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Major Depression (Clinical Depression): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Major Depression

Major depression, also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), is the most severe form of depression. Victims of major depression experience a constant state of hopelessness and despair. The symptoms are much more severe than those experienced by people who suffer from chronic depression. They often have significant difficulty sleeping, eating, working, and even enjoy the company of family and friends.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that up to 6.7 percent of the population is affected by major depression at least once in their life, sometimes multiple times.


Anyone can be at risk of developing major depression. Indiscriminately it affects young and old, men and women. Women are more than twice the risk of developing major depression than men do, based on figures relating to those seeking treatment. It is believed that this is due to fluctuating hormone levels that women often experience typically begins with the onset of puberty. For all demographic groups, various types of environmental stress and life can be major contributors to depression.

Depression in men is greatly under-reported. Men have a tendency to play down the intensity of emotions they feel. They are often reluctant to seek medical help because they fear they will be judged as weak. Due to the fact that women are much more likely to seek help, it is possible that the frequency of depression among men and women may not be as big as people think.

Symptoms of Major Depression

There are many signs of major depression we should consider. Not all signs will necessarily be present in each individual, but may include irritability, anger, drug or alcohol abuse as an attempt to self-medicate, and violent behavior. They also often results in suicidal and homicidal tendencies and increased disease.

As stated, major depressive disorder is the most severe form of depression and therefore, it makes sense that major depression symptoms would be harsh. This particular illness usually develops between the ages of 20 and 30 and although an individual would recognize that something had changed, this is also the time in a person’s life that dealing with a serious illness such as this is most difficult.


One of the biggest challenges of Major Depressive Disorder has to do with mood. Once this illness begins, an individual would begin to experience significant lows that soon impact every aspect of life. No matter how hard the individual tries to pull out of the black hole they were dropped in or what family members and friends do to help, symptoms tend to broaden and worsen.

Another one of the main symptoms is the inability to enjoy things that an individual once found pleasurable. This could be an activity, hobby, job, school, or even person but regardless, the individual with this type of mental health disorder could no longer experience joy. Making this even worse, friends and family will try to encourage the person to get involved or get out but this increases the level of frustration already being felt.

Additional symptoms include poor concentration and focus, disrupted sleep, poor appetite, issues with memory, increased or decreased weight, isolation, reduced libido, chronic fatigue, low stamina, problems with digestion, headaches, and the list goes on.

However, the worst part is when thoughts of suicide, harm, or homicide creep into the person’s mind. At that point, immediate intervention becomes critical.

Remember, while there is a typical pattern associated with major depressive disorder, every person is different; so one individual might experience every symptom at an intense level while another person may only have five and at a more moderate level.

  See also: Symptoms of Clinical Depression

What Causes Major Depression

The exact cause of major depression is not known. There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing this type of depression.  A combination of genes and stress can affect brain chemistry, resulting in this kind of mood disorder.

The loss of a loved one through death or divorce is one of the main causes. It can also be caused by feelings of social isolation or depravity, major life changes, relationship conflicts and sexual, emotional or physical abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, certain medical conditions and medications, etc. 

Major Depression Diagnosis

Major depression is usually diagnosed by a doctor after examining the individual’s symptoms, and personal and family history of emotional disorders. There is no proving method that you can run to determine if a person is suffering from depression, or if the symptoms are caused by another disease, such as hypothyroidism. Doctors frequently order a blood test to rule out other causes. They will also make an assessment of the medications you are using, and possibly adjust the dosage or prescribe alternative medicines because it has been shown that certain types of drugs cause feelings of depression in people.

For an individual to be given a firm diagnosis, a medical doctor or mental health professional would have to rely on information provided by the patient such as emotions, feelings, and even experiences. Most professionals also turn to close family members and friends to gain their perspective of how the illness has affected the individual.

Major Depression Treatment

Even though major depression symptoms are debilitating, viable treatment options are available. For the most part, an individual with major depressive disorder would be treated with antidepressants although there are times when psychotherapy and/or counseling would be recommended as well.

However, because people with this type of depression often struggle with negative thoughts that include suicide, personal harm, bodily harm to others, and even homicide, hospitalization and more drastic treatments are also used.

While most people go through the same symptoms, everyone responds in a unique way. For this reason, a medical expert might need to try several different treatments before honing in on the one that provides the best relief. This can be a frustrating process but with good support and encouragement, an individual with MDD would know there are better days to come.

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