Depression: What Is It?
In everyday conversation, people tend to toss around the word “depression” fairly freely. This isn’t too problematic most of the time, but it is important to remember that “depressed” is not just another word for “sad.” Instead, depression is a category of mental health disorder—and that category includes a range of different kinds of depression, each with its own causes, symptoms, and potential treatments.
One of those kinds of depression is known as major depression. And as the name suggests, it involves a lot more than feeling sad. Let’s take a closer look.
What Makes Depression Major?
Major depression (it is also sometimes called “major depressive disorder”) is a persistent condition that in most cases will not go away on its own. Generally speaking, a person struggling with major depression is most likely to see improvement if they seek treatment for the disorder.
The defining features of major depression are:
- Experiencing ongoing sadness the majority of the time over a long period
- Losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
These two symptoms are often accompanied by other issues including:
- Fatigue or a lack of energy during the day and/or insomnia at night
- Significant weight changes in either direction
- Feeling restless or agitated
- Feeling sluggish or as though you have slowed down physically and/or mentally
- Struggling to make decisions or to concentrate
- Experiencing an ongoing sense of guilt or worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
To diagnose someone with major depressive disorder, a doctor looks for any combination of five of the above symptoms, with at least one of them coming from the two defining features we have noted. If a person has experienced five or more of the symptoms on most days over two weeks or longer, the doctor may conclude the patient is struggling with major depression.
That might make diagnosis sound like a math problem rather than a careful consideration of your situation. But the fact is that diagnosing illnesses and disorders nearly always involves a combination of identifying and counting up symptoms in order to draw the best possible conclusion about what the problem might be.
Let’s Talk About Treatment
The most common approaches to treating major depressive disorder are antidepressants and talk therapy.
There is a range of antidepressants your doctor might prescribe, and it may take a while to find the most effective medication for you. Managing side effects can also be an issue, but with dedication and patience, it is generally possible to find a medication that will help address the symptoms of major depression.
Meanwhile, there is also a range of therapeutic approaches. You will want to know what approach your therapist prefers and how it is intended to help. Cognitive behavioral therapy—which focuses on addressing and lessening spontaneous negative thoughts that can arise from (and worsen) major depression symptoms—is a common approach.
It is generally agreed that the best approach to treating major depression is to combine medication and therapy. Used in tandem, these treatments are more likely to lead to lasting improvement.
In some cases, however, your doctor may consider other treatment options if medication and therapy do not seem to be effectively addressing your major depression. Those options—including electroconvulsive therapy, vagus nerve stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation—are all intended to boost the effectiveness of the part of your brain that is in charge of regulating your mood. If improvement in that specific brain function can be achieved, you will be less likely to fall into seemingly bottomless periods of despair.
A Major Part of Our Mission Is Treating Major Depression
As we have noted, major depression is a lot more persistent and a lot more serious than a simple bout of the blues. And because major depression often inspires feelings of worthlessness or despair, it can seem pointless or impossible to seek out help.
We want to be very clear: Getting help is never pointless or impossible.
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we provide a potent combination of compassion and expertise that can help address the full range of mental health disorders—including major depression. We will listen to you and work with you to design a personalized treatment plan so that you can find relief from the debilitating symptoms of major depression.
When you are ready to get the help you need to overcome major depression, Peak View Behavioral Health’s team of caring experts will be ready to work with you to improve your quality of life.