Major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression found in the general population. Characterized by constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness, major depressive disorder interferes with a person's enjoyment of life. It can also have a negative impact on a person's day-to-day responsibilities. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM4) has a list of criteria one can apply to accurately recognize major depression.
- Become aware of how long depressive symptoms have been present. The DSM4 criteria states that major depression is likely only if the symptoms have been constant for longer than 2 weeks.
- Recognize which symptoms have to be present for it to be considered major depression. According to the DSM4, a person has to experience either a depressed mood or a loss of interest in pleasurable activities for major depression to be considered as a possible diagnosis.
- Learn whether someone has been abusing drugs or alcohol. If this is the case, then any symptoms of depression may be a result of that abuse. Using the DSM4 criteria, this means major depression is not likely.
- Watch for any negative effects the depression symptoms may have on a person's work, school or family life. Depression that interferes in any of these things falls under the DSM4 criteria for major depression.
- Keep abreast of major life changes that may affect a person's mood. The death of a loved one, a divorce, a major move or disruption in a person's career can all cause short-term depression. Under the DSM4 criteria, depression caused by any of these events would not be considered major depressive disorder.
- Observe the number of depression symptoms a person is experiencing. For the DSM4 criteria to apply, a person must have at least five of the following symptoms: change of appetite, weight loss not related to diet, insomnia, fatigue, impaired motor skills, daily feelings of low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating and suicidal thoughts.
Tips & Warnings
- While almost anyone can apply the DSM4 criteria to recognize major depressive disorder, only a qualified mental health professional can make an official diagnosis.
- If a person has experienced depression brought on by major life changes and this depression lasts for more than 2 months, then it may be considered major depression under the DSM4 criteria.