Major Depressive Disorder

Annie Gee

What is it?

Major Depressive Disorder is commonly known as MDD or clinical depression. It's a mood disorder in which a person experiences, in the absence of drugs or another medical condition, two or more weeks of significantly depressed moods or diminished interest or pleasure in most activities, along with at least four other symptoms. (1)

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What is the cause?

It's not known for sure what causes depression. A variety of factors may be involved, such as:
  • Biological differences
People with depression seem to have physical changes in their brains. The causes to the changes are still uncertain.
  • Brain chemistry
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that play a role in depression. Changes in the function and effect of these neurontransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved may play a big role in depression and its treatment.
  • Hormones
Changes in the body's balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression.
  • Inherited traits
Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have/had this condition. (2)


  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety

As you can see there are many characteristics and many more! (2)

Types of depression

  • Anxious distress
  • Mixed features
  • Melancholic features
  • Atypical features
  • Psychotic features
  • Catatonia
  • Peripartum onset
  • Seasonal pattern (2)


  • Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.
  • In 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.
  • 3.7% of all U.S. disability-adjusted life years
  • 8.3% of all U.S. years lived with disability
  • More common in women rather than men. (3)
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How is it Diagnosed?

Talking with the patient may be the most important diagnostic tool the doctor has to find out if they have depression like symptoms. A patient, for example, can report on such things as daily moods, behaviors, and lifestyle habits. (5)


Many people use a combination of treatments, such as medication and a psychotherapy.

  • Talking with a trained therapist is one of the best treatments. Some people choose to be in therapy for several months to work on a few key issues. Other people find it helpful to continue in therapy for years, gradually working through larger problems.
  • Medicines are the other key treatment for depression. If one antidepressant doesn't work well, you might try a similar one or a different kind. Your doctor might also try changing the dose. In some cases, he or she might recommend taking more than one medication for your depression. There are now many different antidepressants that your doctor can choose from. (4)


  • Two-thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek necessary treatment.
  • Women experience depression about twice as often as men.
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suicide was the ninth leading cause of death in the United States in 1996.

  • 80% of all people with clinical depression who have received treatment significantly improve their lives. (6)

(1) Straub, R., & Myers, D. (1995). Psychological Disorders. In Study guide: To accompany David G. Myers Pyschology (4th ed.). New York, NY: Worth.

(2) Depression (major depressive disorder). (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from

(3) Major Depression Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from

(4) Treatments for Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from

(5) Depression Diagnosis and Screening: What Doctors Look For. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from

(6) Depression Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from