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Mental Disorders Series: Depression, What It Is And How To Treat It


Sadness is a basic human emotion. We all struggle with life from time to time. However, depression becomes problematic when this sadness disrupts daily functions. The Mayo Clinic defines clinical depression as a mental health disorder characterized by continuing low spirits or a severe loss of interest in activities to the point of functional impairment. Clinical depression occurs when these symptoms last for more than two weeks.

A classic mood disorder, depression is perhaps the most well-known of all mental illnesses. Some clinicians even label depression as the common cold psychiatric disorder due to its ubiquitous nature.

Further, there are several types of depression, including major depressive disorder, dysthymia, psychotic depression, postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Here is a quick guide to these five depressive conditions:

The Big Five

MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER is the most common type of depression. It occurs when a person experiences any of the following symptoms for at least two weeks: low mood, lack of interest in usual activities, weight fluctuation, sleep disturbances, trouble concentrating and suicidal thoughts.

DYSTHYMIA is a mild, long-lasting depression. Dysthymia symptoms are identical to MDD, but less severe. Although, Dysthymia lasts much longer than a major depressive disorder.

PSYCHOTIC DEPRESSION occurs when someone already experiencing depression loses touch with reality. The disorder’s symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, anxiety, confusion, paranoia, and disorganized thoughts and speech. Psychotic depression tends to be the illness’s most severe form. It also causes the greatest amount of in-patient treatment.

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION affects some mothers in their first months after giving birth. Hormonal imbalance when the woman’s estrogen and progesterone rapidly decrease following childbirth generally increases PPD risk.

Sleep deprivation from caring for an infant can exacerbate these hormonal imbalances. 

Symptoms of postpartum depression include a lack of energy, sadness, and exhaustion. Psychotic features can also accompany postpartum depression. 

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER generally occurs in the darker, cooler months leading to its nickname the “winter blues.” This depression variant, which often mirrors dysthymia’s lesser symptoms, is thought to be caused by a lack of sunlight and Vitamin D, which the sun naturally provides. Effective treatments for SAD include artificial light therapy and vitamin D supplementation. 


Due to the prevalence of these conditions, 11% of the U.S. population uses an antidepressant. The United States also accounts for 36% of the world’s depression cases. However, because of gender stigma regarding treatment, American women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to seek help for their sadness. This number is alarming, as 30.6% of U.S. men admit to having had at least one major depressive episode. More on men’s mental health stigma later. 

The main causes of depression include stressful life events, low self-esteem, loneliness, and substance abuse. With a strong genetic component, depression is a leading factor in more than 50% of American suicides each year. Though a common illness, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

That noted, here are the most common methods for treating depression.



Many types of antidepressants are available, including those below. Be sure to discuss possible major side effects with your doctor or pharmacist. Per Mayo Clinic:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Doctors often start by prescribing an SSRI. These drugs are considered safer and generally cause fewer bothersome side effects than other types of antidepressants. Notable SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft) and vilazodone (Viibryd).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla) and levomilnacipran (Fetzima).
  • Atypical antidepressants. These medications don’t fit into any of the other antidepressant categories. They include bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL), mirtazapine (Remeron), nefazodone, trazodone and vortioxetine (Trintellix).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants. Medications such as imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), amitriptyline, doxepin, trimipramine (Surmontil), desipramine (Norpramin) and protriptyline (Vivactil) — can be beneficial, but generally cause more side effects than newer antidepressants.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs tranylcypromine (Parnate), phenelzine (Nardil) and isocarboxazid (Marplan) — are only occasionally prescribed, typically when other meds prove ineffective because they have serious side effects. Using MAOIs requires several dietary changes because of dangerous (or even deadly) interactions with foods ― such as certain cheeses, pickles, and wines ― and some medications and herbal supplements. Selegiline (Emsam), a newer MAOI used as a skin patch, may be more tolerable than other MAOIs. MAOIs can’t be combined with SSRIs.


Psychotherapy in its various forms is often used alongside medication to ease depression. This treatment modality, performed with a licensed clinician, includes cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and simple talk therapy -among others. These partnered sessions can help you:

  • Adjust to a crisis
  • Identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy thoughts
  • Explore relationships and experiences, and develop positive interactions with others
  • Find better ways to cope with and solve problems
  • Regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life and help reduce depression symptoms, such as hopelessness and anger
  • Learn to set realistic life goals
  • Develop the ability to tolerate distress

Depression doesn’t have to be a life-long diagnosis. By implementing medication, therapy, and healthy habits, you can begin savoring each day. If you’d like to share your thoughts or opinions on this article, please do so in the comment section below. And, if you would like to have your writing published by Stigma Battle, drop me an email. Until next time, be great to yourself!

Check out the Stigma Battle Podcast here.

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