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Understanding Major Depression

Friday 6 November 2020
Mental Health

Table of Contents


I. Why is it ‘Major’?

II. Depression Symptoms in Children

III. Depression Symptoms in Teens

IV. Depression Symptoms in Young Adults

V. Depression Symptoms in Midlife Adults

VI. Depression Symptoms in Senior Adults

VII. Is There One Cause to Clinical Depression?

VIII. Diagnosis & Treatment


Why is it ‘Major’?

Major depression, also known as clinical depression, affects hundreds of millions of people across the world. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports 17.3 million adults in the United States who experience at least one major depressive episode a year. [1] Depression can range in severity, and some people may experience temporary episodes of sadness while others have severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of this common mood disorder.

It is important to understand that major depression is not the type of temporary sadness that occurs after a traumatic event or loss of a loved one. Of course, you can experience situational depression after an emotional event, but major depression is slightly different. Those with major depression experience chronic feelings of sadness for most days for at least two weeks. Luckily, there are several different types of medications available to combat these unpleasant symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe you medications like Cymbalta (Duloxetine), Trintellix (Vortioxetine), Rexulti (Brexpiprazole), or Ludiomil (Maprotiline).

Major depression can affect people of all ages, and symptoms may differ from person to person. If you feel like you are experiencing depression, you should seek a doctor or mental health professional. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and treatment options for major depression. [2]

a man walking in the middle of train tracks

Depression Symptoms in Children 

Typically, depressive symptoms are not common in children under 12 years old. Many people may not think that depression can occur in young children, but children can experience complicated emotions as much as adults.

Depression in children is typically triggered by external factors that affect the child’s mood. Domestic violence, divorce, family stressors, abuse, learning disabilities, loss of a friend or family member, or domestic violence can lead to depressive symptoms. Those symptoms may include:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Clinginess
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulties with family members
  • Avoiding school
  • Avoiding social activities
  • Changed eating habits
  • Loss of interest in fun activities [3]

Depression Symptoms in Teens

Depression can be difficult to identify in teens because of mood swings in teens aged 12 to 18 years old. If you are a parent with a teen, it is important to learn the difference between typical mood changes and clinical depression. If these mood changes last for longer than a few weeks, you may want to talk to your teen and seek the help of a psychologist. 

The same life issues that affect young children with depression also affect teens. If depression is not dealt with as a younger child, it is likely to continue into the teenage years and worsen. Teenagers have to deal with many social pressures, sexuality concerns, and hormonal issues that may also spur on depression. Common symptoms of depression in teens can include: 

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Self-harm behaviors
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Avoiding friends
  • Sleeping or eating too much
  • Irritability or lashing out
  • Extreme sensitivity [3] 

Depression Symptoms in Young Adults 

Once a person is thrust out of high school and college, many transitions can trigger depression in young adults aged 19-29. Along with these new transitions, these young adults may also have to deal with a lack of coping skills, poverty, past traumas, work issues, relationships, and a lack of emotional support.

three young women laughing together

Some studies cite that the prevalence of major depression is greatest in this age group. Symptoms of depression in young adults can include:

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Inability to sleep
  • Lethargy, fatigue, lack of energy
  • Feelings of sadness or worthlessness
  • Unwarranted irritation or anger
  • Inexplicable aches, pain, or headaches
  • Sleeping more than usual [4]

Depression Symptoms in Midlife Adults

Life never slows down, and this stage can come with even more ups and downs. Midlife can be anywhere from 45-64 years of age. Depression may occur due to financial stress, aging parents, major illnesses, caring for children, menopause, and a litany of other responsibilities.

Along with the common symptoms of depression, like feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of self-harm, midlife adults may experience:

  • Risky behavior
  • Abusive or violent behavior
  • Abuse
  • Anger [3]

Depression Symptoms in Senior Adults

Depression in senior adults is very common. It is not a normal part of age, but growing older and entering retirement can come with many life transitions that may trigger depressive symptoms. Many senior adults have experienced deaths of friends and family and health problems at this time of life. Other triggers can include the death of a spouse, financial stress, and social isolation.

Many older adults do not seek help and suffer in silence. Creating social outlets is important for this age group so they can properly share their feelings. Symptoms in older adults can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sadness and anxiety
  • Trouble focusing
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Mood changes [3]

Is There One Cause to Clinical Depression?

Depression is a complicated disease that can occur for several reasons. Because major depression is a more serious form of this mood disorder, it can be caused by several things at once. The following factors can cause clinical depression:

Biology: Many researchers have found that those with clinical depression have different brain chemistry than those without this condition. Some people with clinical depression have a smaller hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that stores memories. If you have a smaller hippocampus, then you have fewer serotonin receptors. Serotonin receptors allow communication across different brain regions and are essential in processing emotions.

Genetics: In some cases, depression can run in families. Researchers have confirmed that there is a partial genetic link to developing depression. If you come from a family where your parents or siblings suffer from depression, you may be at a higher risk for depression yourself. There is no specific gene linked to depression, but many genes can contribute to depression when they interact with your environment. [5]  

a family holding hands in the sunset

Environment: Several environmental factors can trigger clinical depression. For many people, their physical health and what they put in their bodies can significantly impact their mental health. Researchers typically regard these triggers as anything present around us that may contribute to depressive disorders. These may include:

  • Air, water, and food pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Catastrophic events
  • Long-term stress
  • Childhood abuse
  • Social life and relationship issues [6]

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing depression can be extremely challenging. Unlike many other diseases, there is no blood or diagnostic test that determines the presence of depression. If you are worried about your mood, your doctor will perform blood tests to ensure another medical problem is not causing your mood changes.

Because depression is so common, it has become very treatable and manageable. There are many different types of medications available to treat symptoms of depression. Cymbalta (Duloxetine), Trintellix (Vortioxetine), Rexulti (Brexpiprazole), or Ludiomil (Maprotiline) are all medications targeted at treating major depression. These drugs help regulate the natural substances in the brain, like norepinephrine and serotonin. These hormones are necessary for mood regulation and can significantly improve depressive symptoms.

Every person may react differently to these medications, so you may have to try several antidepressants before finding the one that works for you. [7]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.