We all feel a little low from time to time. It’s just part of the human condition and it’s something that we know will pass. However, for some people it does not pass that easily. Those people may be suffering from something known as “Major Depressive Disorder”, which also goes by many other names, including “Clinical Depression”. In such cases, their feelings of sadness are not fleeting, they do not come and go easily and they greatly impact on their day to day life.
Major depression can be used to refer to everything from severe bouts of depression, to Seasonal Affective Disorder and even Postnatal Depression. But all of these conditions share many things in common and they can all be treated using many of the same methods.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive is characterized as a mood disorder in which depression plays a dominant role. Unlike bipolar disorder, where the patient constantly shifts between feelings of elation and “mania” and feelings of “depression”, someone with major depression is constantly on a downer. They derive very little pleasure from things that they used to enjoy, they feel down all the time and this has a negative impact on everything they do.
This is an illness that is very common in the world and has a high percentage of sufferers in the United States. What’s more, it’s one that can lead to a number of other problems, including substance abuse. When you consider that someone with major depression has a greater risk of suicide and impulsivity, and that they value their health less than someone without the condition, it begins to explain just why the healthcare community is so desperate to bring those numbers down and to do all they can to cure the nation’s growing problem.
Major Depression Symptoms
The most common sign of major depression is the depression itself. This presents itself as a constant feeling of being “down”, “low” and “dejected”. But it also has an impact on the rest of the patient’s life. Depression can impact on their sleeping patterns, their diet, their career and their family. Someone who suffers from major depression may feel like they can not get up in the morning and live their life as they should and as they have been doing for many years up to that point.
As a result, major depressive disorder can instantly and severely affect the life of a sufferer. Because of this, the signs are usually visible to the sufferer, and to their loved ones. They may be initially dismissed as being caused by a blood disorder or even a transient period of stress, anxiety and grief, but before long it should become clear even to the uninitiated that there is something seriously wrong.
People with major depression may not feel like they are able to get help, that they can get help or even that they deserve help. This makes those initial stages of recovery very difficult and can put the patient in prolonged and unnecessary suffering.
- Agitation, Irritability, Restlessness
- Weight Changes due to Increased or Reduced Appetite
- Sleep Changes. Sleeping More or Less
- Thoughts of Suicide
- Difficultly Concentrating
- Loss of Interest in People and Places Once Liked
- Feeling Withdrawn From Society
- Isolating Oneself
These symptoms may be easier to spot in some than in others. For instance, they can be very difficult to spot in teenagers. They often go through changes in the way they sleep and eat. They tend to withdraw themselves even without a reason or purpose.
Causes of Major Depressive Disorder
There are a number of causes of major depressive disorder but the exact cause isn’t always clear in each individual case. What’s more, it’s only recently that we’re beginning to understand more about the triggers and the causes of this disease and there is still a lot that we don’t know.
A specialist counselor, such as a major depression counselor, isn’t always as concerned about the cause as they are about the treatment. However, understanding the cause can be a good way of speeding up the treatment, especially if the cause is something that can be reversed. As a result, they will look to determine if a case of major depression has been triggered by any of the following:
- Trauma: If there is a history of abuse in the patient’s life, then this may be the cause of their major depression. They may also experience depression during a serious medical illness, whether in themselves or in a loved one. In such cases, the condition can be treated by reverting back to those problems and helping the patient to resolve those issues.
- Medications: Another cause that can be easily treated is medication. Some medications cause depression. In fact, some medications designed to treat depression and other mental health issues can actually cause it. It has been shown that even drugs used to treat fairly innocuous conditions, such as the acne drug isotretinoin, can cause depression. Drugs like codeine and even marijuana can also make the issue worse in certain individuals.
- Sadness: Sometimes, clinical depression can result from the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Typically, this is something that makes us all depressed before we learn to live with it. However, for people who are predisposed to more serious issues, such things can trigger long lasting clinical depression.
- Genetics: There is increasing evidence that major depression and related disorders can run in the family. This means that many patients may be predisposed to such conditions, and that they are already woven into their genes. In such cases, they can be difficult to treat. The condition is likely caused by abnormal functions in the brain which mean it doesn’t respond as it should and is more prone to depression.
DSM 5 Major Depressive Disorder and Misdiagnoses
There are many misdiagnosed mental illnesses in the United States. These are common in mood disorders like bipolar disorder, but they also occur in major depression and related conditions.
There are several reasons for this and it all has to do with how the symptoms present to the specialist providing treatment. For instance, it is very common for major depression to be misdiagnosed as a physical health condition. If a patient presents with fatigue, an unwillingness to do anything and a feeling that they have no energy, the doctor is more likely to run tests for blood disorders than they are to diagnose depression.
If a patient is addicted to drugs, then many of the symptoms of abuse, use and addiction can mimic and mask the symptoms of mental illness, which makes it even harder still. To make matters worse, patients will often visit a general doctor to discuss their problems, as opposed to going straight to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Such a doctor is more likely to blame physical ailments and addiction than mental illness, and will typically pass the buck when a mental heath disorder is suspected.
To avoid this form happening you simply need to work with a knowledgeable professional, such as a specialist major depression psychiatrist. They will work to ensure that the patient is providing a clear and concise list of symptoms and that a cause is found for each of these. They will then look to build a profile of the patient’s condition, attributing certain symptoms to certain aspects, and then determining what the problem is on the whole and what treatment needs to be provided. It takes time, it takes care and it takes very specialized service.
Major Depressive Disorder Treatment
One of the things that makes major depression so hard to treat is that it’s very common for patients to self-medicate and to develop drug addicts and alcohol addictions as a result. The problem with this is that it can mask the symptoms of mental illnesses like major depression. For instance, the symptoms of sleeping too much, chronic fatigue, feeling low and feeling irritable can all be symptoms of major depression, but they can also present in opiate abuse and alcohol withdrawal, among other things.
Major depression is also very common, as is the ratio of patients who present with this illness and with a co-occurring disorder. As well as substance abuse disorders, patients also present with everything from tic disorders, compulsions and sleeping disorders, to anxiety problems and more. These make it difficult for a specialist to make a correct diagnosis. The same applies for physical illnesses.
As mentioned above, a specialist can look to separate the problems and to determine whether something is a symptom of drug addiction, of a physical disorder or of a mental illness. There are so many misdiagnosed and incorrectly diagnosed illnesses out there, but by going to a specialist you’re reducing the chances of that happening to you.
Major Depression Counselors
We have already mentioned how an unwillingness to open up can cause a patient’s illness to be misdiagnosed and how this can be made worse if they don’t get the right help from a trained mental health specialist. But no two specialists are the same and just because they call themselves counselors, therapists or something similar, doesn’t mean they can offer you the mental health treatment that you need.
So, instead of opting for the first counselor that you see or for the one that is nearest, as so many patients do, you should shop around. Make you you take your time, because this is your mental health and nothing is more important and more deserving of time, effort and patience.