Major (Clinical) Depression – Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Procedure, Treatment, Prevention

Are you feeling sad or experiencing lack of interest in anything lately with symptoms lasting for entire day?

If yes, then you need to visit your doctor as you may be suffering from major depression (clinical depression). The most common sign of clinical depression is profound sense of hopelessness and sadness.

Major depression causes profound effect on the lifestyle of affected patients who find it difficult to work, eat, sleep, concentrate and enjoy social activities. While some patients may have clinical depression only once during their lifetime while others may experience it numerous times.

Symptoms of Major Depression

It is a common form of depression that has widespread occurrence among masses. It is characterised by the occurrence of major depressive episode lasting for entire day for at least two weeks.

Common symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

  • Depressed mood
  • Lack of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Excessive movement or slowing down
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts

In order to classify the condition as major depression, one of symptoms should be either depressed mood or loss of interest. Moreover, the symptoms must be present every day (most part of the day) for at least two weeks.

Risk Factors of Major Depression

There are certain risk factors that trigger Major depression in individuals.

  • Individuals with family history of depression
  • Individuals who have had traumatic childhood experiences
  • Individuals with family history of alcoholism
  • Individuals with biological family members who have had committed suicide
  • Individuals who have faced unfortunate life events like death of loved ones, divorce,
  • Individuals who have few friends
  • Individuals who have had failed personal relationships
  • Postpartum depression in women who have given birth to child recently
  • Individuals with depressed mood as a child
  • Patient suffering from serious illness such as HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease
  • Individuals with low self-esteem and feelings of being deprived
  • Individuals who have experienced major life changes such as job change, retirement
  • Individuals who have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Individuals who are self-critical or pessimistic
  • Individuals who are addicted to alcohol, nicotine or illicit drugs

Diagnosis of Major Depression

The diagnosis of the major depression is performed by doctors after thorough medical examination of the depressed patient.

Common Diagnostic Procedures

  • Full patient medical history
  • Physical Assessment
  • Thorough evaluation of symptoms
  • Standardized questionnaires like Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and the Beck Depression Inventory

Doctors may perform certain selected investigations in order to rule out other causes.

  • Blood tests for TSH and thyroxin levels for excluding hypothyroidism
  • Basic electrolytes and serum calcium for ruling out metabolic disturbances
  • Full blood count including ESR for ruling out a systemic infection
  • Adverse affective reactions for medications
  • Adverse affective reactions for alcohol misuse
  • Evaluation of Testosterone levels for diagnosing hypogonadism
  • Subjective cognitive complaints in older depressed people

Treatment of Major Depression

There are various treatment therapies available for treating Major Depression. The doctors usually employ the combination of various therapies to obtain the optimal results.

  • Medications like antidepressants including Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), Tricyclic antidepressants, Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), Atypical antidepressants and other medication strategies.
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy/ Psychotherapy
  • Physical exercise
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Tran cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Light therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Lifestyle and home remedies
  • Alternative medicine including Herbal remedies and supplements
  • Mind-body connections
  • Coping and support

Prevention of Major Depression

There is no exact way for preventing Major depression in individuals. However, individuals can take certain precautionary measures for effectively managing the disease.

  • Aware of the causes or triggers of the disease
  • Learn ways of controlling stress
  • Increase your resilience
  • Learn various ways of boosting low self-esteem
  • Develop circle of friends and social support
  • Treatment at the early occurrence of a problem
  • Long-term maintenance treatment for preventing relapse of depression