3:44 pm


I will be discussing major depression and explaining briefly some causal theories. Depression is unfortunately much more common than we think and is increasing becoming a larger problem in the world, so I wanted to start off with this.

The DSM-IV-TR (the widely used diagnostic manual for mental disorders) defines an individual to have major depressive disorder if they present at least 5 of the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks (but not a result of a general medical condition):

-          Depressed mood
-          Loss of interest/pleasure
-          Significant weight loss/gain
-          Increase in or loss of appetite
-          Fatigue/loss of energy
-          Difficulty concentrating
-          Significant distress
-          Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
-          Physical agitation

Major depression is a mood disorder; the sufferer will generally feel low in all things related to them. They will not only feel negatively about themselves, but also have a pessimistic view on life and the future. They may be slow in their activities or speech, and spend a lot of time alone - social withdrawal is common. This social withdrawal can fuel their depression. They may spend a lot of time in bed as they don't want to face the world (including their loved ones). People who are depressed feel helpless and out of control of the situation, and in extreme cases can experience suicidal thoughts. Depressed people go through the ‘vicious circle’ which prevents them from coming out of their depression – I will explain this in detail in another post.

Depression in women is twice as likely compared to men. This may be because women are generally susceptible to being more emotionally unstable, and can think more negatively of themselves. Unfortunately in society, to some extent women have less ‘power’ than men which may lead them to develop depression. This varies across cultures, of course.

-          Biological explanation – serotonin
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical in the brain) which when present in low levels, is associated with depression. It may be that there is not enough serotonin, or it may be that there is low activity of serotonin. Serotonin is thought to regulate other neurotransmitter systems, and low levels may affect the way these systems act. Depression arises when low levels of serotonin promote low levels of noradrenaline.

-          Cognitive explanation (1) – learned helplessness (Seligman)
Depression is caused by an individual thinking they have no control over the reinforcements (rewards and punishments) in their lives, and that they are responsible for any helpless state they find themselves in, therefore, feel helpless in situations that can be changed.

-          Cognitive explanation (2) – the cognitive triad (Beck)
Depression is due to patterns of negative thinking. The cognitive triad consists of three components: depressed people have a negative view of themselves (e.g. ‘I am a bad person’), they have a negative view of the future (e.g. ‘things will not improve’) and they have a negative view of the world (e.g. ‘my life is terrible’).
Depressed people are prone to distort and misinterpret information from the world and make overly negative self-defeating thoughts. Common misinterpretations include: selective thinking- where an individual ignores the positive aspects and concentrates on the negative points (e.g. to see a glass as half empty, rather than half full), overgeneralisation- making exceeding conclusions based on a single incident (e.g. ‘she didn’t answer my phone, therefore she must hate me’), personalising- blaming oneself for all negative events (e.g. ‘the car broke down, and it’s my fault’).
Depressed people are likely to have developed a negative self-schema. Our self-schema contains all information about ourselves (beliefs, feelings etc), and if this is negative, then so will our view of ourselves be when in new situations.

-          Psychodynamic explanation - Freud
Sigmund Freud proposed the idea that after the loss of a loved one in childhood, a person is unable to overcome their mourning period, leading them to ‘melancholia’. They blame themselves for the loss as they cannot blame the loved one. Depression, therefore, can be seen as ‘delayed mourning’. Emotions and anger which are not expressed at the time (in childhood) become repressed and become an unconscious negative emotion which is released in adulthood as depression.

-          Sociological explanation
In life, not everyone is as lucky as some people. Some of these factors may affect a person so much that they can become depressed. These can include poverty, low status in society, social isolation, environmental stress (e.g. at work, housing problems). Certain life events can also a large negative impact on us (e.g. bereavement, going through a bad marriage).

Okay that’s it for now! I hope you found this first post easy to read and not too technical! Hopefully, this would have helped you understand depression better and understand those who experience it too. If you think you or anyone you know is going through this, please seek help! Depression can be cured and the dark clouds WILL go away one day! Depression is treatable!

Keep smiling,
Ayesha xxx

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  1. I love how you added the little dog, it makes such a difficult subject a little lighter. I hope your posts let people understand mental illnesses a little beter (: And take away some of the prejudices people have ):

    xxx Anna
    A Tale of Two Shoes

  2. I had no idea depression in women is twice as likely compared to men! Such an informative post. You always cover such important topics, I don't know much about a lot of them so I find them really interesting!

    Tara x

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