Identifying the warning signs – MMD (Major Depressive Disorder)


Major Depressive Disorder or MDD is the clinical term for a mood disorder. It has traits like prolonged periods of sadness, low self-esteem and, in extreme cases, the urge to commit suicide. It is a fact that almost everyone feels extreme sadness at some point in time; however, if the depression persists for longer than six weeks and hinders the maintenance of typical modes of living, it may qualify as MDD. While the passage of time helps alleviate ordinary depression, Major Depressive Disorder calls for clinical treatment.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both.

Signs & Symptoms to look out for:

Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • You experience feelings of restlessness.
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
  • You suddenly lose or gain weight or have a change in appetite.

Many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships. A person may feel miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

What causes major depressive disorder?

The exact cause of MMD isn’t known. However, there are multiple factors that can increase the chances of developing the condition. A combination of genes and stress can affect brain chemistry and reduce the ability to maintain mood stability. Changes in the balance of hormones may also contribute to the development of MDD.

MDD may also be triggered by:

  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • certain medical conditions, such as cancer or hypothyroidism (when your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones)
  • particular types of medications, including steroids

Different Types of MMD:

There are many different types of major depressive disorder that can affect you, making daily living difficult. Each type often has different causes, but they typically involve the same feeling of disinterest in activities that you once loved and an overall feeling of sadness. These are divided into subtypes called specifiers that determine how long the diagnosis of depression lasts and the defining characteristic of each type.

  • Psychotic Depression often develops if you have been hallucinating or you believe in delusions that are not cohesive with reality. This can be caused by a traumatic event or if you have already had a form of depression in the past.
  • SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is categorized as a disease directly caused by the time of the year. It occurs most often in the winter months when sunlight is not as readily available. SAD can be “effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone.” Counselling and medication is also recommended.
  • Melancholic Depression often exhibits the most typical signs of depression, including weight loss and decreased interest in activities they once enjoyed. You might experience a depressed mood similar to losing someone you love or intense grief. Symptoms include hypersomnia, heaviness in the limbs, and social anxiety.
  • Postpartum Depression (Postnatal Depression) is a common occurrence among new mothers experiencing hormonal changes following childbirth. The stress of raising a new child and changes in and to her body can greatly affect her mood.
  • Catatonic Depression is when you are likely experiencing motor problems and behavioural issues. You might be immobilized or have involuntary movements. The signs and symptoms of catatonia interfere with essential activities of daily living.

If you feel that you may be suffering with POSTNATAL DEPRESSION, you are welcome to click on the below link (Supplied by SADAG) to test yourself:


When to see a doctor

If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can. If you refuse to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, any health care professional, a faith leader, or someone you trust.

However, if you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call your local emergency number immediately.

In South Africa, our suicide crisis line is 0800 567 567

Remember, depression is treatable and effective treatments are available.

The earlier you seek support, the better.


SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) have a questionnaire that you can complete to help you identify if you are suffering with depression.  To test yourself, please click on the below link:




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