Unipolar depression is a common mood disorder that an estimated 19.4 million (7.8%) adults in the United States have experienced at least once.1
Although it may be normal to experience low moods every once in a while, persistent feelings of sadness or episodes of depression can indicate a more serious problem. Also known as major depressive disorder, today we’re going to discuss what unipolar depression is, its symptoms, and how it’s different from bipolar depression, which is another serious mental health disorder.
Unipolar Depression Definition
Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), major depression, or clinical depression, unipolar depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed moods or loss of interest in activities, impairing the person’s daily life. Unipolar depression focuses on the lows or the negative emotions that one may experience.
The causes of unipolar depression are numerous and may include biological, psychological, and social factors. As more research is performed to better understand what unipolar depressive disorder is, scientists believe that these factors contribute to changes in brain functions, including altered activity and levels of certain neural circuits and chemicals in the brain.
For instance, unipolar depression is believed to be greatly caused by low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that plays a role in mood and other functions.
When levels of this chemical are low, an individual may experience depressive moods. When these levels are consistently low, it may contribute to a more persistent problem, such as unipolar depression.
There are also other forms of unipolar depression that can be affected by other factors that aren’t biological, such as seasonal affective disorder. This is a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year, most often during the winter.
Unipolar Depression Symptoms & Signs
The majority of people with unipolar depression experience episodes of sadness or negative emotions at least once in their lives. However, this form of depression is different from others in that depressive moods can last all day and can persist for longer periods (longer than two weeks).
For doctors to diagnose someone with unipolar depression, they may assess the patient’s feelings, behavioral patterns, and symptoms with a mental health assessment and other tools. Typically, the patient may answer specific questions about their mental well-being or fill out a questionnaire that will help physicians determine whether they have unipolar depression.
All doctors use the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose patients. For someone to be diagnosed with unipolar depression, they have to experience five or more of the following symptoms, at least once per day, for longer than two weeks:
Sadness or irritability
Loss of interest in major activities that were once enjoyable
Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping more than usual
Change in appetite or sudden weight loss or gain
Feelings of restlessness
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, often caused by things that wouldn’t normally cause this effect
Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or thinking
Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm
There are various environmental, psychological, and biological risk factors for unipolar depression. On a biological level, a combination of stress, family history of depression or mental illness, and changes in hormonal balances can increase one’s risk of developing unipolar depression.
Because the way we live and think is greatly shaped by our experiences, certain external events can also increase the likelihood of a mood disorder, such as an abusive upbringing. Environmental factors like extended periods of conflict in a relationship, health challenges, or the passing of a loved one can also lead to the onset of unipolar depression symptoms.
Unipolar Depression Treatment
Thanks to extensive research, many doctors and mental health facilities like our mental health rehab in Boca Raton, Florida, understand what unipolar depression is and how to best treat it. Along with medications, psychotherapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating unipolar depression for most people and teaching them how to manage their symptoms.
Although treatment often begins with the individual’s physician prescribing them a particular medication, therapy is recommended to help the individual identify and work through the underlying issues that may be triggering their condition.
If you or a loved one has shown signs of unipolar depression, don’t wait to ask for help. Our Boca Raton Banyan rehab offers inpatient mental health treatment for all kinds of disorders, including unipolar depression.
Patients at our facility will have the opportunity to work with our licensed and highly skilled therapists on an individual level to identify the source of their conditions and develop healthy coping skills they can utilize for the rest of their lives. Recovery is possible for everyone.
Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.
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