When people talk about depression in general, what they’re usually referring to is clinical depression. Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), this condition is characterized by an overwhelming feeling of isolation, sadness, hopelessness and despair.1 Keep reading to learn more about this form of depression and what you can do to prevent it.
Defining Clinical Depression
Clinical depression, which can also be called major depression or unipolar depression (“unipolar” indicates the presence of one pole or one extreme depressed mood),2 is scientifically defined as having a consistently depressed mood for at least a two-week period.
A person struggling with clinical depression may exhibit an overall loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, which is a noticeably significant change from his or her normal behavior. Other areas of the person’s life, including social, educational and occupational functioning, may be affected, too.3
Major depression will affect 10 to 25 percent of women and 5 to 12 percent of men in a lifetime. This disorder occurs more frequently in women, at almost twice the rate. In fact, at any point in time, 5 to 9 percent of women and 2 to 3 percent of men may be depressed. Clinical depression most often occurs in people between 25 and 44 years old, but is also common in the elderly, particularly those 65 years old and above. Children may also be affected by major depressive disorder, affecting girls and boys at the same rate.4
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder?
Clinical depression is insidious. It can distort or completely change the way you view yourself, your life and the people around you. A person who’s clinically depressed sees everything negatively and, if problems arise, cannot imagine them being resolved in a positive way.5 Here are the common hallmark signs of major depression. Psych Central says that if you are exhibiting five or more of these symptoms almost every day, then you may have this disorder:6
Having a depressed mood for most of the day. In children, this may manifest as crankiness or irritability
Reduced interest or pleasure in everyday activities that were once enjoyable
Weight loss or gain; having decrease or increase in appetite
Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping excessively)
Restlessness (psychomotor agitation) or moving slowly (psychomotor retardation)
Tiredness, loss of energy or fatigue
Poor concentration or diminished ability to think; indecisiveness
Having thoughts of death or attempts to commit suicide
Major Depressive Disorder Can Be Debilitating if Not Addressed
Because of the nature of depression, many people who are affected by it often fail to consult a physician to confirm their illness. As a result, depression often goes untreated, which can be debilitating and even life threatening in some cases.
Aside from relationship problems and poor work or academic performance, clinically depressed people are often prone to health concerns, as they are unable to properly care for themselves. Poor eating, malnutrition, binging on unhealthy foods and weight fluctuations can all lead to reduced immune function.7
Certain medical illnesses are also related to major depressive disorder, and anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of those suffering from cancer, diabetes, heart ailments or who had suffered a stroke are likely to develop depression. Depression may also lead to drug or alcohol abuse.8
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of clinical depression is the fact that it may lead to suicide. Up to 15 percent of depressed people take their own lives.9 It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of suicidal people suffer from a combination of depression and substance abuse.10
Addressing clinical depression immediately is crucial, but take note that taking antidepressants is not the best way to resolve this issue. Instead, opt for natural remedies and make tweaks to your lifestyle, like determining whether you have a vitamin D deficiency (and if you do, addressing it) and getting enough exercise. These may be key to successfully treating depression.