Major Depressive Disorder

Over 21 million adults in America experience an episode of major depressive disorder each year, and the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to both the incidence and the severity of the disorder for many.

Information about biomedical and ‘alternative’ treatments can be found in abundance online. Public figures are also discussing how they manage with treatment and social support.

How are people navigating this disorder?

Search Trends

The Trends Section provides an overview of some of the most recent and relevant topics that relate to particular health conditions.

It features a selection of the topics that have the fastest growing Google search interest across the last three months, and reflects the inquiries of patients, healthcare providers, scientists, and others who are invested in the topic.

This is valuable to understand people’s interests and concerns at the present moment, and often include the U.S. states that have the highest interest in a topic. 

Quilt.AI brings these trends to life through an analysis that incorporates both cultural and scientific lenses.

What top selling drugs for Major Depressive Disorder are trending on search?

What's trending on search for Major Depressive Disorder?

Search interest for Lexapro vs Prozac grew by 227% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

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1. Lexapro vs Prozac

Many people who were searching for "major depressive disorder" were also looking to distinguish between the commonly-prescribed antidepressants Lexapro and Prozac. The majority of these searches originated from New York, Florida, and Texas over the past 90 days, and there was a steady increase in search interest across this time period. 

Lexapro and Prozac are both SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and are thought to work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin thereby increasing serotonin’s activity in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical part in many of our bodily processes including mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, cognition, memory, and sexual function. 

The search is indicative of people’s desire to understand each drug’s efficacy in treating – among other conditions – clinical depression (including the serious mood disorder, major depressive disorder), and also to compare their respective side effects. The internet contains many articles and research papers that address this question, and the general consensus is that both are effective at treating depression, but Lexapro users typically experience milder side effects. 

2. Does melatonin cause depression

There has been an increase in interest for people inquiring about melatonin’s possible link to depression across the past three months. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our bodies and its primary function is to regulate our sleep cycles. Melatonin also is widely available as an over the counter dietary supplement, and is commonly taken to support sleep in the cases of insomnia, jet lag, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. 

Melatonin is generally regarded as a safe product that is not associated with serious side effects.There is no evidence to indicate that taking melatonin would cause depression in a person who did not previously have it. However, some people have reported experiencing side effects–including temporary depression–after taking melatonin. 

Because sleep disturbances (i.e. insomnia or hypersomnia) are often experienced by those who have major depressive disorder, this search likely reveals people’s interest in addressing disordered sleep while ensuring that it does not exacerbate their condition.

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Search interest for does melatonin cause depression grew by 139% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

Search interest for can sertraline cause weight gain grew by 113% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

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3. Can sertraline cause weight gain

Searches inquiring about the drug sertraline’s (brand name: Zoloft) ability to cause weight gain have been increasing across the last three months. Sertraline is the top-selling drug for major depressive disorder and is part of the SSRI group of antidepressants. Users report comparable side effects with sertraline as they do with other SSRIs, and these are usually not severe enough to result in having to stop the therapy.

The side effect of weight gain is an ongoing concern among those who take antidepressants from this and other groups. Research indicates that sertraline may lead to very minor weight gain among some patients, ranging from 1% to 1.6% of one’s body weight when it is taken over six months to one year. It is not known why this occurs, but it has been suggested that antidepressants can stimulate one’s appetite or, because they work to improve mood, can thus restore weight lost while severely depressed.

4. Does CBD help with depression

People have been inquiring about CBD’s (or cannabidiol) antidepressant properties alongside searches for major depressive disorder, and searches have grown over the past three months, especially in California and Texas. CBD is a natural, non-psychoactive compound that is derived from the cannabis plant. It has become increasingly popular in recent years as the research about its health benefits continues to expand. 

One health benefit that has been explored is CBD’s potential to treat depression, and some preliminary research about it appears promising. Its usefulness in treating depression is possibly connected to CBD’s positive interaction with serotonin receptors in the brain. It can be consumed in a variety of ways, including being eaten or inhaled. At the present time, CBD is legal or legal with certain restrictions in most U.S. states. This search data reveals that people looking to treat major depressive disorder have either heard popular buzz about it and/or are open to new treatment options.

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Search interest for does CBD help with depression grew by 51% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

Search interest for alternative treatment of depression near me grew by 47% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

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5. Alternative treatment of depression near me

There has been an increase in interest about alternative treatments for depression across the past three months, and the vast majority of people who are making this inquiry are searching from California. Some people who have searched for "major depressive disorder" are making this search as well. 

This search is less specific than most other related queries for "major depressive disorder", and suggests that people are open to exploring new options to manage their condition. Alternative treatments for depression typically refer to therapies found outside (or that are complementary to) Western biomedicine. Such treatments can include herbs, supplements, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, reflexology, meditation, massage, guided imagery, craniosacral therapy, and diet modification.  

