Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, affecting 6.7% (16.1 million) adults aged 18 and over.1 Major depression can appear at any age, but the likelihood of onset increases with puberty and peaks in the twenties.2

Symptoms of major depressive disorder

Major depression isn’t limited to feeling “sad.” In fact, symptoms can vary and include both emotional and physical changes. Common symptoms of depression can include the following:

  • Frequent crying and feelings of overwhelming sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Irritability or anger
  • Changes in eating patterns, including significant weight loss or gain
  • Loss of pleasure in normal activities
  • Psychosomatic complaints including headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide

The symptoms of major depression can make it difficult to attend to normal daily activities and can negatively impact employment or schooling, relationships or social functioning, and other areas of functioning.3 For these reasons, it can be a challenge for someone suffering from major depression to seek help and follow through on treatment.

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How to find help

Major depressive disorder is treatable with professional care, though success rates and length of treatment will vary depending on the severity of the depression. Understanding available treatments and how to find help make the process less overwhelming.

Treatment

Although treatment is individualized, several standard treatments are recommended:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Process-oriented talk therapy
  • Medication
  • Family therapy
  • Hospitalization if necessary
  • Residential treatment if necessary
  • Alternative treatments (nutrition plans, exercise plans, meditation or mindfulness strategies)

How to find the right therapist

Having confidence in your therapist plays an essential role in establishing a connection. To find the best therapist for you, it is recommended that you speak to more than one therapist.

Be prepared to ask potential therapists questions that include both practical matters and treatment strategies. Consider these questions when you speak to potential therapists:

  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • Do you specialize in children, adults, families, or all three?
  • What experience do you have treating major depressive disorder?
  • If I need medication, can you prescribe it for me or refer me to someone who can?
  • What are your credentials?
  • What is your treatment approach?
  • How will you help me overcome depression?
  • How long do you expect treatment to last?
  • What happens if I don’t start feeling better in the typical timeframe?
  • Are there things I can do on my own to improve my treatment outcome in addition to therapy?
  • How many sessions a month do you typically provide for someone with depression?
  • What if I can no longer afford the cost of treatment?
  • Do you provide sliding scale rates?

Once you have your list of questions, it’s time to seek out referrals. If you know other people in your area who suffer (or have suffered) from depression, ask them. Word of mouth can be a great way to find a good match. If this is not possible, begin with your physician. It’s always a good idea to get a physical if you suspect major depressive disorder because some medical problems can cause similar symptoms. If medical conditions are ruled out as a cause of the symptoms of depression, ask your primary care physician for a list of referrals for therapists.

If you still need further recommendations, your insurance carrier, local hospitals, and outpatient clinics have referral systems in place. You can also search for a therapist online at one of the resources listed on our Mental Health Resources page.

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Last Updated: Dec 12, 2017