Mental Health Friday 2023-05-26
On Mental Health Friday, we post, in alphabetical order, one per week, information on mental health disorders. Mental Health Friday is for informational purposes only, and is in no way meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Please do not self diagnose and seek professional help for what ails you.
Major Depressive Episode
By Editorial Team
A Major Depressive Episode (MDE) is a key feature of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), commonly referred to as clinical depression. It is a severe form of depression that lasts for a specific period and significantly affects a person’s emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and overall functioning. Here is a detailed explanation of the various aspects of a Major Depressive Episode:
Diagnostic Criteria: To meet the diagnostic criteria for a Major Depressive Episode, an individual must experience at least five of the following symptoms nearly every day for a minimum of two weeks. These symptoms should represent a change from their previous functioning and include:
- Depressed mood: A persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness, which may be self-reported or observed by others.
- Anhedonia: Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable, such as hobbies, social interactions, or sex.
- Significant weight change: A noticeable increase or decrease in appetite leading to weight loss or weight gain. This can be unrelated to intentional dieting or exercise.
- Sleep disturbances: Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), including difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing early morning awakening.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation: Observable changes in physical movements, such as restlessness, pacing, or slowed speech and body movements.
- Fatigue or loss of energy: Persistent feelings of tiredness, lack of energy, or a general sense of being physically or mentally drained.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt: Negative self-perception, unwarranted guilt, self-blame, or a sense of incompetence.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate: Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or experiencing cognitive impairment and indecisiveness.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation: Persistent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicidal behaviors.
Impact and Duration: A Major Depressive Episode significantly impairs an individual’s ability to function and enjoy daily activities. It can affect their performance at work or school, strain personal relationships, and diminish overall quality of life. The episode typically lasts for a minimum of two weeks, but it can extend for several months if left untreated.
Severity: The severity of a Major Depressive Episode can range from mild to severe, based on the number and intensity of symptoms and the resulting impact on daily functioning. Mild episodes may present with minimal impairment, while severe episodes can be debilitating, leading to social withdrawal, inability to work, and a high risk of suicide.
Causes and Risk Factors: The exact cause of Major Depressive Disorder is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Some common risk factors include a family history of depression, certain chemical imbalances in the brain, stressful life events, chronic medical conditions, substance abuse, and a personal or family history of mental health disorders.
Treatment: Major Depressive Episodes are highly treatable conditions, and several effective treatment options are available. They commonly include a combination of psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy) and medication (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs). In more severe cases or when other treatments have not been successful, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be considered.
Support and Lifestyle Changes: In addition to professional treatment, a supportive environment and certain lifestyle changes can be beneficial. These may include building a strong support system, engaging in regular physical exercise, adopting healthy sleep habits, managing stress levels, avoiding substance abuse, and practicing self-care activities that promote emotional well-being.
It’s important to note that the information provided here is for educational purposes only, and if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode or any mental health concerns, it is essential to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider.