DepressionDepression TypesMajor Depressive Disorder

Let's Talk About Major Depressive Disorder

MDD is a sneaky sonofabitch. Depression likes to stealthily creep into your mind, gradually tanking your mood and harming your quality of life. Recognizing the warning signs—which can vary depending on your age—is the first step in getting the right support.

    Our Pro PanelMajor Depressive Disorder

    We asked some of the nation’s top depression experts to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D.

    Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D.Chief Medical Officer of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences

    Dell Medical School, The University of Texas
    Austin, TX
    Jennifer L. Payne, M.D.

    Jennifer L. Payne, M.D.Director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry

    Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
    Baltimore, MD
    Carol A. Bernstein, M.D.

    Carol A. Bernstein, M.D.Psychiatrist, Vice Chair for Faculty Development and Well-Being in the Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    The Bronx, NY

    Frequently Asked QuestionsMajor Depressive Disorder

    Is there a difference between Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and clinical depression?

    Nope. If you have clinical depression, that means you’ve been diagnosed with MDD by a doctor. Think of it as your depression having the blue verified checkmark on Twitter. In casual conversation, people throw around the word “depressed” when they really mean “sad” or “bummed out.” Those types of feelings will eventually pass, but time generally doesn’t make depression go away. While being sad and bummed out is a part of MDD, a clinical diagnosis requires your depression to get in the way of your life, make you ambivalent to the things you once loved, exhausted, change your appetite and sleeping patterns, and in some cases, lead to recurring thoughts of suicide.

    How should I explain my MDD to my friends/family/workplace?

    Deciding who to tell about your disorder is a personal and sometimes difficult decision. Your friends and family love and care about you the most, so odds are good they’ll have your best interests at heart if you give them the opportunity to support you. However, you can’t expect everyone to react the way you wish they would. They may not know the right things to say or even take the news very well, so think carefully about who might be the most emotionally equipped to handle this new info. In the workplace, disclosure gets even trickier. Your place of business may not be the wokest environment, and management might still attach stigma to mental illness. Even though there are laws protecting employees from workplace discrimination (check out your rights here), consider that research shows around 25% of people who come out about their disability at work face negative consequences afterward, including lowered expectations, isolation from co-workers, and increased likelihood of termination. We’re not saying you should hide your depression from your bosses and coworkers, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons first.

    Is there a way to pull yourself out of a bout of depression?

    A person can’t just snap out of a depressive episode. It just doesn’t work that way. However, when you feel a wave of depression coming on (usually via a tell-tale barrage of constant negativity in your brain), it’s important to challenge those thoughts. When you tell yourself, “I can’t ever do anything right,” think back to a time when you absolutely nailed it. Automatic negative thoughts are a symptom of depression and are in no way reflective of you or your value as a person. Even if you’re not feeling yourself right now, stay engaged with the world. Make plans with friends and family, even if you don’t want to. Don’t self-isolate and close yourself off. If your depression lasts for two weeks or more, or you feel overwhelmed, see a mental health professional. It’s easier to pull yourself up with a helping hand.

    What is the usual age for MDD diagnosis?

    The median age for a person to get diagnosed with depression is 32, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). (Coincidentally, it’s also the average age of a PGA golf champion, but that’s definitely unrelated.) Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re more likely to become depressed at the age of 32. Many people with depression put off mental health treatment for years, even decades, either self-medicating or suffering in silence.

    Meirav Devash

    Meirav Devash


    Meirav Devash is a writer, editor, and beauty, health, and wellness expert, reporting on topics from mental health to goth fitness and cannabis law.