Major Depressive Disorder

The Most Common Mental Illness

Understanding, Pinpointing, and Treating Major Depressive Disorder

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder

Depression is a persistent bad mood, low self-esteem, or loss of interest in things that someone used to enjoy.

Major Depressive Disorder (also referred to as “clinical depression” or “MDD”) is a mental health disorder characterized by an inescapable and persistent low mood, often accompanied by low self-esteem and increased disinterest or lack of pleasure in activities previously found enjoyable.  

MDD is one of the most common and fastest-growing mental illnesses, *affecting more than 16 million American adults each year. Depression, in all its forms, is also one of the most treatable mental illnesses with the overwhelming majority of those who seek treatment showing improvement. At Valley, we understand MDD, and we are here to help.

Facts & Figures

Major Depressive Disorder Averages & Statistics


What Are the Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder?

Many things can contribute to clinical depression, whether it be biological, cognitive, trauma-related, seasonal, genetic or gender-related (more women than men experience depression). Oftentimes people become depressed for no apparent reason and with seemingly no apparent root cause.

While it’s oftentimes difficult to pinpoint the root causes of depressive disorders, the symptoms are not-so-difficult to identify. You may be depressed if you’ve experienced five or more of the following symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks.

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” moods.
  • Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking.
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders).
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless.
  • Thoughts of suicide or death.


Valley Services

How is Valley Treating Major Depressive Disorder?

Focussing on your mental well-being is beneficial and should be a very normal part of healthy living. At Valley Oaks, we know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, which is why we take the time to care for each client individually and consider their broader story. Every client that walks through our doors is assessed holistically and cared for in a comprehensive way within a solution-focused approach.

We offer a wide variety of counseling and counseling environments for a wide variety of clients:

Our individual counseling focuses in on each client and their unique story in order to discover the solutions that are right for them. After pairing our clients with the ideal therapist, we take the time to press into the cognitive, behavioral, and motivational aspects of our client’s recovery while also considering dual-diagnosis.

At Valley, we offer FDA approved psychiatric medication as part of our comprehensive treatment plan. Each medication program is prescribed by a trained medical professional (e.g., psychiatrist, nurse practitioner) within a broad scope of long-term care.

Research shows that counseling within a group setting is just as effective, sometimes even more so, as individual care. At Valley, we are proud to provide robust interactive care groups led by trained clinicians. These empowering spaces have proven to be an invaluable resource for learning coping skills, feeling acceptance, and avoiding social isolation.

While every client needs to be individually motivated to seek treatment, one of the largest factors in successful treatment is a solid support system. Our family and couples counseling partners with immediate family, primary caregivers, adopted families, and support systems to get everyone on the same page in caring for their loved ones.

Complementary & Alternative Treatments

Integrating Alternative Medicine and Activity

Incorporating complementary or alternative medicine is often referred to as an integrated approach and works best when used alongside professional treatment. Don’t replace conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy with alternative medicine.

With that said, here are some things proven to be helpful when dealing with Major Depressive Disorder:

Dietary Supplements

Fish oil: Fish oil and fish are common sources of two of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids may affect the chemicals in your brain associated with mood disorders.

Rhodiola rosea: Rhodiola rosea (arctic root or golden root) may help treat mild to moderate depression. Rosea is a mild stimulant and may cause insomnia. Other side effects include vivid dreaming and nausea.

S-adenosylmethionine: The results of a review of studies indicate that the supplement form of a substance that naturally occurs in the body, S-adenosylmethionine, may be beneficial for depression. 

N-acetylcysteine: This antioxidant helps reduce oxidative stress. Additionally, a review of the literature reported that in one randomized controlled trial of people with bipolar disorder, adding 2 grams of N-acetylcysteine per day to traditional bipolar medication treatment led to significant improvement in depression, mania, and quality of life.


Exercise is generally classified as aerobic (running or walking), resistance (weight training), or mindfulness-based (yoga or tai chi). Exercise is known to improve cognitive mechanisms due to a diversion from negative thinking, social contact, and feelings of control over one’s health. Consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening or another activity that you enjoy.  


Getting a healthy amount of sleep is important for both your physical and mental well-being. Research by the Harvard Medical School has shown that 7-9 hours is the ideal amount of sleep per night for adults, for optimal functional and psychological performance. Getting less than 7 hours can greatly exacerbate stresses and decreases our ability to properly manage stress. 

If you’re having trouble sleeping, first try limiting caffeine solely to the morning, ideally 12 hours before you go to bed. Secondly, a healthy workout routine can be a great benefit to exhausting our bodies. Finely, try limiting alcohol intake before bed which helps your body achieve REM sleep. 

If you continue to have ongoing sleep problems, talk to your doctor. 

Calming Techniques

Stress complicates depression. Calming techniques can’t cure major depressive disorder, but they may help you manage your symptoms and be a valuable part of your treatment plan. Several alternative treatments aim to reduce anxiety and stress. These treatments include:

  • massage therapy

  • yoga

  • acupuncture

  • meditation


Videos & Podcasts

Knowledgeable Insights from Around the Web


Major Depressive Disorder

10:30 Min

What is Major Depressive Disorder?

06:25 Min


The Mental Illness Happy Hour


The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Jen Gotch is OK...Sometimes


Jen Gotch is OK...Sometimes

Mentally Yours


Mentally Yours

The Hilarious World of Depression


The Hilarious World of Depression

The Struggle Bus


The Struggle Bus: Self-Care, Mental Health, and Other Hilarious Stuff

Page Turners

Great Resources on Major Depressive Disorder

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

By Russ Harris

Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness

By David A. Karp

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

By Andrew Solomon

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

By William Styron

The Depression Cure

By Stephen S. Ilardi

The Mindful Way Through Depression

By Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Research and Resources

Great Articles & Resources on Major Depressive Disorder

A Nutritional Guide to Managing Your MDD

Major depressive disorder (MDD) can have a huge impact on your life. You may lose interest in your favorite activities, have difficulty sleeping, or experience a change in appetite. Persistent sadness, irritability, and frustration can also change your relationships with family and friends, or interfere with your ability to concentrate at work or school. MDD, …

The Benefits of Exercise for MDD

The benefits of regular exercise can’t be overstated. Exercise can decrease your risk for cancer and heart disease. It can also strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of infections. Exercise is especially important if you have major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD, or clinical depression, is a common illness. Roughly 16 million adults in …

Diet, Exercise, Sleep
Blurt It Out

For those of us who look after children in some capacity, we’ve probably read a fair few articles and books over our time in the hope of raising them to be healthy, well-rounded individuals. The concept of ‘self-care‘ can be a tricky one to explain to little ones – it’s a broad topic, interchangeable as …

Exercise, Sleep, Therapy
Yoga for anxiety and depression

Research suggests that this practice modulates the stress response. Since the 1970s, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible treatments for depression and anxiety. One such practice, yoga, has received less attention in the medical literature, though it has become increasingly popular in recent decades. One national survey estimated, for example, that …