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In today's lesson, we're going to be touching on mood disorders, and we're going to focus specifically on depressive disorders as one type of mood disorder. So remember, mood disorders are any kind of psychological disorder that's marked by a major change in a person's mood or emotion, or affect. Whatever you want to call it. So a person either feels very good, or very bad, about themselves.
These can come in two forms. We've got mania, which is a very high affect or emotion. The person feels very up. They have lots of energy. They feel very good about themselves. Or we've got depression, or depressive disorders, which are a focus on depression, which is when a person has very low affect or emotion. They feel very down about themselves. And they're generally very inactive, feel very lonely or helpless, or things like that.
A lot of times, depressive disorders are characterized by a person's reduced activity, where they aren't doing as much. They have a lack of enjoyment in other kinds of activities. And they also have feelings of loneliness or helplessness, or things like that.
Depression, it's important to note, occurs over long periods of time. It's not just a one-day thing. If a person feels down, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're clinically depressed. Also, depressive disorders can have an effect on a person's behaviors. They might have trouble sleeping. They might have a lack of eating, and they might lose weight as a result. They might withdraw from others. They stick to themselves, or they stay at home. And they might show poor performance at work or at school.
The causes for depression can vary wildly, so there are a lot of different theories that are attributed to all the different types of depression that people can experience.
Remember, when we talk about psychological causes, we come back to the debate of nature versus nurture. Which is to say, we're looking at the nature side, which is the biological, or the genetic, or the innate causes. The things within the person that cause the disorders to occur. Versus the nurture side of things, which is the environmental factors. The situations that there in. The cultures. Their society, and the things outside of them than can effect and cause these sorts of things to happen.
We're going to be talking about specific types of depressive disorders today, and how they relate to these nature versus nurture causes.
The first depressive disorder that we'll look at today is what we call Endogenous Depression, which is a form of depression with a very specific genetic component that's related to a person's brain's ability to produce certain types of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Because this person has certain genetic or innate problems with developing these kinds of neurotransmitters, it can lead to a person experiencing depression throughout their lives. People are born with this type of disorder. However, it only develops as a result of experiences that are especially traumatic or stressful. So again, we see that interaction between nature and nurture. There's a specific nature component, but it's set off by the nurture, by the outside environment of the person.
There are also very situational dependent depressive disorders, on the other side of the scale. We've got things like Postpartum Depression, which is a depression the develops in a woman after giving birth. That's what we mean by postpartum-- after a person has given birth, or a woman specifically. This commonly occurs with women that are having a child. Oftentimes it's called "baby blues." But it doesn't really develop as a severe mental disorder in all of those people. It only occurs in about 10% of women. And you can have very severe, or serious, results. Oftentimes in its most extreme form, postpartum depression can result in psychosis, or the development of hallucinations or delusions, in other words.
We say that this is situational, or it's the nurture side of things, because it's caused by changes that occur within the person after becoming pregnant. Which is to say, there are certain changes in the hormonal levels of these women who have a very specific sensitivity, within their brain, to those kinds of hormones. So you see again, we've got that biological component sneaking in. So not everybody is developing it, because certain people are biologically predisposed to developing this. In other words, their genetics lead them to developing postpartum depression as a result.
Finally, we have Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is again, one of the more popular types of depression that are being thrown around nowadays. It's the type of depression where a person experiences mood changes along with the changes in the seasons. So seasonal, and affective. Talking about emotions. And this particularly occurs for a person during the summer and winter times. Now it's not a unique disorder within the DSM IV, within our categories of psychological disorders. It doesn't have its own place. Rather, it's a sort of symptom of major depressive disorder. So it's something that we use to diagnose another type of disorder, but it does it hasn't necessarily gained its own place. However, outside of the DSM, and in the wider medical community, it's definitely gaining a lot more ground and recognition.
Seasonal Affective Disorder has a definite evolutionary and biological component to it. Which is to say, people have developed this because, over time and through evolution, they have developed changes in their activities and their behaviors during certain parts of the year. So during the winter time, for example, we're a lot less active because it's colder outside, and we can't necessarily do as much for ourselves as a species. There is definitely also a biological component to this, as well. Which is the say, there's a specific part of our brain, in the hypothalamus, that is light sensitive, and it responds to that. And as a result, that can actually help us in developing our treatments. So let's talk about those.
When we talk about treatment, we're also talking about prevention. Which is to say, we're looking for people that might be predisposed-- having the nature component of these kinds of things-- and helping them to prevent developing depression at all. From occurring. In other words, with something like Endogenous Depression, where it's set off by stressful events, one important thing for those types of people is to learn strategies to reduce stress within their lives.
Also, postpartum depression has been linked especially with very weak social support within people. So recognizing people that are predisposed to postpartum depression, and making sure they have people to talk to. Friends and family that can support them, especially during a period, like after they've given birth, when they especially need that kind of help. It's a very stressful time in their lives.
And finally, understanding these physical components. For example, in Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can lead to physical treatments. For example, one treatment that people have tried to use for Seasonal Affective Disorder is what we call "light treatment," where they're exposed to more bright lights. So hopefully, as a result, they start to develop more of those chemicals that their brain needs to help them feel a lot less depressed in their lives.
So you can see how all of these conversations about nature and nurture can play into the actual treatments, and the diagnosis, of these kinds of disorders.