What Depression Actually is?

kk“I’m depressed because I couldn’t get any Krispy Kreme donuts”. Yeah, ok, some things can make us sad, but they don’t qualify as ‘depression’.

On the other hand, we can become depressed without even realising this is what has happened. If your pet died, you would probably experience sadness and tearfulness, which can also be symptoms of depression.

However to say that you are depressed because you didn’t get your share of Krispy Kremes, seems like a bit of a stretch. It is important to distinguish between what is normal depression and what is clinical depression. It’s also worth noting that there is a difference between Depression and Grief. Feeling sad is a normal part of grief, but grief doesn’t become a clinical condition, like Depression, unless you get stuck in it for a very long time and the normal healing process from Grief gets stuck.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (5th Edition; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) talks about Major Depressive Disorder (MDD; American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

What is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)?

According to the DSM-IV if you suffer from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), you may experience a depressed mood, such as feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration, that interferes with everyday life. It becomes MDD when the feelings of sadness last for at least 2 weeks. MDD is actually quite common with nearly 17% of people suffering from MDD at some point during their life. MDD is more common in women than men (Soleimani, Lapidus, & Losifescu, 2011).

How Does It Happen?  

Both biological and environmental factors may lead to MDD. Studies have shown that first degree relatives of people with depression are more likely to experience MDD at some time during their life (Soleimani et al., 2011). Also, differences in the central nervous system and neurochemistry between non-MDD and MDD sufferers have been found (Soleimani et al., 2011). Abnormality in some neurochemicals has been linked to MDD, however environmental factors such as life experiences, persistent stress, traumatic events and relationship difficulties can contribute to depressive disorder in significant ways.

What Are The Symptoms?   MDD is characterised by:

1) Depressed mood (e.g., feelings of sadness or emptiness)

2) Reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed

3) Sleep disturbances (not being able to sleep well or sleeping too much)

4) Loss of energy

5) Difficulty concentrating

6) Suicidal thoughts or intentions

What Can I Do About It?  

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) teaches you to become more aware of your symptoms and how to spot things that make your depression worse (e.g., negative thoughts and feelings). CBT also provides you with strategies to better manage negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Behavioural Therapy (BT) such as behavioural activation is designed to reduce the depressed mood and loss of energy by encouraging you to engage in pleasurable activities that you would normally enjoy when not feeling depressed.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a short-term psychological intervention which focuses on your interpersonal relationships (Cuijpers, Geraedts, van Oppen, Anderrson, Markowitz, & van Straten, 2011). Other issues such as unresolved grief, role disputes, role transitions and interpersonal deficits may also be addressed with IPT.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may help to alleviate negative moods associated with severe depression or suicidal thoughts, if other treatments are not helping you to get better (Craighead, Ritschel, Arnarson, & Gillespie, 2008). It may also help treat depression in those who have psychotic symptoms.

Medication aimed at facilitating the flow of certain neurotransmitters is also used to treat MDD, these include antidepressants such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Other types of medication used to treat depression include: tricyclic antidepressants, bupropion and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

If you’re struggling with mental illness and have suicidal thoughts, contact the Mental Health Triage Service on 13 14 65 (available 24 hours, seven days a week).

For more information regarding mental illness, please refer to the following links:

Beyond Blue

Black Dog Institute

Kids Helpline

Lifeline Australia

Mental Health

Image Source

Krispy Kreme’s image by McGregor (June, 2013). Krispy Kreme drive-through planned for port road, west croydon. Adelaide Now. Website: http: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/krispy-kreme-drivethrough-planned-for-port-rd-west-croydon/story-e6frea6u-1226666223637?nk=8efb7501c85eddd810b8bfd76611ac14


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Craighead, W. E, Ritschel, L. A, Arnarson, E. O, & Gillespie, C. F. (2008). Major depressive disorder. In W. E. Craighead, D. J. Miklowitz & L. W. Craighead (Eds.), Psychopathology: History, Diagnosis, and Empirical Foundations. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Cuijpers, P, Geraedts, A. S, van Oppen, P, Anderrson, G, Markowitz, J. C, & van Straten, A. (2011). Interpersonal psychotherapy for depression: A meta-analysis. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 168, 581-592. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10101411

Soleimani, L, Lapidus, K. A. B, & Losifescu, D. V. (2011). Diagnosis and treatment of major depressive disorder. Neurologic Clinics, 29, 177-193. doi: 10.1016/j.ncl.2010.10.010

Gina Huisy (MAPS) 2014.

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