Depression The Sadness Disease Essay Research Paper

Depression: The Sadness Disease Essay, Research Paper

Depression: The Sadness Disease

In our never-ending quest for happiness in our life, is some of the joy taken away? Have our thoughts for what we always want turned astray? Why has the quest for happiness left us more vulnerable and sad? Are we a society of melancholy people who are all looking for happiness and disappointed with what we find, leaving us in a state of depression and unstableness, and turning us into not only a society of dismal people, but people who are left spiritless and melancholic?

In today’s society, depression is referred to as the “common cold of the mental health problems.” (Bourne and Russo 24). More than five percent of Americans have depression, which equates to an astonishing 15 million people. It is said that 1 out of every six people have had a major depressive episode in their life. It is estimated that it costs the nation a sum of 43 billion dollars a year in medication, lost school days, lost workdays, and professional care for depression. Tens of thousands of people out of the 15 million attempts to commit suicide because of depression and about 16,000 of those people succeed (Bourne and Russo 24).

Depression, loosely defined, is a disorder marked by a state of deep and pervasive sadness, dejection and hopelessness, accompanied by feeling of fatigue apathy, and low self-worth (Bourne and Russo 1998 p. A-24). Though that seems like a very comprehensive definition, it is characterized by many different symptoms to combine to one effect on the psyche. Depression itself is not only widespread but also associated with many other psychological conditions, with many physical diseases, and most certainly, with social and external factors (Schwartz and Schwartz p. 1).

There are several major causes of depression that may occur in people. The first causes are the biological causes that are thought to be (1) heredity in which the individuals inherit directly as well as genetic transmission of vulnerability, and (2) physiological disturbances, which currently focus on the body’s neurochemical, endocrine, and limbic systems. Psychological causes are thought to include (1) family origin, which focuses on the general area of personality and its development, and (2) social, influences, which covers such things as poverty, segregation, and sexism. Stress is another factor in depression. Stress can result from physical illness, the inability to cope with certain life events, such as separation and loss, and from significant changes, such as marriage, and childbirth (Schwartz and Schwartz .3).

Certain people are more susceptible to depression than others. These people are the ones more likely to become depressed out of their nature than others are. Ranking in higher susceptibility, some of those people include women, men, the Baby Boom generation, elderly, teens, and children. The likelihood of women getting depression is twice as high as men. Most women have had traumatic childhood experiences that do not surface until later on in life, thus leaving them vulnerable to depression. Men are likely to get depressed because it is said that men are supposed to rise above “feelings of emotion” (Bourne and Russo 28), men often hide their sadness and that often leads to depression because they are ashamed of it. The circumstances that can add to this are those of abusing alcohol and drugs as a means of escape (Bourne and Russo 38).

Baby Boomers may have been a reaction to the emotional disruptions of growing up in 1950’s and 60’s America with its unprecedented rates of divorce and relocation, leading to losses of family, friends, and community. The Baby Boom generation also came of age during a time of record economic expansion, which created great expectations of wealth and success. But their enormous numbers also meant unprecedented competition for schools, jobs, and housing, leaving many of their dreams unfulfilled. When people feel a gap between what they expect and what they get, these unfulfilled expectations cause disappointment, frustration, and loss of self-esteem and sometimes depression.

Depression in older people is often a reaction to physical deterioration and the loss of friends, family, and rewarding activities. There are things that signal depression in the elderly: unexplained crying is often a clue and so are combinations of vague physical symptoms: for example, like headache, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and upset stomach. Once other illnesses have been ruled out, depression is a real possibility.

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death after accidents, from age 15 to 19. Adolescence is a difficult period where teens experience major hormonal change. They have higher highs and lower lows. They’re loosening family ties, but not yet established as individuals. This combination can lead to deeply emotional reactions to major losses. Depression is not common in young children, but abuse, losses, and having a seriously depressed parent increase the risk. Their symptoms tend to be behavioral. One must notice unusual irritability, aggressive outbursts, and problems at school (Strange 48).

Many symptoms are included in the diagnosis of depression. There are major indicators people should be aware of to let people know that they might have the possibility of having depression. Some of those symptoms are as follows: (1) the depressed mood – more than 90 percent of depressed people appear to be depressed. They look sad, their mouths are often turned down at the corners, their eyes may appear red and swollen from crying and they may lack a sense of humor. They will frequently show little interest or enjoyment for activities that normally enjoyable and may sometimes express fears of total loss of feeling (Strange 259). (2) Anhedonia – this is the lack of pleasure. Nothing the depressed person does can make them happy, for example, eating, going out, seeing friends and engaging in sports. They derive little pleasure from anything, and have no desire to participate in anything that was once pleasurable to them. (3) Pessimistic thoughts – the person experiences pessimistic thoughts about the present, future, and past. They include the feeling of worthlessness, failure, and lack of self-confidence. They may feel very hopeless which can often lead to suicide. (4) Anxiety – Patients may experience the psychological manifestations of anxiety. From 60 to 70 percent of depressed patients report feelings of anxiety and sometimes extreme worrying. For example, a nonpsychiatric physician who hears a patient complains of anxiety often prescribes a tranquilizer such as Valium, which maybe ineffective and coutnerindicated for depression (Schwartz and Schwartz 20). (5) Sleep disorders – Seventy to 80 percent of all persons with depression have some form of insomnia. The most frequent type is one in which the individual, who is usually exhausted and has no trouble falling asleep, wakes up after several hours and is unable to get back to sleep. (6) Appetite changes – People look at food as a way of making them ill. The depressed person eats very little and may refuse food or just nibble, even when favorite dishes are presented to them. Shopping for food, preparing it and even eating is expending energy that they do not have. (7) Changes in motor activity – depressed persons often speak very slowly. They can be difficult to interview because it may take them longer to answer a question, and if they do respond it may only be in a monosyllable. Alternatively some patients exhibit agitation with restlessness and an inability to relax (Strange 260). (8) Thoughts of death and suicide – many depressed persons think about death. They think of ending their lives as a way to escape the way they feel inside. They will make statements expressing how they would sometimes like to get away from everything and that they have nothing to live for. Only a percent of depressed persons attempt suicide, but the risk of suicide in all depressives cannot be overstressed. Many, if not most, of those who attempt suicide speak their intentions before they do it (Schwartz and Schwartz 21).

