Depression. One of the most widespread mental illnesses today. But unbeknownst to most, there are various types of depression. Major depression, also known as unipolar depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), is a “persistent feeling of sadness or lack of interest in outside stimuli.”
Unipolar depression, contrasted from bipolar depression, is focused on the “lows” or negative emotions associated with the illness. Also unlike chronic depression, major depression is ongoing and consistent.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 20-26% of American women and 8-12% of American men report an incidence of major depression at least once in their lifetime. The U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates by Demographic Characteristics in 2005 reported the median age for the onset of major depression is 32.
Despite being an understood condition, it can be difficult to notice the symptoms of major depression especially if it’s someone’s first time experiencing it. But these are some common traits of major depression to watch out for:
Signs and symptoms of major depression
Persistent negative thinking
Everyone has “off days”. Maybe things just don’t go their way and it gets frustrating. With major depression, this is emphasized even more. Thinking becomes highly pessimistic noticing all the flaws and pitfalls of everyday situations while failing to see any positive solutions. It’s akin to “apocalyptic” thinking where the entire universe conspires against the person. The persistence is felt when even logical or sensible answers to the issues are dismissed.
Extreme agitation and irritability
Even usually docile individuals become short-fused when they are going through major depression. This ties in with the previous point about negative thinking. An individual becomes preoccupied with bad thoughts and makes them prone to spontaneously erupting at others – including loved ones. Men, who report depression less and suppress emotions, may be more prone to exploding in anger.
Hurting loved ones and withdrawing from the world
An additional effect to the persistent negativity and extreme irritability is taking it out on loved ones. It’s unfortunate but those with the closest proximity to the affected receive the brunt of the punishment. It isn’t that those with major depression hate their loved ones but they feel the need to distance themselves because they are in a state of unrest. Unwilling to further cause harm to others especially those they love, they can withdraw from the world and even ignore activities they enjoy.
Low energy and disinterest in general living
Fatigue both emotionally and physically affects those with major depression. Even activities that usually motivate or give energy are ineffective and this goes for people as well. The fatigue can also lead to oversleeping, under-eating, and sexual dysfunction especially in men.
Morbid thoughts and suicidal tendencies
Perhaps the most harrowing sign of major depression and one with the biggest red flag: suicidal thoughts. In connection with the persistent negativity, distancing from loved ones, and dissatisfaction with living, those with major depression may turn to harming themselves physically and in extreme cases, may attempt suicide.
When these symptoms occur, it is best to quickly consult therapists. When a loved one has major depression, offer them support and guidance. Talk to them and stay positive. Encourage them to open up and never ignore comments about suicide or self-harm. There are plenty of treatments for people with major depression and knowing what it is and how to spot it is half the battle.