Major Depressive Disorder

Also known as major depression or unipolar depression, major depressive disorder is a mood disorder usually characterized by sadness, anger or frustration, for a period lasting from a few weeks to months at a stretch. In this context, unipolar refers to one extreme mood where the patient is depressed; in contrast, bipolar disorder has two poles: depression and euphoria.

The symptoms of major depression include lack of energy/weariness; irritability; social isolation; trouble concentrating; feelings of hopelessness; feelings of guilt or worthlessness; changes in appetite associated with weight loss or gain; a loss of interest in pleasurable activities; or suicidal thoughts or ideas. Severe cases are linked to psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions.

Women are twice as likely to be affected by major depressive disorder as men. It is most common among individuals in the 25-44 age group, and rare for individuals aged 65 and above. At any given point, up to 9 percent of women and 3 percent of men are likely to suffer from clinical depression. It may also afflict children; boys and girls are affected at the same rate. People who have a parent or sibling with major depressive disorder are up to three times more likely to develop the condition than those who don’t.

Understanding depression

Depression is a mental disorder characterized by persistently low mood and a loss of interest in activities. It can lead to a wide range of emotional and physical problems. It is usually treated with medication, psychological therapy, or a combination of both.

The World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) is the standard diagnostic tool for mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Symptoms of Depression

As per ICD criteria, the diagnosis of a depressive disorder is made when these symptoms are present:

  • reduced concentration
  • diminished self-confidence and self-esteem
  • feelings of unworthiness and guilt
  • pessimistic views
  • disturbed sleep
  • suicidal thoughts or acts/thoughts of self-harm
  • reduced appetite

The categories of depression vary based on whether the symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe.

Mild depression

A mild depressive disorder diagnosis is made when these symptoms are present:

  • depressed mood,
  • fatigue
  • loss of enjoyment and interest

Alternatively, at least two out of these three, in addition to any two symptoms from the ICD criteria list, will also qualify for a mild depression diagnosis.

Moderate depressive disorder

For this diagnosis, two of the three mild depressive symptoms in addition to three (or four) symptoms listed in the ICD classification need to be present.

Severe depressive disorder

The sufferer has all the three symptoms described under the mild depression classification in addition to four or more symptoms from the ICD classification list.

The prominent symptoms are likely to be agitation, feelings of uselessness, and suicidal ideation. Psychotic symptoms such as depressive stupor, hallucinations, and delusions may also be present in some cases.

For a diagnosis of depressive disorder to be made, these symptoms have to be present for at least two weeks. However, if symptoms are of rapid onset and are unusually severe, shorter periods may also qualify for a depression diagnosis.

Ketamine is a medication that is used for depression. It is an anesthetic that was first used in the 1960s. It works by blocking certain receptors in the brain. Ketamine is used to treat depression that has not responded to other medications.

How is depression treated?

Milder forms of depression can be treated with psychotherapy or ‘talk therapy.’ A licensed mental health professional administers the therapy in a group or one-on-one setting. The professional may use techniques such as Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and/or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help individuals learn new ways of behaving and thinking.

For moderate to severe forms of depression, antidepressants are used that help improve symptoms such as concentration, mood, appetite, and sleep. The most commonly used medications – SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can take up to six weeks to exert their effect.

In some cases, treatment-resistant depression can occur where the individual does not find relief even after trying two or more antidepressants.

A number of causes have been attributed to unipolar depression. About 20 to 25 percent of those who have cancer, diabetes, stroke or myocardial infarction are likely to develop the condition at some point during their illness. Alcohol and drug abuse have also been linked to major depressive disorder, as have sleep-related problems and certain types of medication, including steroids.

Some mental health conditions that co-exist with the condition are eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, or panic disorder.

Stressful life experiences and events can also trigger major depression. They include divorce, redundancy, bereavement, physical or emotional abuse, poor performance at school, or social isolation.

Dysthymic disorder is a depressive mood disorder lasting at least two years. It has been seen that up to 25 percent of people who develop unipolar depression have been previously diagnosed with dysthymic disorder, and ten percent of those with dysthymic disorder will develop a major depressive episode.

When both conditions exist at the same time, it is known as double depression. Patients with double depression are more likely to develop additional depressive episodes and experience more difficulty recovering between episodes.


Throughout the cycle of life, we all experience our own set of challenges along the way. Some challenges can be more difficult to experience than others. At any rate, it can be difficult to experience life’s challenges on your own. No matter the intensity of the challenge, it can be helpful to talk to a clinical psychologist for depression help. Read on to discover the main reasons someone may seek a clinical psychologist in Seattle.

  • Loss: Death is a part of life that we wish we did not have to experience, but it is unavoidable. Whether someone loses a pet, a parent, or a friend – loss can be very hard on a person. Grieving openly or privately are both common, but avoiding the realities of loss can lead to longer, lingering problems. Our clinical psychologists can assist with appropriate techniques to assist with the grieving process.
  • Stress and Anxiety: There are countless situations in life that cause or amplify stress and anxiety. Whether your job, school, social situations, or other experiences cause you stress or anxiety, consider consulting with an experienced clinical psychologist. A psychologist can help you manage stress and anxiety by finding the source or cause of your problems, as well as appropriate ways to overcome them.
  • Depression: Feeling hopeless, helpless, and negative feelings about yourself or your life are some common signs of depression. Seeking depression help can be daunting, but rest assured that experienced clinical psychologists are here to assist you. Clinical psychologists assist you in finding the source of depression and how to redirect negative thought processes.
  • Family Relationships: When someone experiences ups and downs in a family relationship, it may feel like there is no one to turn to to discuss them with. Confiding in a family member may not feel like the best option because they may get involved. When you confide in a clinical psychologist about family relationships and issues, it is always confidential. Working with a psychologist, either individually or in a group setting, can help iron out wrinkles that can form in even the strongest relationships.

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