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What Is Considered Major Depression?

What Is Considered Major Depression?

Depression is defined as a common medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, the way one thinks and how one acts. It can range in seriousness from “mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that severe depression, clinically referred to in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as major depressive disorder (MDD), is “characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities,” resulting in significant impairment in one’s daily life. In major depression, according to Harvard Medical School, “the most prominent symptom is a severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair.” All young people will experience bouts of extreme sadness and even despair at some point in their lives. For most, these feelings will naturally dissipate in time and/ or with a change of circumstance. For those with major depression, however, these feelings will fester and may cause debilitating effects. 

Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria

To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, a young person’s symptoms must fit the criteria outlined in the DSM-5. An adolescent must be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

These symptoms must cause the young person clinically significant distress or impairment in social, educational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, in the long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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