Humans have struggled with depression throughout history. Long before depression became a clinical diagnosis, well-known individuals were observed as suffering from the sorrow, melancholy, and hopelessness that characterizes this condition. As our society progresses, data indicates that the occurrence of depression is progressing, too. More people are struggling with it and at younger ages.
Types of Depression Disorders
In the quest to determine the best depression disorder treatment, psychiatrists have worked to define and classify disorders by certain characteristics. The differences between one diagnosis of depression and another include the existence and severity of symptoms, the length of time experienced, and the circumstances surrounding the depression. The following are some of the more common diagnoses for depression.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the most commonly diagnosed mood disorder. Every year, over 20 million adults and adolescents experience symptoms of depression that meet the criteria for an MDD diagnosis. The symptoms list for diagnosis includes a period of at least two weeks during which a person experiences low mood, lack of interest in activities, poor self-worth, sleep difficulties, and impaired concentration. There may be periods of uncontrollable crying or irritation, and sufferers may be tempted to avoid the symptoms by oversleeping, overeating, or engaging in substance abuse.
Bipolar Disorder was formerly termed Manic Depressive Disorder. Both terms refer to the process of cycling through periods of debilitating depression and excessive energy. When a person with Bipolar Disorder is experiencing the depression stage, many of the symptoms which are listed in a diagnosis of MDD are present. During a manic phase, the same person will become overly enthusiastic, ambitious, and sometimes reckless or impulsive. The condition is characterized by the inability to self-regulate emotions in a way that produces a healthy balance between the two extremes. It most often begins in adolescence and is diagnosed in over four percent of the U.S. population.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a condition that has been recognized since ancient times. Ancient Greece scholars considered that those who were plagued by symptoms of depression during the winter seasons were suffering from a lack of good humors in the blood. As it turns out, many people do experience a change in blood constitution within seasons and climates where there is a lack of access to direct sunlight. Modern scientists have observed a deficit in bilirubin within those who experience symptoms of MDD during winter months, which may contribute to this disorder. People diagnosed with SAD will find that their depression arrives with a certain season, and disappears once the season has changed.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Those who suffer from Persistent Depressive Disorder tend to avoid the extreme lows of MDD or the intense mood fluctuations of those with Bipolar Disorder. This depressive condition consists of a general lack of hope or excitement about life, also known as dysthymia. The symptoms can last for years, which justifies the description of it being persistent. A person with this condition may be considered by others to be mopey and pessimistic and is likely to struggle with low self-esteem and a lack of ambition.
For around three percent of the population, an episode of MDD can be accompanied by psychosis. Psychosis involves delusional thinking and hallucination. A person suffering from psychotic depression may see or hear things that others do not and may become obsessive about ideas which most people find bizarre. It is different from a diagnosis of other psychotic disorders, due to the fact that the psychosis goes away once the depressive symptoms are relieved.
Female Centered Depression
Due to the complex nature of a woman’s reproductive biology, there are certain depressions which have been particularly identified for females. Two of the most recognized are the Postpartum Depression and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. The former can occur as a result of the drastic hormonal shifts and changes in responsibility which arrive immediately following the birth of a child. The latter is attributed to the monthly hormonal shifts that a female body undergoes in preparation for a potential pregnancy.
Treatment for Depressive Disorders
The type of treatment received toward treating depression depends on multiple factors. Some people seeking treatment will be limited by their insurance or their location. Some therapists may not be familiar with a specific approach. It is always helpful to arm yourself with information about your expectations of therapy when beginning treatment.
Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy. It is the type of treatment that most people are familiar with. Together with a therapist, a client with depression will be assisted with getting to the root of the problems which are contributing to the symptoms. This may involve the exploration of the quality of relationships and the ability to exercise healthy social skills, addressing of negative experiences and traumas experienced in both child and adult life, and uncovering deeply-rooted thought patterns that feed into negative thoughts. Psychotherapy provides a space for airing out old wounds and creating new perspectives on life.
While psychotherapy relies on a person being able to develop insight to thoughts and feelings which are preventing progress toward a happier life, behavioral therapy works from the outside-in. The basic premise of behavioral therapy is that we feel better when we engage in certain activities and feel better when we refrain from others. Thus, therapies that involve a behavioral component – such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other behavioral activation approaches – tend to be highly structured and focused on the present.
Medication therapy for depressive disorders has increasingly grown in popularity over the past century, and it is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy. Most antidepressant medications work by assisting the brain in delivering more of the chemicals that contribute to an improved and balanced mood. For a person in depression, the relief which comes from the brain receiving a jumpstart from medications may be what creates the space for willpower and determination to reemerge. Utilizing this short-term benefit with the longer-term solutions presented in therapy can be the winning combination for leaving depression behind, for good.