An individual with this type of depression feels a profound and
constant sense of hopelessness and despair.
depression is manifested by a combination
of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study,
sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a
disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more
commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.
Who Experiences Major Depression?
In the U.S., approximately 10% of people suffer
from major depression at any one time and 20%-25% suffer an
episode of major depression at some point during their
lifetimes. Most people associate depression with adults, but it
also occurs in children and the elderly -- two populations in
which it often goes undiagnosed and untreated.
Approximately twice as many women as men suffer
from major depression. This is partially because of hormonal
changes throughout a woman's life: During menstruation,
pregnancy, miscarriage and menopause. Other contributing factors
include increased responsibilities in both professional and home
lives -- balancing work while taking care of a household,
raising a child alone, or even caring for an aging parent.
However, depression in men may also be under-reported.
Men who suffer from major depression are less
likely to seek help or even talk about their experience. Signs
of depression in men are more often irritability, anger, or drug
and alcohol abuse. Repressing their feelings can result in
violent behavior directed both inwardly and outwardly, and an
increase in illness, suicide and homicide.
What Factors Can Trigger
- Grief (loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or
- Interpersonal disputes (conflict with a significant
other or a superior; physical, sexual, or emotional
- Role transitions (moving, graduation, job change,
- Interpersonal deficits (leading to social isolation or
feelings of being deprived).
- Not everyone has a trigger for a depressive episode.
How Is Major Depression Diagnosed?
If you are depressed and have had symptoms for more than
two weeks, see your doctor or a psychiatrist. Your doctor will perform a
thorough medical evaluation, paying particular attention to your personal and
history. You may be asked to complete a depression screening
There is no blood, X-ray, or other laboratory
test that can be used to diagnose major depression. However,
your doctor may run some blood tests to help detect any other
medical problems that have symptoms similar to those of
depression (such as hypothyroidism).
What Treatments Are Available For Major
Major depression is a serious, but treatable, illness.
Your doctor will most likely give you a prescription antidepressant medication. He or she may also suggest that
you receive a specialized form of "talking" counseling called
Certain medicines work better for some people.
It is important to talk to your doctor about finding a treatment
that fits your lifestyle. It may be necessary for your doctor to
try different drugs at different doses. Aside from taking them,
there is very little way to determine which medicine will work
best for you.
Can Major Depression Be Prevented?
Once you have had an episode of major
depression, you are at high risk of having another. The best way
to prevent another episode of depression is to be aware of the
triggers of depression (see above), know the symptoms of
depression in you, and to seek help early if you need it.
Reviewed by the doctors at
The Cleveland Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
Cynthia Haines, MD, WebMD, July 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic
© 1996-2005 WebMD
Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Editorial Review: 11/28/2005