Doctors use different treatments and criteria for major depressive disorder and depression. Several treatments may be highly effective in improving a person’s depression symptoms.

Depression is a medical term for several medical conditions that may affect a person’s mood, physical health, and everyday life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States have received a diagnosis of depression during their life.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a type of depression. It can be more severe than some other types of depression, requires different treatments, and shares some symptoms.

Although depression and MDD are not completely curable, doctors can treat a person’s symptoms, even for severe depression. People need to speak with a healthcare or mental health professional for depression treatments, especially if their symptoms worsen or last longer than 2 weeks.

This article discusses MDD, depression, and their differences and similarities. It also outlines treatments for both MDD and depression.

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MDD is a mental health condition. People with MDD experience symptoms that can interfere with their everyday lives. They can also lose interest in activities that usually provide them pleasure. Healthcare and mental health care professionals diagnose individuals with MDD if they experience five symptoms that include:

  • a persistent low or depressed mood
  • anhedonia, which involves a reduced interest in otherwise pleasurable activities,
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • disturbed sleep
  • aches or pains without a clear physical cause
  • psychomotor retardation, where a person has:
    • slowed speech
    • decreased movement
    • difficulty thinking
  • psychomotor agitation, where someone has repetitive movements such as toe tapping or fidgeting
  • a lack of energy
  • concentration issues
  • changes to their appetite
  • suicidal thoughts

Additionally, one symptom must be a depressed mood or anhedonia that interferes with a person’s social or work activities.

Learn more about MDD.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Depression is a common and serious mood disorder. There are several medical definitions of distinct types of depression. People with the disorder may experience symptoms that affect how they feel and think and their daily activities. They can include persistent:

  • feelings of:
    • sadness
    • anxiousness
    • emptiness
    • hopelessness or pessimism
    • irritability, frustration, or restlessness
    • guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • lack of energy
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • difficulty sleeping
  • waking too early in the morning
  • oversleeping
  • unplanned weight changes
  • changes to a person’s appetite
  • digestive problems that do not go away with treatment and have no clear physical cause
  • difficulty with making decisions
  • suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person and may develop gradually. Many people often experience mood fluctuations without having depression.

Major life events, such as bereavement or financial difficulties, may trigger depression. Additionally, many individuals may have depression that comes and goes for some time.

Learn more about depression.

MDD is a type of depression. Several conditions can cause people to experience depression symptoms. However, those with MDD have different and more severe symptoms. They may have persistent symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks.

For healthcare professionals to diagnose MDD, a person must have at least five symptoms relating to the disorder. With MDD, at least one symptom must be having a depressed mood, which interferes with their everyday life.

Other conditions that cause symptoms of depression can vary in severity and treatment method in comparison with MDD. Doctors may diagnose the condition a person has according to their:

  • symptoms, including how often they experience them and their severity
  • how long the depression lasts
  • the effects on their daily life

Healthcare professionals may treat depression and MDD using medication and psychotherapy.

These therapies can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IT). Both CBT and IT are types of psychotherapy, where people talk with a mental health professional about their condition in group or individual sessions. For mild depression, doctors may also recommend exercise as a treatment.

If medication is ineffective, healthcare professionals may use electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). They can also use ECT to treat MDD.

ECT is a treatment where doctors use electric current to stimulate electrical activity in a person’s brain. This can help relieve severe symptoms of some mental health conditions.

If someone with MDD has had no improvement from medication, doctors may use:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation: This involves using magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in a person’s brain to improve their symptoms.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation: This uses an electric current to stimulate a person’s vagus nerve to improve their symptoms
  • Esketamine: This is a nasal spray for use with oral antidepressants

The following are answers to common questions about depression and MDD.

What are the five categories of depression?

Five major categories of depression are as follows:

  • major depression
  • perinatal depression, which is depression that occurs during or after pregnancy
  • seasonal affective disorder, depression that comes and goes with some seasons
  • persistent depressive disorder, which people also call dysthymia or dysthymic disorder
  • depression with psychotic symptoms, where someone has symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations

What is major depressive disorder called now?

Other names for major depressive disorder (MDD) are clinical depression or major depression.

Is MDD a disability?

Forms of depression, such as MDD, are a psychiatric disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act if someone’s MDD limits one or more major life activities.

MDD is a common type of depression that can cause mild to severe symptoms. People with MDD may have similar symptoms to other forms of depression, including mood changes, physical symptoms, and effects on their everyday activities.

MDD and depression can vary with the severity and type of symptoms. Healthcare professionals can recommend some treatments for depression and MDD and others just for MDD. Although there is no cure for depression or MDD, healthcare professionals can often improve a person’s symptoms and reduce the effects on their daily lives.