The most common mood disorder is depression, a state in which a person feels over- whelmed with sadness. Depressed people lose interest in the things they normally enjoy. Intense feelings of worthlessness and guilt leave them unable to feel pleasure. They are tired and apathetic, sometimes to the point of being unable to make the simplest decisions. Many depressed people feel as if they have failed utterly in life, and they tend to blame themselves for their problems. Seriously depressed people often have insomnia and lose interest in food and sex. They may have trouble thinking or concentrating—even to the extent of finding it difficult to read a newspaper. In fact, difficulty in concentrating and subtle changes in short-term memory are sometimes the first signs of the onset of depres- sion (Janice Williams et al., 2000). In extreme cases, depressed people may be plagued by suicidal thoughts or may even attempt suicide (C. T. S. Kumar, Mohan, & Ranjith, 2006). The earlier the age of onset of depressive symptoms, the greater the likelihood that suicide may be attempted (A. H. Thompson, 2008).
Clinical depression is different from the “normal” kind of depression that all people experience from time to time. Only when depression is long lasting and goes well beyond the typical reaction to a stressful life event is it classified as a mood disorder (American Psy- chological Association, 2000). (See “Applying Psychology: Recognizing Depression.”)
DSM-IV-TR distinguishes between two forms of depression: Major depressive disor- der is an episode of intense sadness that may last for several months; in contrast, dysthymia involves less intense sadness (and related symptoms), but persists with little
depression A mood disorder characterized by overwhelming feelings of sadness, lack of interest in activities, and perhaps excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness.
APPLY YOUR UNDERSTANDING
1. You are talking to a friend whose behavior has you concerned. She says, “Look, I’m happy, I feel good about myself, and I think things are going well.” Which viewpoint on mental health is reflected in her statement?
a. society’s view b. the individual’s view c. the mental health professional’s view d. Both (b) and (c) are true.
2. A friend asks you, “What causes people to have psychological disorders?” You respond, “Most often, it turns out that some people are biologically prone to developing a particular disorder. When they have some kind of stressful experience, the predisposition shows up in their behavior.” What view of psychological disorders are you taking?
a. psychoanalytic model b. cognitive model c. behavioral model d. diathesis–stress model
Answers:1. b.2. d.