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What Is a Major Depression?

by Keith Vaughn
  • Overview

    Major depression is a chronic illness that can interrupt an individual's normal moods, thoughts, emotions and mental and physical health.
  • Diagnosis/Symptoms

    Major depression is diagnosed when someone experiences five out of nine symptoms for at least two weeks in a way that represents a change from the person's normal behavior. The nine symptoms are depressed or irritable mood, diminished interest in activities, diminished or increased appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, agitation or lethargy, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, diminished ability to concentrate and thoughts of death and suicide.
  • Other Symptoms

    Severe cases of major depression may produce psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Major depression may also manifest physical symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches and stomach aches.
  • Cause

    Several factors, such as genetics, life events, environmental factors and an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters can contribute to major depression.
  • Treatment

    Major depression can be effectively treated with antidepressant medications and therapy, usually in combination.
  • Therapy

    Psychotherapy can help those with major depression to cope with the illness. Electroconvulsive therapy may be used when drugs and other types of therapy don't work.
  • Prevention

    Though some cases of major depression may be unavoidable, a good diet, regular exercise, positive social bonds and abstinence from drugs and alcohol can help prevent or lessen the severity of depressive episodes.

    References & Resources