Mental Depression

Mental depression is a general, non-technical term for a dampening of a person’s mood. Mental depression can be a temporary response to stressful or painful life events or a mental health disorder. This article provides an overview of mental depression.

It is important to note that sometimes people use the term physical depression to indicate a depression that comes from a physical cause. Medically, this is sometimes referred to as endogenous depression, meaning “depression that comes from within. But there are different definitions of physical definition, and it seems likely that all depression has a physical component. Therefore, the term mental depression should not be understood as a counterpart to physical depression in the way that you may be used to contrasting mental health and physical health or mental activity and physical activity.

Non-pathological Depression

It is normal, and one might even say appropriate, for people to react to the unavoidable sad and difficult experiences of life with a temporarily depressed mood, accompanied by feelings of sadness, a loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and a general withdrawal from activities. Earning very poor grades, receiving a poor review at work, going through a break-up, and other kinds of painful loss and blows to the ego can lead to non-pathological depression. This type of depression usually lasts weeks at the longest and resolves without any medical intervention, though the support of family and friends may be important.

Depression as a Mood Disorder

When depression does not lift after some time or when it comes about without the prompt of a life event or when it is out of proportion to the life event or stressor that seems to have caused it, that is the time when the question of whether one is looking at a mental disorder involving depression is worth considering. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), all mood disorders except one either are forms of or involve depression. The types of depression that qualify as mental disorders include the following:

All disorders founding the category “Depressive disorders”:

  • Dysthymic disorder (also called chronic depression, mild depression, minor depression) - a lasting depression of less severity than major depression but enduring for two years or more.
  • Major depressive disorder (also called clinical depression or unipolar depression) - a single or repeating episodic depression that ranges from mild to severe and may or may not be accompanied by psychotic features.
  • Depressive disorder NOS (not otherwise specified)

All disorders found in the category “Bipolar disorders” (disorders in which patients experience both depression on the one hand and hypomania or mania on the other hand) except for Bipolar I disorder, single manic episode:

  • Bipolar disorder NOS (also called manic depression)
  • Bipolar I disorder, with most recent episode being specified as either depressed, hypomanic, manic, mixed, or unspecified
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder, a lasting alteration of manic and depressed moods, but of less severity than bipolar disorder.
  • Mood disorder due to a medical condition (this can be from, for example, a brain tumor)
  • Mood disorder NOS

Depression as a Mental Disorder Co-existing With Other Mental Disorders

There are some situations in which depression is so frequently found co-existing with another mental disorder that there is a DSM-IV designation for the combination. This is the case for the following five disorders in which depression plays a part:

  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood
  • Early onset Alzheimer’s dementia with depressed mood
  • Late onset Alzheimer’s dementia with depressed mood
  • Vascular dementia with depressed mood

Depression can also be linked to other disorders that are not mental. Perhaps most strangely, a person can have both dysthymia and major depression at the first time. This combination is referred to as double depression.

Related Article: Mood Disorder >>