Updated: May 19
According to the Faces of Abnormal Psychology website, fifteen to twenty Americans will experience major depression at some point during their lives. Approximately one half of people who experience major depression have only one episode. Researchers estimate that 3% of children and 12% of adolescents will suffer from depression in the future. Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience depression. In their lifetime, 24% of women and 15% of men will suffer from depression. One in four women and one in almost every six men will warrant the diagnosis of major depression in their lifetime. This can be explained by the hormonal changes during a woman’s lifespan. However, this research remains tentative and controversial. Individuals with depression are often diagnosed with other co-occurring disorders including substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders. Lastly, researchers estimate that up to 80% of suicide deaths in the U.S. involve individuals that suffer from major depression.
Major depression can affect all aspects of an individual’s life. It can affect a person’s body, thoughts, and mood. The disorder may affect a person’s appetite and sleep intake, as well as the way they feel about themselves. The symptoms of major depression can be broken down into four categories. First, depression affects a person’s thinking and can create difficulties in regard to memory and decision making. This may make it difficult for someone to concentrate, causing their thoughts to acquire a negative tone. Changes in feelings can lead to a lack of motivation and mood stabilization. This may cause the person to become irritable, sad, and no longer enjoy activities that once were pleasurable. Changes in behavior may mean that they are apathetic and withdrawn from the people around them. Some individuals experience excessive crying and lose interest in sex. Others neglect their personal hygiene and have difficulty getting themselves out of bed. Some express psychomotor agitation in which they seem unable to sit still. Lastly, changes in physical well-being mean that someone may feel run down and suffer more aches and pains. Individuals who experience physical symptoms are more vulnerable to opportunistic viruses.
There is strong evidence that psychological factors, including events in a person’s life, their cognitive style, and their culture, strongly influence the probability of becoming depressed. Depression is a common and normal reaction to negative events in a person’s life. Some 65% of people with non-melancholic depression report a negative event, such as a breakup or financial problems, within the preceding six months. Characteristics- Psychiatrist Aaron Beck argued that people with depression have negative views of themselves, of their world, and of the future. He believes these negative views cause a cascade of erroneous thinking. People with depression also tend to believe that they assert very little control over both the positive and negative events in their lives. This sense of helplessness may contribute significantly to their depression.
A number of different strategies have been developed for the treatment of depression. These include medically-based approaches as well as various forms of psychotherapy. The class of medications most commonly prescribed for depression is SSRIs, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Some of the more common SSRIs include Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa. These drugs operate by inhibiting the process of reuptake within particular synapses. When re-uptake is inhibited, the neurotransmitter serotonin remains in the synapse for longer which leads to enhanced mood. A second medical method for treating depression, particularly in extreme cases, is called ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy. In ECT, a small electrical current is passed through the brain of an anesthetized patient for about one second. This current activates the brain and induces a seizure. This seizure will usually last from 30 to 60 seconds. When the patient wakes up approximately 15 minutes later, he or she may feel some short-term soreness. However, the patient often feels a reduced sense of despair. Another form of psychotherapy that has been proven to be effective in individuals with depression is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can help a person identify their triggers, and challenge their negative core beliefs to promote positive thinking.
Faces of Abnormal Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/psychology/faces/lowSpeed.html