Major depressive disorder is a serious form of depression which involves some combination of the following symptoms: sadness, inability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much, feeling very tired (fatigue), weight gain or loss, irritability, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide. It affects a person’s thoughts, moods, behavior and physical health. A major depressive episode usually lasts more than 2 weeks and interferes with a person’s ability to perform daily functions. Some people may only experience one episode, but others may experience multiple episodes in their lifetime. The cause of major depressive disorder is unknown. It may affect anyone of any age, race, ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic level. Certain factors increase a person’s risk including experiencing traumatic or stressful event(s), having a serious or chronic illness or anxiety related disorder, or having a family history of depression. Those who abuse alcohol or drugs are also at an increased risk.
Major depressive disorder is a serious illness. Without treatment an episode may continue with symptoms becoming increasingly more serious. Major depressive episodes may lead a person to feel that life is not worth living and to commit suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide call a suicide hot line or go to an emergency medical center. It is important to realize that depression is treatable. Treatment may include support groups, medication, talk therapy, or other strategies. Talk to your doctor to decide on the best treatment options if you or a family member is affected by major depression. Support groups are also a good source of up to date information and can help connect you with others affected by depression. See also depression.