Typical life events, like a job loss, relationship difficulties, or death of a loved one, often result in feeling sad or “depressed." In fact, it would be unusual if these events did not make one feel sad. But depression and sad mood are not the same things. While sadness is a normal reaction to negative life events that passes in time, depression is a pervasive, distressing, debilitating combination of emotional and physiological symptoms. Depression can last for stretches of time, ranging from weeks to years.
Major Depressive Disorder - Major Depressive Disorder is the official title for depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks or longer. These episodes interfere with functioning or cause significant distress, and the sufferer feels depressed more often than not during a major depressive episode.
Dysthymic Disorder - Dysthymic Disorder or Dysthymia differs from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in two significant ways. First, the depressed mood or anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable) need only be present 50% of the time, as opposed to most of the day, every day with MDD. Most of the symptoms of Dysthymia and MDD are the same; however, with Dysthymia, hopelessness is a common characteristic, as individuals often lose faith that their depression will ever lift.
A note about bipolar disorders - These disorders can include periods of major depression. Still, it differs from the above two diagnoses in that bipolar disorders can include discreet periods of excessively elevated mood, energy, activity, and/or irritability that is not seen in depression. When these periods of elevated mood last for 7 or more consecutive days, they are known as manic episodes.
Psychotherapy and medication have shown to be effective in treating depression; however, there are significant advantages to psychotherapy to consider. Medication can be extremely effective in treating the biological aspects of depression in the brain. However, psychotherapy can teach the individual how to process and cope with circumstances in his or her life and help the client discover and process the root causes of depression while learning techniques to manage depression without medication. Thus, while medication can offer relief from the symptoms of depression more quickly than psychotherapy, this relief can disappear when the medication is no longer taken. In contrast, some research has shown that individuals who receive psychotherapy can have fewer relapses of depressive episodes. Research also has shown that treatment success can be greater for individuals who receive both psychotherapy and medication, rather than receiving one form of treatment or the other.
Treatment for depression typically identifies the situations, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that contribute to depression. This may be done through self-reflection, discussions with the therapist, or self-monitoring. Then, the patient learns new, more helpful ways of coping with these situations.
This article is for informational purposes only. Information provided on this website is not intended to be used in place of professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis, and/or treatment. If you are seeking mental health treatment, we welcome a call to this office at 770-457-5577. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.