There are many events in life which can leave us feeling moody, irritable, distressed, upset or just “a bit down”. This feeling generally passes, although there are times when people will experience this emotional state intensely and persistently for a longer period of time. When there are longer-lasting changes in mood, feelings and behaviours this may mark the onset of depressive symptoms. When someone is experiencing depression, they may find it difficult to function in everyday life and they may become reluctant to engage in activities which were previously enjoyed. As such, even a mild episode can become very disruptive to a person’s life.
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions with over 1 million people in Australia experiencing this each year. Often the cause of the depression is evident, there are times, however, when it seems to come out of nowhere when everything seems fine.
There are many factors which can contribute to depression including:
- A family history
- Hormonal changes (e.g. Women and men)
- Emotional stress (e.g. Employment, relationship problems, or bereavement)
- Medicine (e.g. Cancer or heart medication)
- Medical conditions (e.g. Thyroid and other hormonal problems)
- Personality (e.g. Personality types and how response to life events)
- Social support (e.g. Lack of social supports in isolated areas)
- Life changes (e.g. Births or deaths)
Types of depression:
The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes the broad category of depressive disorders as featuring “presence of sad, empty or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function.” A defining difference is the duration, timing, and the reason which may be causing the problem, for instance, unregulated periods or a substance use problem. Depressive Disorders are as follows:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia)
- Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
- Substance / Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder
- Depressive Disorder due to Another Medical Condition
- Other Specified Depressive Disorder
Depression is a very serious mental health condition so getting the right type of treatment is crucial to an effective recovery from depression. If left untreated an episode of major depression can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months or longer.
There are many different types of depression and each will respond more effectively to a different type of treatment. For instance, sunshine and physical exercise for prevention and the treatment of mild depression, through to psychological intervention and psychopharmacology for more severe levels of depression.
The primary goal of psychological treatments for depression is to assist people to change their negative thinking patterns or resolve relationship difficulties.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one of the most common, and thoroughly researched, forms of interventions for depression and anxiety disorders. CBT assists a person to understand, become aware of, and change their thought patterns and the way in which they approach and behave in a given situation. Alternatively, Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is another form of psychotherapy which assists people in finding new ways to interact socially, resolve relationship based conflicts, challenges and losses.
While assistance from a doctor or mental health profession is advisable, some self-help strategies can be useful in aiding recovery and preventing relapse. Self-help strategies include the following:
- Structured problem solving strategies
- Activity planning and exercise
- Reduce alcohol consumption to a moderate level
- Manage stress
- Restore sleep patterns
Beck, A. T. (2009). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
American Psychiatric Association. (2016). Depressive disorders (1st ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
Ashfield, J. (2014). Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family: A Resource Book for Good Mental Health. Peacock Publications: Adelaide