Theories of depression

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Different psychological problems may cause various problems people, and, in the end, reduce these individuals’ ability to cope with their daily responsibilities. Depression is an ailment that causes people to develop a desolate mood, lose interest in pleasure and excitement, feelings of low self-worth, and experience disrupts patterns of sleep (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). Various theories advance different perspectives about the primary causes of depression and how the illness should be treated. The theories include evolutionary, neuroscience, behavioral genetics, behavioral, psychodynamic, cognitive, and biological theories of depression. These approaches may be understood separately or jointly to gain an in-depth understanding of psychology. The following discussion reveals how the different perspectives of psychology can be used to understand psychology, and, later, explains why an eclectic approach to understanding is preferable to a separate one.

The neuroscience point of view utilizes science to gain an in-depth understanding of the manner in which the brain and the nervous system works. In specific, the way such functions can be associated with human behavior (Dahlitz, 2017). This theory presumes that a low serotonin level is the principal cause of depression. The dormant neurons in the brain may fail to transmit the desired off-signals that are required to trigger the discharge of serotonin.

The evolutionary viewpoint asserts that that changes that occur in a person’s life may be linked to the constant adaptations of that individual’s ancestors in a bid to cope with the various problems at hand. In this regard, the development of depression may be viewed as a defense mechanism against the pain that the ancestors of a particular person face during their time of existence (Reis and Sprecher, 2017). Additionally, depression may be associated with over thinking or the emotional ties that different events may be related to. Such activities may overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope with particular conditions or circumstances, and, as a result, predispose him to develop the symptoms of depression. Accordingly, the evolutionary perspective affirms that depression is an adaptation that Medicare professionals should avoid interfering with.

The behavioral genetics perspective indicates that genetics is integral to understanding the behavioral patterns of human beings and their characteristics. Accordingly, the recurring episodes of depression can be linked to genetic factors and situations that may be connected to an individual’s mental or physical well-being (Pluess, 2015). In this regard, the individuals that display the symptoms of depression are more likely than not to pass their depressive tendencies to their young ones. The genetics perspective enables mental health experts to explain why the symptoms of depression are more persistent in the families where such conditions are recurrent when compared to the normal families.

The psychodynamic perspective focuses on the manner in which the conscious and unconscious processes of the human mind may work together to cause a person to develop noticeable behaviors. Different personality traits and behavioral complications can be linked with the circumstances or events that an individual was exposed to during his or her early years of development (Walsh, Teo and Baydala, 2014). Accordingly, an individual may not necessarily react to an event due to a particular childhood trauma but may develop a subconscious reaction to a specific situation due to his childhood experience. To treat a person, a psychologist may resort to asking detailed and thought-provoking questions that may lead such an individual to elicit particular emotions or reactions to the innermost feelings of patients (Walsh, Teo and Baydala, 2014). The psychodynamic perspective, therefore, seeks a logical explanation to the actions that a depressed individual that may not have answers to.

The cognitive perspective presumes that a person’s faulty thinking is the primary driver of depression since it distorts an individual’s view of himself and that of the world. The protagonists of this psychological approach believe that an individual’s faulty thinking pattern, combined with cognitive biases and negative schemas, lead to the development of an inescapable sequence of negative thinking that is highly likely to cause depression (Kurtzman and Blehar, 2013). Consequently, psychologists resort to using behavioral therapy to treat a patient’s disorder.

The behavioral approach affirms that depression is a behavior that people learn; therefore, with proper guidance, an individual can be helped to unlearn this behavior. The lack of positive reinforcement for a person’s behavior or actions can be associated with the development of depression (Bustamante, Howe-Tennant and Ramo, 2017). The problem may be prolonged via positive reinforcement like attention and sympathy for the depressive behavior. Accordingly, psychologists look for ways of equipping their patients with new skills that may help them to avoid depression in the future, as opposed to finding the issues or circumstances that may be associated with depression (Bustamante, Howe-Tennant and Ramo, 2017). However, recent developments have proven that individuals’ expectations of the future, their attitudes, and perceptions are an indispensable part of therapy. Therefore, psychologists have shied away from using this approach to treating depression.

The biological approach affirms that the individuals that develop the symptoms of depression have a genetic tendency to develop depression. This approach indicates that the families that have individuals that suffer from depression have more than one family member who is suffering from depression (Getzfeld, 2013). Studies on the individuals that have been adopted into the families where symptoms of depression can be detected show that a direct correlation between family members and depression exist. Biological treatments usually relay on drug treatments that act on the body’s neurological system (Getzfeld, 2013). The downside of this approach is the connection that exists between family members and social learning theories.

