By David Baldwin, PhD
Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood
These are relatively brief depressive reactions to a specific event that would make anyone feel depressed.
These symptoms of melancholy and lack of energy, joy or interest are more severe and long-lasting than above. They may not seem connected to any specific upsetting event. Without treatment, they can last so long that a person may forget how it feels to relish life.
Major Depression
Generally, these symptoms come and go suddenly, are often severe, and may not be in response to an obvious setback or negative life-event. Without treatment, they may continue for months or even years. They may recur through life.

This range of common depressive reactions, and what to do about them, is the focus of this brochure.

Depression is one of the most common psychological problems. It is about twice as prevalent among women as men -- partly because women are more likely to recognize depressive symptoms as a mental health problem and to seek treatment.

Depression may be a response to a major negative life event or other external factors. It may also stem from biological or seasonal factors.

Depressive Symptoms:

If several of the above symptoms persist over time, you may need to seek help from a professional therapist.

Treatments for Depression:

Effective treatment of clinical depression commonly involves changing the faulty thinking patterns that underlie unrealistic negative beliefs.

To build a sense of success, the therapist helps a patient break large tasks into smaller ones, and set realistic goals that can be quickly accomplished.

There are several forms of depression, and each may respond best to a specific mode of treatment. Some depressive disorders occur mainly in response to loss of previous abilities or to external circumstances.

Other forms, such as bipolar depression, seem more biologically based. Seasonal affective depression may be a cyclical response to the dreary winter rains and lack of sunlight in this region.

For some forms of depression, medications may be necessary or helpful in conjunction with therapy.

Because depression is a common word for a range of problems that vary in severity and cause, evaluation and proper diagnosis are important first steps in getting treatment.

Selecting the most appropriate treatment requires accurate diagnosis.

Deciding to Seek Help:

The NIMH recently estimated the total costs of depression at $27 billion annually. Other estimates of the costs in lost productivity at work and expenses to treat depression exceed $16 billion dollars a year.

Depression is one of the most treatable mental health disorders -- perhaps 80 to 90 percent of all depressed people respond to treatment.

Seeking early treatment can reduce the time needed for recovery.

Depending on the type of depression, the patient may expect to feel some relief of symptoms within three or four weeks, and long-lasting relief within three to six months of treatment.

In any case, patients should emerge from treatment with increased energy, resiliency and skills to handle the inevitable setbacks in life. The need for continued medication depends on a number of factors, but successful psychotherapy may eliminate or reduce the dosage needed for some forms of depression.

If you know someone who appears depressed, the most important thing you can do is encourage that they seek treatment and stick with it until the depressive symptoms begin to lift (or to seek different therapy if no improvement occurs after several weeks).


July 1993