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AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Depression is a category of mood disorders, which is often divided into two main types: unipolar and bipolar depression, otherwise known as manic-depression.

To be given a diagnosis of depression, sufferers are required to display at least five symptoms, every day for at least two weeks.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in all activities
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of death

These characteristics, which are outlined in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), highlight symptoms which are emotional, behavioural and cognitive in nature.

Behavioural characteristics of depression

There are numerous behavioural characteristics associated with depression, including: loss of energy, sleep disturbance and changes in appetite.

Firstly, there is often a change in activity level; sufferers of depression often experience a reduction in energy and constantly feel tired.

Furthermore, sufferers often experience disturbances with their sleeping pattern, with some sufferers sleeping significantly more, while others experience insomnia, an inability to sleep.

Finally, sufferers often experience changes in appetite, which cause significant weight changes. Some sufferers will eat less and lose weight, while others will eight more and gain weight.

Emotional characteristics of depression

They key emotional characteristic of depression is a depressed mood, or feelings of sadness. Sufferers of depression will often experience the following: depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness and lack of interest or pleasure in all activities.

Although a depressed mood is the most common emotional characteristic of depression, some sufferers experience anger, which can be directed at themselves, or others. Anger can also lead to self-harming behaviours (see below).

Cognitive characteristics of depression

In addition to the emotional and behavioural characteristics, sufferers of depression often have a diminished ability to concentrate and tend to focus on the negative.

Sufferers of depression find it difficult to pay or maintain attention and are often slower in responding to, or making decisions.

Furthermore, they are inclined to focus on the negative aspects of a situation, while ignoring the positives and in some cases experience recurrent thoughts of self-harm, death or suicide.

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