Depression and Depressive Disorders Overview
Feeling “down” or sad from time to time is a normal part of life. However, continual low mood or a persistent loss of interest and pleasure in normally enjoyed activities may signal depression.
Depression also involves changes in other areas of functioning. For example, people who are depressed commonly have problems with sleep, lose their appetite or overeat, feel tired and lacking in energy, and struggle with concentration and decision-making. They also tend to be ruminative and self-critical, which contributes to feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness.
Being depressed narrows our experience. It is as if we are viewing the world through a set of dark goggles that distorts our perception so that we view ourselves, our experiences, and the future in a more negative light. Feeling depressed and bad about oneself leaves people more sensitive to rejection or criticism and prompts them to withdraw from others, which places an added strain on relationships and leaves them more isolated. Individuals who are depressed not only experience more negative emotions; they also lose touch with positive emotions like curiosity, joy, love, and contentment.
Depressive disorders have in common the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by physical and cognitive changes that interfere with a person’s capacity to work, connect with others, or enjoy the things that used to bring them pleasure.
Types of Depressive Disorders
Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by specific episodes of at least 2 weeks duration (although most are significantly longer) that involve depressed mood or loss of interest and pleasure in nearly all activities most of the day, nearly every day in addition to a cluster of other physical and cognitive symptoms. Thoughts of death and suicide are common.
Some forms of Major Depressive Disorder are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. For example, a depressive episode with a peripartum onset (i.e., it begins during pregnancy or within 4 weeks of giving birth) often include severe anxiety and panic attacks in addition to the typical depressive symptoms.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) is characterized by more chronic symptoms that may be fewer in number and/or less severe but that occur more than half the time for two or more years.
Treatments for Depressive Disorders
There are numerous effective treatments for depressive disorders, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). Each approach has a different primary focus. For example, CBT intervenes with one’s thoughts and behaviours, EFT targets an individual’s emotional experience and IPT addresses social and relationship problems relating to depression. All three forms of treatment have been proven effective and can lead to reduced depressive symptoms, reduced interpersonal distress, healthier coping skills, improved self-esteem, and less negative beliefs about self, others, and the world.
Preventative measures can also be taken. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a program that has proven effectiveness in preventing relapse for individuals who have experienced recurrent episodes of depression in the past.
Please contact us to find out more about treatments for depressive disorders.