Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or clinical depression is a serious medical condition that can impact almost every area of your life. It is one of the most common mental disorders in the US with nearly 7% of Americans over age 18 experiencing an episode. Aside from mood and behavior, MDD can also have an effect on many physical functions like appetite and sleep. People who suffer from depression often lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed and feel like life is not worth living.
What are the symptoms?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a manual that helps medical professionals diagnose mental health conditions. Based on its criteria, in order to to be diagnosed with MDD, five or more of the following symptoms need to be present, and must be experienced at least once per day for a period of more than 2 weeks:
- You feel sad or irritable every day, for most of the day.
- You no longer have interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- You suddenly lose or gain weight or have a change in appetite.
- You have trouble falling asleep or want to sleep more than usual.
- You experience feelings of restlessness.
- You feel unusually tired and have a lack of energy.
- You feel worthless or guilty, often about things that wouldn’t normally make you feel that way.
- You have difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions.
- You think about harming yourself or committing suicide.
How is MDD treated?
Talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both can be effective in treating depression. Depression symptoms can also be improved by making adjustments to your lifestyle.
MDD is often treated with medication and psychotherapy. Some lifestyle adjustments can also help ease certain symptoms. People who have severe MDD or who have thoughts of harming themselves may need to stay in the hospital during treatment. Some might also need to take part in an outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve.
Talk therapy involves meeting with a therapist on a regular basis to talk about your condition and related issues. Psychotherapy can help you:
Find better ways to cope with challenges and solve problems
Increase your self-esteem
Regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life
Adjust to a crisis or other stressful event
Replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive, healthy ones
Improve your communication skills
Changing your daily habits can go a long way in improving your MDD symptoms. Below are a few changes you can try implementing to see if it has an impact on the way you feel.
Exercise Outdoors: Although you may not feel like leaving the house or getting out of bed when you have MDD, it can make a huge impact. Exercising during the day, in sunlight, can boost your mood, increase your vitamin d levels and make you feel better.
Sleep well: It’s vital to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping.
Start Eating Better: Try increasing the presence of omega 3 fatty acids. These can be found in many oily fish, such as salmon. Foods that are rich in B vitamins like legumes and whole grains have also been found to help people with MDD. Nuts, seeds, and yogurt contain magnesium which has been linked to fighting symptoms as well.
Avoiding alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant which can worsen your symptoms! It's definitely something to stay away from if you live with MDD.
If you're symptoms are extremely severe and you've exhausted all other strategies to help lessen your symptoms, medication may be helpful. You should always consult with your psychiatrist before deciding to go through with taking medication. Some common medications that can help with depression are:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI'S)
SSRI's are commonly used antidepressants that work by inhibiting the breakdown of serotonin in the brain, which results in higher amounts of this neurotransmitter. Serotonin is the brain chemical that is believed to be responsible for positive moods. It also helps to produce healthy sleeping patterns. Most people with Depression have depleted levels of this chemical and SSRI's can have an impact in increasing them. Some common SSRI's are Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Citalopram (Celexa).