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Major Depression (Clinical Depression)

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What Triggers Major Depression?

Some common triggers or causes of major depression include:

  • Grief from losing a loved one through death, divorce, or separation
  • Social isolation or feelings of being deprived
  • Major life changes -- moving, graduation, job change, retirement
  • Personal conflicts in relationships, either with a significant other or a superior
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

 

How Is Major Depression Diagnosed?

A health professional -- such as your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist -- will perform a thorough medical evaluation. The professional will ask about your personal and family psychiatric history. You may also have to complete a depression screening test.

There is no blood test, X-ray, or other laboratory test that can be used to diagnose major depression. However, your doctor may run blood tests to help detect any other medical problems that have symptoms similar to those of depression. For example, hypothyroidism can cause some of the same symptoms as depression, as can alcohol or drug use and abuse, some medications, and stroke.

How Is Major Depression Treated?

Major or clinical depression is a serious but treatable illness. Depending on the severity of symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatment with an antidepressant medication. He or she may also suggest psychotherapy, or talk therapy, in which you address your emotional state.

Sometimes, other medications are added to the antidepressant to boost its effectiveness. Certain medicines work better for some people. It may be necessary for your doctor to try different drugs at different doses to determine which medicine works best for you. 

There are other treatment options for clinical depression -- such as electroconvulsive therapy, also called ECT or shock therapy -- that can be used if drugs prove ineffective or symptoms are severe. 

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 or causes of major depression (see above) and to continue taking the prescribed medication to avoid relapse. It is also important to know what the symptoms of major depression are and to talk with your doctor early if you have any of these symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 11, 2014
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