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According to the Mayo Clinic, a person must experience five of the most common depression symptoms, over a two-week period, to be diagnosed for major depression, or major depressive disorder.

Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is disabling. It interferes with working, eating, sleeping, and studying. A major depressive episode can occur at least once in a person’s lifetime and may also re-occur frequently according to genetic predisposition.

A major depression may occur after the death of a loved one, a medical illness, or other type of life event such as a romantic breakup. Some people with major depression don’t feel as if life is worth living and often attempt to end their lives.

Typically, patients are treated with anti-depressant medication and may also receive psychotherapy or counseling. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary as well as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is a type of psychiatric treatment whereby seizures are electrically induced in anesthetized patients to produce a therapeutic effect.

There are standard symptoms of depression. An overview of these symptoms includes the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimistic
  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness, worthlessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, which include sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions
  • Insomnia, oversleeping, early morning awakening
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss, overeating, weight gain
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, pain, and digestive disorders

These symptoms of depression are also unique to those experiencing anxiety disorders. See the section in this guide on Anxiety Disorder for more information.

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