Type of Assessment Used to Diagnose Major Depressive Disorder

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What is Major Depressive Disorder?

Major depressive disorder is diagnosed when a person experiences five or more of the symptoms of depression on a regular basis for a period of time greater than two weeks. The type of assessment used to diagnose major depressive disorder looks for these symptoms: unexplained sadness, extreme fatigue, hopelessness, worthlessness, emptiness and extreme pessimism. Treatment most often involves therapy and medication management, but if need be, more extensive treatment is always an option. A doctor who is trained in major depressive disorder should always be consulted before treatment begins.

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

The DSM IV (diagnostic statistical manual) outlines the type of assessment used to diagnose major depressive disorder. The symptoms doctors look for include agitation, irritability, fatigue, trouble concentrating, disturbed sleep patterns, overeating, under eating, feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred, frequent thoughts of suicide, and trouble concentrating. When five or more of these symptoms continue longer than two weeks, the patient qualifies for this diagnosis.

Causes of Major Depressive Disorder

The cause of major depressive disorder can be any one of a large number of things. Chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as genetics, play a role in the onset of this severe depression. Women who have just given birth may be prone to a type of MDD called postpartum depression.

Victims of trauma often fall into this type of emotional dysfunctioning as well. Those who are of a minority or those who are often targets of bullying may be more susceptible to develop major depressive disorder. Although certain people may be more prone to this serious form of depression, no one is immune, and it can happen to anyone at any age. Causes of major depressive disorder are also considered in the assessment of major depressive disorder.


If someone has been assessed for major depressive disorder and diagnosed with the illness, treatment should be sought promptly since suicidal ideation is often part of the problem with this illness. Treatment involves a medical component as well as a psychiatric component. Anti-depressant medication is often prescribed to help combat the symptoms of depression. While the patient is following their particular medication management, therapy should be ongoing to help get at the underlying causes that are fueling the low mood.

A psychiatrist and a therapist should be the main part of the patient’s treatment team. Sometimes, depending on the medication, a medical doctor should be seen regularly as well. For those who need more serious treatment, ECT (electro-convulsive shock therapy) has been shown to be very successful in the treatment of major depressive disorder. With this type of treatment, a seizure is induced in the patient in order to adjust the dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.

Apart from therapy, mind-altering substances should be avoided when battling major depressive disorder. A healthy, balanced diet should be maintained; and a structured exercise plan could also be beneficial.


Mental Health: Major Depressive Disorder accessed October 16, 2010

National Institute of Mental Health accessed October 16, 2010