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Major Depressive Disorder: The Classic Depression Type

Meet Emma, a 32-year-old professional living in Sydney. From the outside, Emma appeared to have it all – a successful career, a supportive social circle, and a loving family. However, beneath the surface, she grappled with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), a mental health condition that profoundly impacted her daily life. 

What is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)?  Major Depressive Disorder, also known as clinical depression, depression, or unipolar depression, is more than just experiencing a "down day." It's a persistent and intense form of depression that significantly disrupts one's ability to function as it happens most days, lasts for at least two weeks and impacts many areas of one’s life including work and social relationships. Individuals with MDD often endure deep feelings of sadness, a loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. 

Recognising the Signs:  While depression may occur episodically, it often presents with persistent symptoms throughout the day, including: 

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness 

  • Irritability, frustration, or anger 

  • Loss of interest in usual activities 

  • Disturbed sleep patterns 

  • Fatigue and decreased energy 

  • Changes in appetite and weight 

  • Anxiety or restlessness 

  • Slowed thinking or movements 

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt 

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions 

  • Thoughts of death or suicide 

  • Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or back pain 

Depression symptoms in children and teens often mirror those in adults, though variations exist.  In younger children, signs may manifest as sadness, irritability, clinginess, worry, physical complaints, school refusal, or underweight.  Teens may exhibit sadness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, anger, academic decline, sensitivity, substance use, changes in eating or sleeping habits, self-harm, loss of interest in activities, or social withdrawal. 

Depression in older adults is a serious concern, yet it's often overlooked and untreated. Symptoms may vary or appear less obvious, including: 

  • Memory issues or shifts in personality 

  • Physical discomforts 

  • Fatigue, appetite changes, sleep disturbances, or diminished interest in sex unrelated to medical conditions 

  • Preference for staying home rather than socializing 

  • Suicidal thoughts, particularly in older men 

For many experiencing depression, symptoms can significantly disrupt daily life, impacting work, school, social activities, and relationships. Some may feel persistently unhappy without clear understanding of the cause. 

Who is Most Affected?  MDD doesn't discriminate, affecting people from all walks of life. While MDD can affect anyone, research suggests that women are more likely than men to experience depression. 


Risk Factors:  Understanding the risk factors associated with MDD is crucial. Genetics, family history, chronic medical conditions, and stressful life events can increase vulnerability. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of modern life, financial stressors, and social isolation contribute to the prevalence of MDD. 

Treatment:  Treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) typically involves medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments. Severe cases or those with suicidal thoughts may require hospitalization or outpatient programs until symptoms improve.  

  • Medications are commonly prescribed to increase serotonin levels in the brain, alleviating symptoms.  

  • Psychotherapy helps individuals cope with stressors and improve coping strategies.

  • Lifestyle changes, including dietary improvements, exercise, and quality sleep, can also complement treatment by boosting mood and overall well-being.

How Can We Help?  Support is a cornerstone in managing MDD. Friends, family, and colleagues can provide a crucial network for individuals struggling with depression. Encouraging open conversations about mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding seeking professional help are vital steps. In Australia, various mental health services, including counselling and helplines, offer assistance to those in need. 


In conclusion, Major Depressive Disorder is a prevalent and impactful condition that affects many Australians. By shedding light on its realities, fostering understanding, and providing support, we can collectively contribute to building a more compassionate and resilient community. If you or someone you know is experiencing MDD, seeking help is a brave and essential first step towards recovery. 


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately through the following:   24 hours, 7 days Crisis Support Services: 

Lifeline: 13 11 14  

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467  

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978 

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 



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