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Depression

Understanding Depression and Depressive Disorders

Understanding Depression and Depressive Disorders

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression is one of several mood disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Mood disorders, also known as affective disorders, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine “is a mental health class that health professionals use to broadly describe all types of depression and bipolar disorders.” Mood disorders severely impact one’s mood and its related functions. An individual with depression or a depressive disorder will likely have erratic mood shifts from extremely low (depressed) to extremely high (manic). To be properly treated an individual must be clinically and accurately diagnosed.

Most Common Mood Disorders

While there are several depressive disorders listed in the DSM-5, certain disorders are more common than others. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the most common depressive disorders include the following:

  • Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder): characterized by periods of depression alternating with periods of mania (elevated mood)
    • Bipolar I disorder: characterized by at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes
    • Bipolar II disorder: characterized by at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomania episode, and absence of manic episodes
  • Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): characterized by fluctuating low-level depressive symptoms along with periods of mild mania (hypomania)

Based on the diagnostic interview data from National Comorbidity Survey Replication, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates approximately 21.4% of adults in the United States experience depression or a depressive disorder at some point in their lives. 

Signs and Symptoms

Mood disorders, as defined by the Mayo Clinic are characterized by a distortion of one’s general emotional state and/ or mood that is inconsistent with the current circumstances and interferes with one’s ability to function. Common examples of signs and symptoms that could be indicative of depression and depressive disorders could include, but are not limited to any combination of the following, provided by the American Psychiatric Association (APA):

  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/ or pessimism
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Increased fatigue 
  • Feeling worthless and/ or guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Moving and/ or talking more slowly than usual
  • Suicidal ideation

The symptoms associated with depressive disorders will differ, as they will depend on the individual, as well as the type of depressive disorder with which he or she is diagnosed. If left untreated, the symptoms of depression and depressive disorders can lead to severe short and long-term effects and in some cases could be life-threatening. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

What Causes Depression?

What Causes Depression?

Depression is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a major depressive disorder, and is sometimes referred to as clinical depression. It is characterized by persistently depressed mood and/ or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, impairing one’s ability to function in his or her daily life. The various symptoms associated with depression can range from mild to severe. While depression can develop at any age, symptoms commonly surface in adolescence and young adulthood. There is no single identifiable cause of depression, rather Harvard Health asserts that there are many possible causes of depression. The Cleveland Clinic provides examples of factors that may play a role in its development, including but not limited to the following:

  • Brain chemistry: Abnormalities in brain chemical levels may lead to depression.
  • Genetic vulnerability: A family history of depression can increase one’s propensity for developing depression.
  • Life events: Stress, the death of a loved one, upsetting events (trauma), isolation, and lack of support can cause depression.
  • Medical conditions: Ongoing physical pain and illnesses can cause depression. Depression is a common comorbidity of other illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Medication: Depression is a side effect of some medications.
  • Recreational drug and alcohol use: can cause depression or exacerbate one’s depression.
  • Personality: People who are easily overwhelmed or have trouble coping may be prone to depression.

To be diagnosed with depression, a person’s symptoms must fit the criteria outlined in the DSM-5. An individual must be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

These symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.