Major Depressive Disorder

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

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 while the social withdrawal which is symptomatic of depression could lead to the further 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 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.

Symptoms and features

One biological theory/explanation

One non-biological theory/explanation

One biological treatment for UPD

One psychological treatment for UPD

Specialist vocabulary

Researching depression on the web

Assessment Questions

This question was direct from the SAMs, think carefully before putting pen to paper in order to cover its complex requirements succinctly:

A news article has criticised the effectiveness of psychological treatment. The headline was ‘Psychological treatments for mental disorders do not work as these disorders are not psychological in origin’. For a mental disorder other than schizophrenia, use your knowledge of the possible explanations of its causes to assess how effective a psychological treatment would be compared to a biological treatment (8)