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Depressive Disorders

What is it?

Depressive disorders encompass various conditions, including disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, substance/medication-induced depressive disorder, depressive disorder due to another medical condition, other specified depressive disorder, and unspecified depressive disorder. 

These disorders share a common feature of experiencing a sad, empty, or irritable mood accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly impact an individual’s functioning.

Depressive Disorders​

Types and Symptoms

Major depressive disorder is characterised by pervasive low mood, diminished self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities, lasting for at least two weeks.

Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, is diagnosed when mood disturbances persist for at least two years in adults or one year in children.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has a more severe variant called Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which causes physical and psychological symptoms one to two weeks before menstruation. PMS symptoms include bloating, headaches, and breast discomfort, while PMDD can lead to excessive irritability, anxiety, or sadness. These symptoms typically subside within a few days after the start of menstruation but can sometimes significantly impact daily life.


The causes of depression are multifaceted and involve a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. While the exact cause of depression is not fully understood, here are some common factors that contribute to its development:

  • Biological Factors : Imbalances in brain chemistry and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, play a role in depression. Genetic factors can also contribute to an increased vulnerability to depression, as certain individuals may inherit a predisposition to the condition.


  • Brain Structure and Function : Changes in the structure and functioning of the brain, particularly in areas related to mood regulation, can contribute to depression. Chronic stress and long-term exposure to elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can affect the brain and increase the risk of depression.


  • Hormonal Changes : Hormonal imbalances, such as those that occur during pregnancy, postpartum period, or menopause, can contribute to the development of depression. Fluctuations in hormone levels can impact mood regulation and increase vulnerability to depressive symptoms.


  • Psychological Factors : Psychological factors, such as low self-esteem, negative thinking patterns, a history of trauma or abuse, and certain personality traits, including perfectionism and pessimism, can increase the risk of depression. Co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety or substance use disorders, can also contribute to the development of depression.


  • Life Events and Environmental Factors : Certain life events and experiences can trigger or contribute to depression, such as the loss of a loved one, relationship difficulties, financial problems, job loss, or significant life transitions. Chronic stress, social isolation, and a lack of social support can also increase the risk of depression.


It’s important to note that depression is a complex condition, and the interplay of these factors varies from person to person. Additionally, individuals with a family history of depression or personal experience with previous episodes of depression may be more susceptible to future episodes.


The treatment for depressive disorders typically involves a combination of therapeutic interventions, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medication. The goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms, improve functioning, and prevent relapse. Here are some common approaches to treating depressive disorders :

  • Psychotherapy : Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counselling, is a fundamental treatment approach for depressive disorders. Different types of therapy may be used, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Psychodynamic Therapy, or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). These therapies help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns, develop healthy coping skills, address underlying issues, and improve overall well-being.


  • Medication : In moderate to severe cases of depression, medication may be prescribed. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), can help restore chemical imbalances in the brain. Medication should be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional and closely monitored for effectiveness and potential side effects.


  • Lifestyle Changes : Incorporating healthy lifestyle habits can support the management of depressive disorders. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and stress reduction techniques (e.g., meditation, yoga) can have a positive impact on mood and overall well-being. Engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfilment, maintaining social connections, and seeking support from loved ones are also important.
  • Support Network : Building a strong support network is crucial in managing depressive disorders. This may involve seeking support from family, friends, or support groups where individuals can connect with others who have similar experiences. Peer support can provide validation, understanding, and encouragement throughout the recovery process.


  • Self-Care Practices : Engaging in self-care activities is important for individuals with depressive disorders. This includes setting aside time for relaxation, engaging in hobbies or activities that bring pleasure, practising self-compassion, and prioritising self-care routines.


  • Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders : If there are co-occurring mental health disorders alongside depression, integrated treatment is necessary. Addressing all the underlying conditions simultaneously improves overall outcomes. It may involve coordinated care between mental health professionals to ensure comprehensive treatment.


  • Continuation and Maintenance : Continuation and maintenance phases of treatment aim to prevent relapse and sustain long-term recovery. Regular therapy sessions, medication management, and ongoing self-care practices are important during this phase. It is crucial to follow the recommended treatment plan and attend scheduled appointments.


It’s essential to work closely with healthcare professionals, therapists, or psychiatrists to develop an individualised treatment plan that suits your specific needs. Treatment effectiveness may vary from person to person, and it may take time to find the right combination of therapies and interventions that work best for you. Remember, seeking help and support is a sign of strength, and recovery is possible with the right treatment and support system in place.

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