Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder (MDD) causes a persistent feeling of sadness and often results in a loss of interest in things you once found pleasurable. It impacts how you think, feel, and behave, interfering with your daily activities and making you feel that life isn't worth living.
What’s important to understand is that depression isn't simply a weakness, and you can't just "snap out" of it. It has roots in your biochemical makeup, and you may need long-term treatment to finally break free.
At Memphis Neurology, our team of expert neurologists understands depression manifests differently in different people, which is why treatment options vary. That said, we’re committed to helping you get the help you need so you can enjoy your life again.
What causes a major depressive disorder?
Medical researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes depression, but like many mental disorders, it probably involves a variety of factors, including:
The brains of depressive people contain physical changes from those who don’t suffer from depression. Scientists don’t yet understand the significance of these alterations, but they may eventually help pinpoint underlying causes.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that relay electrical signals, and researchers believe variations in certain transmitters' amounts play a significant role in causing depression. Many pharmaceutical therapies target these transmitters to stabilize mood.
Hormones regulate many bodily functions, so it stands to reason that if the body's hormone balance changes, it may cause or trigger depression, as well as other physical and mental health problems.
Hormone alterations occur during puberty, with pregnancy, during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum), and from thyroid problems, menopause, and a number of other conditions.
Depression is more common in people who have a family member suffering from depression, which suggests that genetics may be involved. Researchers are currently looking for genes that might be responsible for causing the disorder.
What are the symptoms of a major depressive disorder?
A major depressive disorder is not a “one-size-fits-all” condition. Some people suffer one during their lifetime, while others have multiple.
The specific symptoms can be different, too, but may include one or more of the following:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Outbursts of anger, irritability, or frustration, even over simple things
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities like sex, hobbies, or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including sleeping too much and insomnia
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings and weight gain
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts
If you feel any of these symptoms, make an appointment here at Memphis Neurology so you can get treatment before the depression becomes entrenched. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or think you might attempt to take your life, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
What treatments are available?
Treatments involve a number of different modalities, including:
Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter believed to be responsible for improving mood and generating healthy sleeping patterns. People with depression often have low levels of serotonin, so most doctors start medication treatment using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). An SSRI can relieve depression symptoms by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain.
Other medication options include:
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Atypical antidepressants (don’t fit any category)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (if you've failed on SSRIs)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) (have many serious interactions with foods and other medications)
- Other medications (used to enhance an antidepressant's effects)
Most medications require weeks to build up to an effective level in the bloodstream, so you probably won’t see an immediate improvement in your symptoms.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is where you discuss your condition with a mental health professional. This allows you to:
- Identify negative beliefs and behaviors, replacing them with healthy, positive ones
- Explore relationships and experiences
- Find better ways to solve problems
- Identify issues that contribute to your depression
- Change behaviors that make your depression worse
- Learn to manage physical and emotional crises
- Regain a sense of control in your life
- Discover how to set realistic goals for your life
Generally, doctors will combine medication with some form of psychotherapy to achieve lasting, positive results.
Are you feeling down and can’t seem to shake it? Have you lost interest in things you used to love? Give Memphis Neurology a call at either of our locations or book your appointment online. We can help you reclaim your life.