Feelings of depression and sadness from time to time is normal. It may be difficult to put on a brave face during the loss of a loved one, a breakup, personal injury, or adjusting to a new environment. In any given day our moods can shift from content to hurt and disappointed.
Feelings of sadness, overwhelm, or lack of motivation are normal and common responses to stressful life events. However, how do we know when our depression develops into a mental illness? I would like to discuss Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). MDD is a common mental health disorder that can be diagnosed by your Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, Primary Care Physician, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Psychiatric Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner. According to DSM-5 the symptoms of depressed mood or loss of interest must be present for 2 weeks or longer. Symptoms listed in DSM-5 include:
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Symptoms can vary from mild, moderate, or severe.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms therapy can be a helpful tool to recovery. You can seek help at any time. You do not have to wait for your symptoms to worsen to talk to someone. Recovery is possible for many individuals experiencing MDD.
The support and guidance from a therapist can give you a place to learn about your current emotions to better address them and apply healthy coping mechanisms. Depressive symptoms or major depressive disorder does not have to be a permeant state. It is important we learn about these disorders to develop awareness of mental illness and reduce stigma attached to it.