities. MDD is a crippling condition that affects body, mood and thoughts. It affects not only the person but everything concerning the person’s life, family, friends, work, eating, sleeping and overall health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is a chronic disorder that affects approximately 6.7% of the U.S. population. It is estimated that 20 – 25% of adults may suffer an episode at some point during their lifetimes. Approximately half of the people who have had one major depressive episode have relapses or reoccurrences.
MDD can be triggered by distressing occurrences, such as:
- Grief over loss of a loved one through death or divorce
- Major life changes such as moving, retirement, or job loss or change
- Relationship conflicts with loved ones or superiors
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Financial problems
- Trauma of a major illness
Many people experience sadness or a passing blue mood due to life’s challenges. The feeling of sadness is a natural reaction to painful circumstances that passes as person comes to terms with difficulties. A person who suffers from MDD, however, can be defined as having a depressed mood the majority of the day, nearly every day, consistently for a two week period. This would represent a change in normal mood characterized by a noticeable impairment of normal daily functioning.
If you are unsure whether or not you or a loved one is suffering from MDD, the presence of 5 or more of the following symptoms may signal the disorder:
- It’s normal to experience some tears, despair or emptiness after a specific event such as job loss or the end of a relationship. Symptoms lasting two weeks or more, can signal MDD especially if they are interfering with other aspects of your life.
- Common everyday stressors become too difficult to handle, leaving you anxious and irritable.
- You experience a marked change in sleeping habits, sleeping excessively or suffering from insomnia.
- You have an obvious loss of interest in family, friends, hobbies and social activities that you once enjoyed.
- You notice a sudden significant weight gain or loss.
- You are easily distracted, have difficulty concentrating or making even minor decisions.
- You experience physical pain such as headaches, stomachaches or backaches with no underlying cause.
- You feel fatigued or exhausted.
- You suffer from self loathing, self criticism and irrational guilt.
- You are plagued by overwhelming feelings of hopelessness.
- You have suicidal thoughts or plans.
There are excellent treatment options available for depression, such as medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Talking with a trained therapist is considered a key treatment for depression. Therapy can help identify the cause of unhealthy negative thoughts and behaviors and help you find positive ways to cope and solve problems. Therapy can assist you in regaining a sense of control over your life and aid in reclaiming your happiness.
Antidepressants are classified by their affect on naturally occurring brain chemicals that affect mood. There are a variety of antidepressant medications available that your healthcare provider can recommend for you. Other medications and supplements may also be prescribed. Finding the right medication for you may take time and patience. Work with your doctor to optimize the best use of medications to provide the best symptom relief for you.
Some myths about depression:
- Depression can be overcome by working more. In fact, overworking can be a sign of depression especially in men.
- Depression is not a serious illness. Depression is the top cause of disability in American adults and is a serious medical condition.
- Men are less affected than women. The truth is men often hide their feelings and symptoms and lash out in self destructive ways such as drinking, using drugs and behaving recklessly. Woman may seek help more often than men.
- People with depression are just wallowing in self pity. Biological evidence of abnormal brain activity can be seen in the brain scans of people with MDD. Brain chemicals that carry signals to nerves are shown to be out of balance in depressed people.
- Treatment means drugs for life. Taking antidepressants when needed does not necessarily signal a lifetime of medication. Your doctor can determine the right time to decrease or discontinue medication.
- People with depression cry all the time. Many people hide feelings of worthlessness, uselessness and their emotional void. Even without outward symptoms, depression left untreated takes its toll.
- I’m fated to have depression because it’s in my family. Family history does not mean depression is in your future, especially if you have an awareness of the warning signs and take positive action toward prevention.
- Depression is difficult to treat. People who seek help do get better almost 70% of the time.
Major depression is not an illness that you can treat on your own. However, there are steps you can take to facilitate your treatment:
- Take your medication as prescribed and keep your therapy appointments.
- Know your triggers. Watch for warning signs should symptoms worsen or return and contact your doctor if necessary to adjust your medication or change the course of treatment.
- Get moving. Exercise and physical activity can reduce depression symptoms.
- Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs that can worsen symptoms and make depression harder to treat.
- Educate yourself about depression and your condition. Knowledge really is power.
- Consider alternative therapies in addition to conventional treatment like acupuncture, yoga, meditation or massage therapy.
- Consult with your healthcare provider about adding supplements that may help ease symptoms.
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Extra Nutrients by Thorne Research is a comprehensive multiple vitamin and mineral formula that provides added benefits of these important antioxidants; reduced glutathione, R-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, and hesperidin methyl chalcone. This product provides the active forms of the B vitamins including folate and vitamins B2, B6, and B12. It contains advanced mineral forms for optimal absorption; citrate malates, picolinates, and chromium to correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies often associated with depression.
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