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The health of an individual is dependent on a variety of influential factors, including biological, environmental, social, or psychological. They might determine some significant changes in a person’s physical condition, mental wellbeing, and behavior. Different mental health disorders might cause shifts in people’s behavior patterns, and it is essential to understand how human activity is connected with a particular disorder. The issue of concern in this paper is depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression), its general behavioral characteristics, major factors associated with it, and theories and therapies applied for its treatment.
General Behaviors Associated with Depression
Depression is regarded as a severe mood disorder that might be manifested in different forms depending on the circumstances in which it appears. It is one of the most common mental health issues that adult citizens of the US encounter. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depressive disorder significantly impairs social activity, person’s ability to sleep, work, or perform daily chores (“Depression,” n.d.).
The basic symptoms that are observed in an individual’s behavior include loss of interest in most activities, appetite, and weight changes. Also, a depressed individual experiences sleeping problems, slow movements and speech, a lack of energy, fatigue, or even suicidal attempts in more severe forms of the disease (“Depression,” n.d.). Thus, when suffering from depression, a person’s behavior changes significantly and becomes a burden imposing a threat to a healthy life.
Biological Reasons for Depression
Clinical depression might be caused by a combination of different factors. They include “genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological” determinants that become a reason for the development of the disorder (“Depression,” n.d., para. 12). When discussing biological influences more specifically, one might single out the fact that depression occurs as a result of brain changes associated with “imbalance of neurotransmitters, dysregulation of inflammatory pathways, and increased oxidative dysfunction” (Ghadirian, 2015, p. 2).
Such a tendency justifies the prevalent occurrence of depression in older people whose brain cells are exposed to the described imbalance. Brain dysfunction leads to a person’s inability to organize and sequence information, thus causing a disturbance and induce depression-related behaviors. Pharmacotherapy applied as a treatment of major depressive disorder addresses these impairments and improves the work of neurotransmitter systems with the help of serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine (Ghadirian, 2015). However, there are other approaches to the treatment of depression.
The Altered States of Consciousness and Depression
The multifaceted nature of depression has become a basis for the development of diverse approaches to its treatment. Since depression often occurs with comorbid medical illnesses, antidepressant medication might cause unfavorable side effects and threaten health (Jain, Walsh, Eisendrath, Christensen, & Cahn, 2015). Therefore, it is important to utilize some alternative tools free of side effects. Altered states of consciousness might contribute to the overall understanding of the mechanisms of depressive disorder advancement and find the specific causes of a particular case. Meditation or hypnosis are commonly used to treat depression.
In general, meditation is a “set of psychosomatic practices that involve training and regulating attention towards … intentionally created mental images, while observing or redirecting attention from distracting thoughts” (Jain et al., 2015, p. 141). Such mindfulness interventions benefit the individuals suffering from depression bringing about relaxation and positive thinking. The overall effect of meditation as a cure for depression was manifested in the form of significant symptom reduction (Jain et al., 2015). However, the lack of scientific proof does not allow for suggesting that only practicing altered states of consciousness might be sufficient to treat depression.
The Influence of Depression on Memory
Depression harms memory quality in a patient who suffers from this disorder. Although the mechanism of the connections between memory and depression is not fully studied, scientists agree that depressed individuals encounter problems recollecting, have a better memory for negative events, and tend to forget positive experiences (Dillon & Pizzagalli, 2018). Thus, episodic memory is commonly involved with depression and has its biological causes. The impairment of brain function caused by stress might “suppress hippocampal neurogenesis and inhibit dopamine neurons,” thus leading to pattern separation in memory (Dillon & Pizzagalli, 2018, p. 137). These biological mechanisms illustrate the dependence of depression symptoms on biological processes in the brain.
Personality Theories and Depression
Different theories of personality might apply to depression and provide insight into its causes and development. Two significant ones are the psychoanalytic theory and the cognitive theory. According to the psychoanalytic approach, human predominantly develops under the influence of inner forces. Therefore, depression is viewed as a result of some subconscious feelings related to early childhood experiences (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).
The occurrence of depression is commonly connected with a loss, for example, a loss of connection with a close person or, as in the case of medical illnesses, loss of ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The cognitive theory, on the other hand, views the development of a personality as a result of the cognitive processes concentrating on how people “perceive, evaluate, learn, think, make decisions, and solve problems” (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 345).
Thus, depression, from this perspective, is caused by a person’s biased interpretation of the environment, a lack of control over mood, and impairments in attention, emotion regulation, and memory (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). These psychological approaches to personality have become the basis for the therapies used to treat depression.
The Effectiveness of Therapies Used to Treat Depression
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly used interventions for depression treatment. It concentrates the significant influence of thoughts on human behavior and utilizes the techniques aimed at changing the adverse patterns of thinking into positive ones, thus reconstructing a patient’s depressive behaviors. Such corrections of cognitive impairments have proven to be effective for the reduction of mild depression symptoms but less beneficial in cases of severe depression in comparison to pharmacological therapy (Ghadirian, 2015).
Psychodynamic therapy is a less efficient and less frequently used approach to depression treatment. It concentrates on the unresolved unconscious conflicts that suppress normal behaviors and lead to the disorder (Busch, Rudden, & Shapiro, 2016). Although it has a significant influence on the finding of causes for depression, psychodynamic therapy is often used in combination with other approaches to ensure proper treatment.
In summary, major depressive disorder as a prevalent mental health issue in the modern world has a variety of causes and might be explained by the impairment of biological processes in the human brain. They lead to sadness, anxiety, memory dysfunction, feelings of hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. Different pharmacological therapies are aimed at fixing biological dysfunction. However, in patients with medical comorbidities who might suffer from side effects of additional medications, meditation or hypnosis proved to be an alternative treatment.
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Psychoanalytic and cognitive personality theories apply different approaches to the understanding of the mechanisms of depression and the ways of its treatment. Therefore, one of the most effective therapies that are used today include psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Overall, depression is manifested in significant changes in human behavior, but it can be treated with the help of appropriately chosen interventions.
Busch, F. N., Rudden, M., & Shapiro, T. (2016). Psychodynamic treatment of depression (2nd ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Depression. (n.d.). Web.
Dillon, D. G., & Pizzagalli, D. A. (2018). Mechanisms of memory disruption in depression. Trends in Neurosciences, 41(3), 137-149.
Ghadirian, A. M. (2015). Depression: Biological, psychosocial, and spiritual dimensions and treatment. Journal of Bahá’í Studies, 25(4), 1-26.
Jain, F. A., Walsh, R. N., Eisendrath, S. J., Christensen, S., & Cahn, B. R. (2015). Critical analysis of the efficacy of meditation therapies for acute and subacute phase treatment of depressive disorders: A systematic review. Psychosomatics, 56(2), 140-152.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). Theories of personality (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.