10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that affects over 300 million people on our planet. It is actually the leading cause of disability. Depression does not pick an age, it does not pick a gender, and it does not pick a race. Anyone can be diagnosed with the disorder at any point in their lives. Since depression is a mood disorder, it affects people on a psychological level. The way depression affects people, where the disorder comes from, treatment plans for a better life…all of these explanations are rooted in psychology. Let’s get to the bottom of a disorder that everyone has had some level of exposure to in their life. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of depression.

Depression can affect anyone.

psychology of depression

When it comes to understanding the psychology of depression, the first insight is how unbelievably common the disorder is. In the United States alone, it has been reported that nearly 17.3 million adults suffer from depression. The numbers are just as astounding for children. It’s been reported that 1.9 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with depression.

It is important to note that these numbers only represent the people who have sought out help or been admitted and have been clinically diagnosed to some degree. There are many factors that can increase the chances of someone suffering from depression. There are also different types of depression that vary in severity. Ultimately, depression is far more common than many of us may believe. 

There are noticeable signs of depression. 

psychology of depression

When someone is depressed, their overall mood is melancholy. However, being sad doesn’t mean that someone is depressed. Understanding the psychology of depression means understanding that a depressed person experiences a consistent sadness that affects all aspects of their lives. There are specific symptoms, both psychological and physiological that can help us recognize that someone is feeling depressed on some level. These symptoms may include…

  • Feeling sad, empty, 
  • Irrational irritability and frustration 
  • Bad sleep habits
  • Fatigue
  • Not enjoying things that should bring pleasure or used to
  • Anxiety
  • Poor eating habits (under eating or over eating)
  • Overall slowness (verbal and physical)
  • Fixation on feeling guilt, shame, personal blame
  • Struggling with concentration 
  • Thoughts of death and suicide 

In order for someone to be classified as clinically depressed, a psychiatrist or psychologist may say that the patient must be showing these symptoms for at least two weeks.

There are different levels to feeling depressed. 

psychology of depression

While we explained and provided symptoms of depression above, depression may show up in different ways for different people. While we all expect bouts of sadness from time to time, experts say that most people experience some sort of depressive episode at least once in their lifetime. There are many different kinds of depression. Depending on what we are going through in our life, one may show up. Some who is feeling depressed and seeks helped may be diagnosed with one of these:

  • Major Depression
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / Seasonal Depression
  • Psychotic Depression
  • Postpartum Depression 
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
  • Situational Depression

Lifestyle and environmental factors can lead to depression. 

psychology of depression

There are many outside factors that can lead to someone feeling depressed. Studies show that the number one cause of depression is past abuse. This may be physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. However, depression does not single anyone out. There are other factors that can lead to depression as well. 

Experts studying the psychology of depression have noted that they believe that social media is a big contributor to depression in both teens and young adults. We are constantly shown people who seem:to be doing better, are better looking, have more friends, live more luxurious lives, have more money, etc. Social media is not an accurate depiction of someone’s life. It affects people on a deep psychological level. It may lead to depression when not used in healthy quantities. 

Depression can also be brought on by trauma, major life events, financial struggles, the state of the world, etc. It is also reported that women are twice as likely to struggle with depression than men. This could be at any point in their lives.

Physical disorders may cause depression.

Depression is a mood disorder, meaning that it affects people psychologically. However, there are some physical disorders that can cause someone to feel depressed. There are chronic illnesses, diseases, physical conditions, medications. All of these can all lead to depression. Examples of these may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis 
  • Cancers
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Lupus 

Certain medications that are taken for physical conditions can lead to depressive thoughts and actions. 

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There are connections between mental illnesses and depression. 

psychology of depression

Another insight into the psychology of depression is the understanding that depression is typically not the only difficult disorder someone is struggling with. People who are clinically depressed may also struggle with other mental illnesses. These may include:

  • anxiety disorders
  • social phobias
  • panic disorders

These illnesses can be caused by environmental stress, genetics, psychological imbalances, and more. Mental illnesses are common. If we have not suffered from one, we likely know someone who has. However, treatment to some degree will help keep depression at bay and allow someone to live a more normal life.

Is depression genetically passed down?

It makes sense that someone who is raised around depression grows up to experience the same struggles. Over time we have learned that people with parents or siblings who have depression may be three times as likely to also have the condition. This could be genetic or it could be a result of environmental factors.

This poses another question. Is depression a gene that we can be born with? Research in the more recent years has actually found what may be a “depression gene.” It is a chromosome that was found in more than 800 families that have recurring depression in their relatives.

(You can read more about the depression gene: here.)

Depression disrupts a normal and happy life.

Feeling sad and melancholy is far from enjoyable, but it can usually be cured with changing some things or giving it time. For people with mental illnesses, every day is a challenge. The same goes for depression. For millions of people around the world, depression is a daily battle from sun up to sun down. Add in insomnia. It never really stops. 

The daily struggles that present themselves affect all areas of someone’s life. Examples of this include:

  • sleeping habits
  • eating habits
  • earning an education
  • having a job
  • being in a relationship
  • mental and physical health, and more. 

There are treatment methods for depression. 

While there is no magic spell to make depression go away, there is treatment available. As we mentioned, there are different kinds of depression. Depending on the type, a treatment plan is created. For some people, anti-depressants for a set amount of time do the trick. For others, therapy is the cure all. For some who are struggling with a life long battle, treatment tends to switch up over time. The point here: there is treatment for depression as long as someone seeks out help. 

Leaving depression untreated may have serious consequences.

No mental illness should be taken lightly. Pushing depression aside can be life threatening. Regardless of age, gender, or severity, someone with depression should always find help. When depression is left untreated, there are some serious consequences. These may include:

  • suicide
  • attempted suicide
  • severe loneliness
  • homelessness, and more. 

Depression is the most common factor behind suicide or attempted suicide. Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? It is the second leading cause of death for people ages 25-34 and the third leading cause in ages 10-24. It is also reported that the highest suicide rate is in men 75 years and older. 

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