Major depressive disorder (major depression)

Head | Neurology | Major depressive disorder (major depression) (Disease)


Depression is a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, it affects how a person feels, think sand behaves. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Its possible to may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make a person feels as if life isnt worth living.

Insomnia or excessive sleeping, changes in appetite - depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain, agitation or restlessness - for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still, irritability or angry outbursts, slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.

Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration, fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy - even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things arent going right, trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things, frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide, unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.

For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that its obvious something isnt right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

Causes and Risk factors

The exact cause of depression is not known. Many researchers believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain. This may be due to a problem with the genes, or triggered by certain stressful events. More likely, its a combination of both.

Depression affects each person in different ways, so symptoms caused by depression vary from person to person. Inherited traits, age, gender and cultural background all play a role in how depression may affect you. Changes in thinking and sleep are common signs of depression in adolescents and adults but are not as common in younger children. In children and teens, depression often occurs along with behavior problems and other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of MDD involves a constellation of symptoms in addition to depressed mood. After taking a careful history, including asking the patient about his or her sleeping patterns, appetite, sex drive, and mood, the doctor will give the patient a physical examination to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. Certain other disorders may resemble MDD, including cognitive dysfunction caused by the direct effects of a substance (drug of abuse, medication, or toxic chemical); various medical conditions (i. e. an underactive thyroid gland; strokes; or early stages of dementia), or other mental disorders.

In general, treatment...