What is Major Depressive Disorder?
Major Depressive Disorder is a multifaceted disorder characterized by mood disturbance in combination with behavioral difficulties (social isolation, sleep and appetite disturbance) and cognitive dysfunction (poor concentration and memory). Clinical depression goes beyond the normal reaction to negative life circumstances, such as divorce, illness or loss of a significant other. A significant number of patients with major depressive disorder respond to a combination of antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy, with research indicating that the most effective psychotherapeutic approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Persons of all ages can suffer from depression, including adults, children and the elderly. Studies estimate the prevalence rates of depression for adult women to be between 5-9% and for adult men 2-3%.
Estimates also suggest that 3-6 million children suffer from depression although the disorder may be vastly under identified and under treated, especially when symptoms overlap with other disorders, such as hyperactivity, school problems or somatic concerns. Depression in children may be indicated by symptoms similar to those seen in adults, such as hopelessness, and even suicidal thoughts. Some symptoms are more characteristic of childhood depression such as excessive dependency on adults, difficulties in school, behavioral problems, listlessness, bed-wetting, fatigue and bodily complaints.
Some data suggests that depression in older adults is also grossly underestimated. Symptoms of depression in the elderly are frequently incorrectly diagnosed as senility and other disorders associated with advanced age because of symptoms such as memory loss, confused thinking or apathy. Additionally, inconsistent sleeping patterns and reduced appetite, often occurring in this age group independent of depression, may in fact be signs of depression. Depression in the elderly may also manifest via multiple physical complaints, such as aches and pains.