A variety of similar, surging searches were seen across the same three month period, including: ‘depression treatment without drugs near me,’ ‘herbs for depression and fatigue,’ ‘how to treat depression naturally,’ and ‘depression food recipes.’ These all reveal the growing interest in this topic, as well as some people’s hesitation to take antidepressants.

Major Depressive Disorder in Culture

The Culture Section highlights emerging cultural trends, new products, and notable dialogue about a variety of health conditions. The purpose of this section is to zoom in on what has been happening within the cultural and professional landscape of a particular health condition–stories that are often missed by quantitative searches.

By featuring influential social media items, patient discourse, professional dialogue, product innovations, and impactful news items, this section illuminates the lived experiences of many patients, while also providing a snapshot of the developments happening around them. 

Here, Quilt.AI offers a detailed and nuanced perspective of what is new and what is meaningful.

1. Ketamine for depression

The internet is buzzing about ketamine’s potential to treat depression, esp. types of depression that are known to be more treatment-resistant such as Major Depressive Disorder. Ketamine is a fast-acting drug that can relieve depressive symptoms with low instances of side effects, and it was approved by the FDA in 2019. 

Dr. Farhan, a U.S.-based internal medicine resident whose TikTok account (@madmedicine) has 1.2M followers, features one of the most popular videos on the topic of ketamine for treatment resistant depression. His video, which was posted earlier this year, has been viewed over 34K times, and walks the viewer through the his medical opinion on the topic. He ultimately encourages people who are considering taking this drug for clinical depression to be open-minded and also stick to low doses to avoid adverse effects. 

This video and others that discuss ketamine for depression are driving increasing search interest in the topic. Searches for ‘ketamine treatment for depression’ grew by 106% over the last 3 months (April to June 2022).

2. Brittany Days 

Florida-based mental health therapist and coach Brittany Days (@brighterdayswellness) raises awareness of many mental health conditions and treatments to her 44.6K followers on Instagram. Earlier this year, she posted about the symptoms of major depressive disorder and it has been liked almost 1K times. Her rosy-toned lists and infographics are popular contributions to the mental health community online. Her professional practice focuses on Millennial and Gen Z clients, and much of her content speaks to topics relevant to them. 

By raising awareness of the symptoms of major depressive disorder, she works to both educate those who might be undiagnosed and de-stigmatize this mood disorder by defining its clinical characteristics.

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3. Darren Hayes 

In a July 1st HuffPost article, Savage Garden pop artist Darren Hayes discussed his battle with major depressive disorder while he was at the height of his fame in the 90’s. Many people on Twitter are praising him for sharing his story. He revealed that his illness came about from a complex intersection of factors: major depressive disorder runs in his mother’s side of the family, and he believes it was activated by domestic violence trauma in his childhood, shame about his sexuality as a gay man, and the sense of overwhelm that came with rapid fame while these two issues remained unresolved. 

Hayes discussed some of the symptoms he experienced, including sleeping for days and feeling suicidal. He now manages his condition with antidepressant medication and therapy, and his recent music as a solo artist addresses his mental health journey.

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4. Treatment resistance

‘Treatment-resistant depression’ and the related topic ‘treatment-resistant depression medication’ have been trending in Google searches across the past three months. Many of these searches have been alongside searches for "major depressive disorder", which suggests that people are aware of the condition’s tendency to be treatment-resistant for some patients. Treatment resistance in this case is defined as not responding adequately to antidepressant medication within an appropriate amount of time. Facing the possibility of no treatment options can be quite frustrating for people who have major depressive disorder. 

Threads on Reddit have focused on community building to discuss topics related to clinical depression. Subreddits like r/depression and r/neuro are spaces where individuals who are struggling with major depressive disorder can go to share their opinions and gain knowledge. Being part of a larger dialogue can itself be a therapeutic practice. A recent thread highlighting a new research paper on the topic and lamenting about disappointments in biomedicine has been busy with over 66 upvotes and 46 comments expressing frustration and expressing support.

5. Naomi Judd

Searches for ‘Naomi Judd depression’ surged on May 1 and 2, shortly after she lost her lifelong battle with mental illness and died by suicide on April 30, at the age of 76. The beloved American country music legend’s passing came as a shock to many, and immediately initiated a new public conversation about depression and treatment resources for it. Amidst this public outpouring of grief, people searching for major depressive disorder also searched for her name. 

Because of her openness in describing the features of her depression, it was widely thought that she had major depressive disorder. Consistent with this, in a 2016 interview she revealed that her depression was “life-threatening” and “treatment-resistant.”  She had previously discussed her struggles with suicidal ideation and panic attacks, which can be common among people with major depressive disorder. This tragic story brings new public awareness to this condition.