Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

It’s human nature to feel sad or miserable when faced with an unpleasant life situation such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or news of a terminal illness. However, these feelings usually go away as the situation becomes more familiar and easy to cope with every day.

On the contrary, if such a pessimistic state of mind is persistent and becomes severe, creating a sense of hopelessness and despair, it could be a sign of depression or even a major depressive disorder. This article reviews the common symptoms of major depressive disorder, MDD diagnosis, and the available treatment options.

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What Is MDD?

While it’s normal for people to feel low at some point in life and then continue living normally, MDD is more than a state that one can simply snap out of and may continue for a long time. It can impact someone’s daily activities and their attitude towards life because most times, patients with MDD feel that life isn’t worth living.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression, is associated with continual sadness, recurrent negative thoughts, decreased energy levels, changes in appetite and eating patterns, lack of sleep, feelings of guilt, and suicidal thoughts, which require medical help.

According to research [4*] , an estimated 21 million adults aged 18 years and older in the United States experienced at least one depressive episode in 2020. This number is projected to keep rising, with MDD ranking first as a leading mental health disease burden by 2030.

Major Depressive Disorder Symptoms

Depression symptoms vary from one patient to another. Therefore, mental health professionals follow symptom criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) and answer specific questions that help them tell whether you have MDD or another mental condition.

The DSM-5 manual criteria for this depressive disorder are as follows:

  • There should be a notable behavioral change in the patient.
  • They should express a low mood, sadness, or loss of interest in a variety of activities and communication.
  • They should show other symptoms of MDD for two or more weeks. Mostly, these symptoms occur nearly every day and for the most part of the day, especially mornings.

When it comes to a major depressive disorder, DSM-5 states that a patient should have at least five of the following symptoms occurring for two or more weeks to get diagnosed with MDD.

  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or deep sorrow.
  • Feelings of guilt, regret, self-blame, or worthlessness, especially for past failures that wouldn’t bother them before.
  • Loss of interest in activities or things that they enjoyed most like sports and hobbies. Such a change is usually sudden and alarming.
  • Change in eating behavior or appetite which could lead to weight gain or weight loss.
  • Changes in sleep patterns like experiencing insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Frustration, irritability, or sudden outbursts over small matters that wouldn’t ordinarily spark such a reaction.
  • Lack of concentration on tasks at hand or difficulty making decisions.
  • Persistent unexplained physical problems like headaches.
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts.
  • Feelings of anxiety, unrest, or panic.
  • Reduced energy and getting tired quickly when working on something.

For some people, these symptoms are quite pronounced and easily noticeable by those around them, while for others, such signs of depression can go unnoticed for a long time. The good news is that MDD is treatable, and people can go back to their normal lives after taking major depressive disorder medications, attending counseling, or going for a combined approach.

If you have noticed some of the above symptoms, consider consulting with a mental health professional.

Major Depressive Disorder Treatment

MDD treatment is progressive and can take a while before the patient is over the symptoms completely. Therefore, doctors approach the condition in a personalized manner and ensure that the patient is receiving the best-suited treatment plan for them. MDD treatment can involve medication, psychotherapy, and specific lifestyle changes that the doctor may deem fit for a particular situation.


When treating MDD, doctors prescribe antidepressants that include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), responsible for boosting someone’s mood. These medications help to improve the mood, reduce sadness, and help someone to sleep better.
Before taking any medication, the doctor assesses the patient for any other underlying health problems and asks about pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is because some antidepressant medicines are contraindicated in such cases and can slow down efforts to treat MDD.


Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is considered an effective treatment [5*]  method for major depressive disorder. It involves talking to a therapist regularly in a coordinated manner about the condition and other issues that could have contributed to MDD.

Through the sessions, a patient is able to come to terms with the stressful event as they recount it, understand that it’s not their fault that things didn’t turn out well, and so they can stop guilt-tripping themselves. Also, they get to learn ways of coping with life challenges and rising above them and also build their self-esteem. When they find something worth living for, the thoughts of death and hopelessness get left behind.

In some cases, therapists create support groups for people facing similar situations to help increase the support base and reassure the patients that they are not alone. Such an approach produces good results within a short period.

Also, doctors may choose to combine medication and psychotherapy for better results.

Lifestyle Changes

While medication and psychotherapy are great ways to treat MDD, lifestyle changes [6*]  can come in handy to reinforce these efforts. For example, someone who had turned to alcohol and drug abuse as a result of MDD would need to change from that and embrace a new lifestyle that would boost their overall health.

Such changes could also mean indulging in physical activities like sports or taking up value-adding activities like learning music or other hobbies.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) could lead to suicide if left unattended for a long time. With the rising number of MDD cases every year, treatment should be done immediately after MDD symptoms are noticed. At EZCare Clinic, you can go through a detailed mental health assessment online from the comfort of your home and get a legit diagnosis from an expert as well as a personalized treatment plan.


+6 sources
  1. Major Depression
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  2. Evidence-Based Psychotherapy: Advantages and Challenges. (2017)
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  3. Lifestyle medicine for depression. (2014)
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  4. Major Depression
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  5. Evidence-Based Psychotherapy: Advantages and Challenges. (2017)
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  6. Lifestyle medicine for depression. (2014)
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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.