Many different treatments can be used to handle depression. There are a wide range of treatments that include medications, therapy, and hospitalization to name a few. All antidepressant medications are equally effective. They elevate mood in 60 to 80 percent of people who use them as directed. Anti-depressant drugs must be prescribed by a doctor and used with a series of treatments (Schwartz and Schwartz 146). The first antidepressants, monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, were discovered accidentally during the 1960s by researchers who were trying to develop new drugs to treat tuberculosis. Since then, many other types of antidepressants have been developed. The newer drugs are safer and for most people, have fewer side effects. MAO inhibitors didn’t help TB, but they elevated mood. It usually takes two to four weeks to feel any benefit (Strange 123).

Therapy is used as an alternative to medication. There are two main types of therapy for depression. The first is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is the most popular and commonly used therapy for the effective treatment of depression. Hundreds of research studies have been conducted to date which verify its safety and effectiveness in use to help treat people who suffer from this disorder. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, emphasis is placed on discussing these thoughts and the behaviors associated with depression. While emotions are certainly a focus of some of the time throughout therapy, it is thought within this theoretical framework that thoughts and behaviors are more likely to change emotions than trying to attempt a post-mortem analysis of why a person is feeling the way they are (Strange 261). Because of this approach, cognitive-behavioral therapy is short-term, usually conducted under two dozen sessions, and works best for people experiencing a fair amount of distress relating to their depression.

Individuals who can approach a problem from a unique perspective and those who are more cognitively oriented are also likely to do better with this approach. The second is interpersonal therapy, which is another short-term therapy utilized in the treatment of depression. The focus of this treatment approach is usually on an individual’s social relationships and specifically on how to improve them. It is thought that good, stable social support is imperative to a person’s overall well being and health within this framework. When relationships falter, a person directly suffers from the negativity and unhealthiness of that relationship. Therapy seeks to improve a person’s relationship skills, working on communication more effectively, expressing emotions appropriately, being properly assertive in social and occupational situations (Clarkin et al. 209). It is usually conducted, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, on an individual basis but can also be used within a group therapy framework.

Hospitalization of an individual is necessary when that person has attempted suicide or has serious suicidal ideation or plan for doing so. Such suicidal intentions must be carefully and fully assessed during an initial meeting with the client. The individual must be imminent danger of harming themselves or another. Daily, routine daily functioning will likely be negatively affected by the presence of a clear and severe major depression (Schwartz and Schwartz 211). Most individuals who suffer from major depression, however, are only mildly suicidal and most also often lack the energy or will at least initially to carry out any suicidal plan.

Hospitalization is usually relatively short, until the patient becomes fully stabilized and the therapeutic effects of an appropriate antidepressant medication can be realized usually 3 to 4 weeks. A partial hospitalization program should also be considered (Clarkin et al. 209). Depression is something that can be overcome with the help and support from family, extended family and friends. The likelihood of depression has skyrocketed over the years, so it is imperative that one should know the warning signs of depression. It takes self-help on the part of the person with depression and the caring of others for that person to reach out and acknowledge that he or she might have depression. With the support of family and friends, the person suffering with depression will be able to function wholly as a person again. They will finally be able to enjoy life again.


Bourne, L. E,. Jr., & Russo, N. F.Psychology Behavior in Context. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. (1998)

Clarkin, J. F., Hurt, S. W., and Reznikoff, M. Psychological Assessment, Psychiatric Diagnosis, Treatment Planning. New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc. (1991)

Schwartz, A., Schwartz, R. M. Depression: Theories and Treatments. New York: Columbia University Press (1993)

Strange, P. G. Brain Biochemistry and Brain Disorders. New York: Oxford University Press. (1992)

Bourne, L. E,. Jr., & Russo, N. F.Psychology Behavior in Context. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. (1998)

Clarkin, J. F., Hurt, S. W., and Reznikoff, M. Psychological Assessment, Psychiatric Diagnosis, Treatment Planning. New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc. (1991)

Schwartz, A., Schwartz, R. M. Depression: Theories and Treatments. New York: Columbia University Press (1993)

Strange, P. G. Brain Biochemistry and Brain Disorders.


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