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Theories of Depression

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1735 words Published: 12th Sep 2017

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Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental process (Rathus 4). By looking at mood disorders in psychology we can see that major depression has affected more than 15 million American adults, about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in the year 2016 (Anxiety and Depression Associatin of America). There are generally two types of mood disorders; depression and bipolar disorder. Depression mostly involves feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, and great sadness. According to the DSM-IV, an individual needs to be diagnosed with five or more of nine symptoms in order to be declared depressed. Persistent depressed mood for most of the day, loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all activities, significant weight loss or gain due to changes in appetite, sleeping more or less than usual, speeding up or slowing down of physical and emotional reactions, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or unfolded guilt, reduced ability to concentrate or make meaningful decisions, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Also, the individual must have at least one of the first two symptoms with their five total symptoms to be considered depressed (Rathus 423).

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According to the DSM-V, there are quite a few types of depression that an individual can experience. The primary example of depression is Major Depression; this can also be known as Chronic Major depression, and or Unipolar Depression. Some symptoms may include persistent anxious, sadness or an “empty” mood thought the day, feelings of pessimism or hopelessness, irritability and or sudden angry outburst, persistent certain physical symptoms that may not respond to treatments, loss of interest in all or all most all activities that can include sex, decrease in energy, changes in sleeping or eating habits that can result to over or under sleeping and weight loss or gain. Dysthymia is the secondary type of depression mentioned in the DSM-V. This is an overwhelmed state of a chronic state of depression, that was again explained; feelings of a depressed mood for most of the day but must be for at least two years. When an individual experiences dysthymia; he or she may show symptoms of appetite or weight changes, feelings of fatigue and helplessness, low self-esteem, changes in sleep, and poor ability to concentrate or make meaningful decisions. SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder has also been mentioned in the DSM-V. This is most common in the harsh winters where there is little light for the body to secrete certain hormones for the body to function properly. The best solutions to aid this problem is to have artificial sun light projected to the individual or either go to a tanning salon. The tanning salon also used artificial sunlight to tan the skin or change the pigment within the skin (American Psychiatric Association).

Depression has supporting evidence in both sides of the Nature and Nurture Debate. Biologically, the thyroid gland can affect an individual’s depression state. Depending of the amount of certain hormones produced in the thyroid gland, a person may show signs of the nine symptoms described by DSM-IV. Some hormones that may affect an individual’s depression state are thyroid stimulating hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Have too much or too little of these hormones may result in a few conditions such as, sleep disturbances, weight loss or gain, trainability or nervousness, fatigue, forgetfulness, inability to tolerate heat or the cold, and dry skin or hair (WebMD).  Also, disorders such as depression and anxiety have the tendency to occur more often in close relatives of affected individuals than they do in the general population. Between 20 and 25 percent of people who is affected with mood disorders have a family member who is affected by a similar disorder. On the side of the nurture debate, the physiocratic view of depression is that same people are prone to depression because they suffered a real or imagined loss of a loved object or person in childhood. Some learning theorists believe that learned helplessness makes people prone to depression. This was demonstrated by a psychologist named Martian Seligman when he conducted an experiment on dogs. The dogs were taught that they were hopeless to escape from electric shock. First, he placed a barrier in the dogs’ cage to prevent them from leaving when shocks were administered. Later the barrier was removed. However, hen shocks ere again administered, the dogs made no effort to escape. They had learned there was nothing to do to stop the pain (Rathus 424, 425).

In the field of psychology, there are many types of theories for different subjects. Depression has many theories which have different implications for the therapy that is used to treat it. Directly and indirectly, the social environment plays a role in depression. Three examples of depression theories are rank theory of depression, Psychodynamic theory of depression and Beck’s cognitive theory of depression. Theories are used to help treat depression and for an example for each, a female named Sam. The first example used in Wade’s example would be rank theory depression. Sam made many friends in High School and was well-known throughout school. She would have a major position in the student council and would be the captain and the star player of two major sports teams. As Sam would walk through the hallways, she would find pleasure in being greeted. Sam would be excited over the thought of going to college and having the opportunities of interacting with a new group of people. However, when in college, the idea of instantaneous social acceptance would not be a reality. Starting from the bottom of the social hierarchy, Sam could not begin to understand or accept her new social position and became frustrated and angry; later towards the end of her first semester she would feel depressed. By applying the social rank theory, phycologists may now begin to determine why Sam is depressed. According to Stevens and Price, when organisms are demoted to a lower social rank, they will become depressed in order to accept this fact and reduce their desire to get back on top (Stevens A.). This is an evolutionary function and is designed to avoid conflict between the new and old leaders (Stevens A.). Her treatment should be focused on Rational Emotive Therapy which teaches her that being a leader can be irrational (Wade).

The next theory, presented by Sigmoid Freud; is psychodynamic theory of depression which states that depression is a result from anger from imbalanced cognitions and behavior in childhood. To present this theory say for example Sam grew up in a strictly Catholic household that prided on being perfect. Sam has a loving and overprotective mother and a father who overbearing and abusive. However, Sam only displaces positive emotions to her parents and becomes confused on the child. She cannot be angry at her parents because they are essential for survival and she wants to please her parents, but is unable to do so. So instead of being angry at her parents she directs the anger inwards towards herself, this happens unconsciously according to Freud. The treatment based off of the psychodynamic theory would need the Sam to decrease her self-punishment and allow her to understand that it is okay to not be perfect (Wade). Instead of feeling disappointed that she is not perfect, she should have the mind set to work towards perfection; perfection is non-existent. Setting small goals may also help her but only if she allows herself to feel accomplished.

Lastly, Beck’s cognitive theory of depression states that the primary cause of depression is through negative thoughts (Rashmi Nemade). First off, what is cognitive psychology? It is the study of mental processes such as, memory, language, perception, creativity, thinking, attention and problem solving (Wikipedia). Going back to Sam, she thinks that she would never be able to please her parents and that she would be stuck in her social position for the rest of her college career. No matter how much effort Sam put into her activities she would never succeed. Sam is also homosexual and her parents do not accept her because of it. She feels that her future would compromise of either being untrue to herself or defying her parents. There are three thoughts that result in her depression: belief that all efforts are futile, no hope for the future and feeling inadequate. During her therapy sessions, she would be taught to view failures as challenges that are possible to overcome and she needs to know that she is in control of her life’s course (Wade). Sam would have adopted an enchasing attribution to her problems that would enable her to feel hopeful about her efforts and the future (Schneider).


American Psychiatric Association. “Diangnostic and statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” DSM-5. 2013.

Anxiety and Depression Associatin of America. Anxiety and Depression. August 2016. .

Rashmi Nemade, Natalie Staats Reiss, and Mark Dombeck. Cognitive Theories Of Major Depression – Aaron Beck. 19 September 2007. .

Rathus, Spencer A. “Psychology Principles in Practice.” Auston: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2003. 4.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005.

Stevens A., & Price J. Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning. London: Routledge, 2000.

Wade, Rebecca Michelle. Theories of Depression. 5 October 2011. .

WebMD. Depression, the Thyroid, and Hormones. 2016. .

Wikipedia. Cognitive Psychology. 2016. .


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