Unipolar Depression - Discussion

Unipolar depression is also referred to as major depressive disorder and is one of the main forms of depression that affects most people.

Such depression is often of unknown etiology or cause, although studies have confirmed that one of the causes for this type of depression is imbalance in the brain chemistry, where there is a decrease in the level of certain chemical neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

The reason for this decrease in the levels of these chemical substances is not very clear yet, but people with a family history of unipolar or major depression seem to be at high risk of developing this mental condition. However, there is an equal number of people without a family history, too, who suffer from unipolar depression. Here, stress factors, certain physiological conditions, pregnancy, etc, trigger depression.

Some of the common symptoms exhibited by patients suffering from major depressive disorder or unipolar depression include the following:

  • Constantly feeling down, low, sad, and depressed.

  • Uncontrollable crying spells for no apparent reason.

  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

  • Hypersensitivity and irritability.

  • Increasingly feeling negative, guilty, and ashamed for certain thoughts and actions.

  • Inability to sleep well at nights or insomnia accompanied with fatigue and tiredness.

  • Lack of appetite or overeating, resulting in lack of energy or lethargy.

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks.

  • Inability to take decisions.

  • Lack of interest in social activities.

  • Contemplates suicide or talks about suicide.

Severe forms of major depression can lead to certain psychotic symptoms, like visual and auditory hallucinations, which are sometimes accompanied by delusions of grandeur. In such cases, conventional treatment must be continued on a long term and continual basis because, in addition to antidepressants, patients here will also need to take certain antipsychotic medications.

Statistics indicate that nearly 18 million American citizens both men and women as well as belonging to all age groups and economic strata suffer from depression. However, the number of women suffering from depression is twice as many as compared to men.

Some of the reasons for women being more prone to depression are the numerous physiological and emotional changes which women go through, starting from puberty to menopause. Pregnancy and childbirth also have their set of physical and emotional changes, which sometimes trigger depression in new moms. In recent years, there have been an increasing number of teens and children who are being diagnosed and treated for unipolar depression.

Some of the diagnostic tests administered in diagnosing unipolar depression or unipolar disorder are the Beck’s Depression Scale or other screening tests. The first indication is, however, if the signs and symptoms mentioned above last for over two weeks, friends and family must seek professional help immediately.

Treatment for major or unipolar depression includes counseling, psychotherapy, and pharmacotherapy. Generally, it is a combination of all three treatment modalities, since this is found to be the most effective form of treating patients suffering from this condition.

Counseling sessions include talking to the patient and converting all pessimistic thought processes into positive and optimistic thoughts. Besides this, counselors also engage in encouraging patients suffering from this condition to exercise, eat a balanced diet, cultivate new hobbies, and generally keep themselves occupied and engaged.

Psychotherapists administer screening tests and generally interview the patients based on certain questionnaires to understand their problems, based on which they will suggest ways and means to overcome challenges faced by individual patients. Therapists also try and establish if the patient has had any problems in childhood or has gone through any other traumatic experience which is one of the triggers for depression. Depending upon the severity of depression, therapists might recommend seeking help from psychiatrists for further treatment.

Pharmacotherapy involves treating unipolar depression with medications which are mostly antidepressants. Antidepressants prescribed could include tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI), etc, and these medications are mostly prescribed to adults.

Studies indicate that children do not respond well to antidepressants, which might actually increase their risk of suicide; therefore, antidepressants are not effective for all patients. Only psychiatrists who diagnose and establish the nature and severity of depression can prescribe or recommend the exact medication and appropriate dosage of antidepressants.

Thyroid supplements like Synthroid are also said to be effective when taken with antidepressants. Therefore, depending upon the nature and severity of depression, psychiatrists will recommend appropriate medications.

Here, let us state our stand that the use of drug medications for treating unipolar depression, or any type of depression for that matter, should only be carried out as a last resort. This is because drugs almost always come with many dangerous, even fatal, side effects, and they are grossly overused today. But if you do choose to commence such therapy, then it would be important to follow the dosage instructions and advice given by the psychiatrist or physician.

In addition to the above treatment modalities, severe cases of depression are sometimes recommended electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which involves passing electrical impulses into the human system; this brings about seizures. This treatment is conducted under anesthesia and is said to decrease suicidal thoughts in patients suffering from major or unipolar depression.

Research also indicates that certain herbs are found to be extremely effective in treating depression, and one such herb is called St. John’s wort, which is a very popular herbal and natural antidepressant. Read more about such natural remedies in the other sections of this website.

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