It is estimated that approximately 6.7% of all American adults will experience at least one major depressive episode in the last year, clearly demonstrating just how prevalent this highly misunderstood disorder is in today’s society. Researchers and mental health professionals continue to study this disorder in the effort to better understand it.
The term ‘depression’ better known by mental health professionals as ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ or ‘Clinical Depression’ is one that encompasses a wide variety of signs and symptoms including persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in the things that once brought joy and happiness to one’s life. While this may sound, at first glance, like nothing more than a minor inconvenience, depression can lead to serious repercussions including, in the most severe cases, a risk of suicide.
The biggest struggle that those facing a life with depression today struggle with is the lack of information and understanding of what living with this disorder actually entails. As a result, there is a highly negative stigma that exists in our society today, painting those who are living with major depressive disorder as ‘weak’. In fact, many experts in the field believe that this stigma is the biggest barrier preventing those who are struggling from seeking professional assistance.
The only way to break this stigma is to open our minds and our hearts to better understanding the reality of life with depression, it’s potential causes and the availability of treatment. Discussion of living with the disorder needs to be normalized, rather than judged, much in the way we can discuss physical ailments like cancer or heart disease.
In an effort to better understand the cause of this disorder, a team of researchers out of the Neural Computational Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology compiled as much data as they were able to obtain relating to the major depressive disorder and began to analyze the experience of those living with the disorder in search of patterns that may have been previously overlooked. This data included a series of MRI scans revealing 78 brain regions from a total of 67 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder and 67 healthy control subjects.
In analyzing information, the team identified 3 distinct subtypes of depression – those who experienced childhood trauma, those who showed no increased connectivity among regions of the brain, and those who have not experienced childhood trauma. Their findings are incredibly important, as this is the first time that sub-types of depression have been identified in this way.
Each of these sub-types responds differently to the various treatment options available, therefore, but understanding and identifying one’s sub-type, professionals can then suggest the best course of treatment. Additional research is required to better understand the different subtypes before this information can be used in a practical way.