The above presumptions show how different theories reveal the manner in which various people develop depression symptoms; the following discussion shows how a combination of these approaches helps psychologists to build a better understanding of the causes of depression. The cognitive-behavioral model enables mental health experts to understand the role of reinforcement in predisposing a person to develop the symptoms of depression (Power and Dalgleish, 2015). The model emphasizes that positive or negative reinforcement plays a significant part in causing depression. Additionally, Martin Seligman affirms that classical conditioning may predispose a person to depression. The experiment involved dogs that were subjected to shock every time they crossed over to a different part of a cage (Seligman, 2013). After being released, the dogs refused to escape. Seligman affirmed that the animals did not escape since they believed that no matter what their actions were, they would be subjected to the same treatment. When applied to the human world, an individual may be subjected to experiencing a similar experience for an extended time until he believes that the situation will not change even under different circumstances (learned helplessness).

Pratt also included his perspective on Seligman’s theory. He indicated that the dogs behaved in a manner that could be associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as opposed to depression.  Pratt also affirmed that the dogs might have been traumatized to the point of debilitation. However, the author indicated that the dogs showed signs of passivity, helplessness, and low aggression, which are typical signs of depression (Hahner, 2017). Nonetheless, he argued that symptoms of depressed mood, or sadness could not be easily deciphered. Nevertheless, one may presume that Seligman’s theory is critical to understanding the manner in which recurrent experiences may force a person to develop the main symptoms of depression.

In addition to the above theory, studies conducted by Aaron Beck indicate that the individuals that negatively perceive themselves are highly likely to suffer from depression. Beck affirms that the negative experiences that people go through prompt them start developing negative ideas about who they are, and, in the end, these individuals become more susceptible to developing depression (Gabbard, 2009). Aaron indicated that adverse childhood experiences are likely to result in the development of a triad. The triad is premised on three phases: they include the world, the self, and the future. The theory indicates that the individuals that go through bad experiences minimize the happy experiences and maximize the negative ones (Gabbard, 2009). Consequently, these individuals start thinking in a “black and white” framework, where they presume that they will either become utterly depressed after going through a negative episode or develop feelings of happiness.

Beck also used self-schemas to understand the manner in which people perceived themselves. The researchers realized that the persons that utilized self-schemas were likely to get depressed (Gabbard, 2009). White supported Beck’s argument by contending that his study used adequate evidence to support its presumptions. However, he also indicated that the researcher did not consider outlining the real causality of depression and biological factors like chemical imbalances in the human mind may lead to the development of logical errors (Gabbard, 2009). These rebuttals show the weaknesses that exist in a model, which is a critical component of assessing the validity of the theory.

In a recap of the above discussion, psychologists apply different theories of psychology to understand how depression develops why an eclectic approach to understanding the disease is preferable to just using a separate approach to understanding the disease. Studies have attributed different psychological issues to the various problems that people experience on a daily basis. Mental health professionals affirm that, in the end, these problems reduce the affected individuals’ capacity to deal with their day-to-day responsibilities. Simply put, one may perceive depression as a disorder that prevents people from developing the ability to ward off a desolate mood, the inability to gain interest in particular activities of interest, feelings of low self-worth. The disease also disrupts the desired patterns of sleep. A range of theories proposes unique perspectives about the principal causes of depression and how the sickness should be treated. The evolutionary, neuroscience, behavioral genetics, behavioral, psychodynamic, cognitive, and social theories of depression offer different ways of dealing with psychological problems. In this regard, one may view these approaches singly or together to gain an in-depth understanding of psychology. The latter approach is more likely to yield a better outcome when compared to the former approach since it combines different aspects to understanding the primary causes of depression, as discussed above.

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  1. Bustamante, L., Howe-Tennant, D., and Ramo, C. (2017). The Behavioral Approach. Web.cortland. Retrieved from
  2. Dahlitz, M. (2017). Is the low-serotonin theory of depression wrong?. Neuropsychotherapist.. Retrieved from
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  5. Hahner, K. (2017). Safer Medicines Campaign. Retrieved from
  6. Kurtzman, H. and Blehar, M. (2013). The Cognitive Psychology of Depression. London: Psychology Press.
  7. National Institute of Mental Health. (2017).  Depression. NIMH. Retrieved from
  8. Pluess, M. (2015). Genetics of Psychological Well-being: The Role of Heritability and Genetics in Positive Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Power, M. and Dalgleish, T. (2015). Cognition and emotion. London: Psychology Press.
  10. Reis, H. and Sprecher, S. (2017). Encyclopedia of Human Relationships: Vol. 1-. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.
  11. Seligman, M. (2013). Learned Helplessness. media.lanecc.
  12. Walsh, R., Teo, T. and Baydala, A. (2014). A critical history and philosophy of psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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