You’re not alone. Major depression is more common than you’d think.
What is Major Depressive Disorder? Major depression is a common and serious medical illness affecting more than 13 million Americans, or approximately 6.6 percent of the population in a given year. Unlike the normal ups and downs of everyday life, Major Depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, and even physical health. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. often impairing social, academic and work functioning and causing significant emotional distress. Depression is the most common illness within the mental health arena.
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Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder
The onset of the first episode of major depressive disorder may not be obvious if it is gradual or mild. The symptoms of this disorder characteristically represent a significant change from how a person functioned before the illness. The symptoms of depression may include:
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness or guilt
- persistently sad or irritable mood
- pronounced changes in sleep habits and energy levels
- pessimistic feelings about the future
- trouble making decisions
- significant weight gain or loss
- difficulty thinking or concentrating
- low libido
- increased agitation
- lack of interest in or pleasure from activities typically enjoyed
When several of these symptoms occur at the same time, last longer than two weeks, and interfere with ordinary functioning, individuals should seek professional advice and treatment. If left untreated, major depression can lead to attempted suicide.
While the exact cause of depression is not known, the leading scientific theory is that depression is caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells.