What is depression and why should we study it?

You wont be asked to write a whole essay on this but obviously you can’t write about the prevalence, explanations and treatments for MDD without knowing what this means!

The information on this page will be helpful in the introductions to your essay about explanations and treatments for MDD. So…

Why should we make it our business to understand more about depression?

  • Depression is the most common mental health disorder and estimates suggest that by 2020 it will be second only to cardiovascular disease in terms of the world’s disabling disease.
  • Major depressive disorder affects about 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives and can be highly debilitating leading to loss of quality of life for patients, families and carers and in the most severe cases, can lead to suicide.
  • The growing prevalence of depression is also a major issue for society to manage as it has major economic implications through sick pay, benefits and health services provided.
  • It can also pose a problem as it can be hard to diagnose and GPs may miss treating it and instead continue to treat a patient for other physical problems such as insomnia. This is an important point that you could use when discussing reliability and validity of diagnosis, prevalence and the impact of culture.
  • When parents are depressed this can lead to decreased sensitivity and responsiveness to infants and children which, according to psychologists such as Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby, may be a cause of attachment problems and subsequent mental health and relationships difficulties for the next generation
  • social withdrawal, a common symptomatic of depression could lead to the breakdown of the sense of community cohesion that is necessary to combat criminality and anti-social behaviour.

The themes outlined above indicate that understanding and finding appropriate ways to diagnose, understand treat depression should be a major concern for psychologists who could be at the forefront of defending society against further problems in the future.

Researchers are currently exploring whether computerized cognitive behavioural therapy can provide an effective solution to help the over-stretched NHS cope with the excessive numbers of patients requiring treatment for depression.

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’, a Labour initiative launched on World Mental Health Day 2007, received massive government investment over several years and at this time was a testimony to the extent to which society valued the contribution that psychologists have to make in understanding and treating depression (and anxiety disorders) without reliance on drug treatments.

So… what are the symptoms and features of major depressive disorder?

Symptoms and Features