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'Depression is a physiological disorder'

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Introduction

'Depression is a physiological disorder' When researching the above statement, I have taken into account what I consider to be some of the main physiological and biological arguments regarding depression as a physical illness, as well as several psychodynamic and behavioural theories in order to attempt to compare the two and result in understanding how true the above statement is. When looking at the physiological view, it can be useful to look at the biological explanation that depression is caused by a disturbance of hormones and brain chemistry. The Endocrine system can seriously affect the behaviours of a person. This system produces hormones that have an effect on many behaviours such as sleep, menstruation and growth. Many conditions that are similar to depression or where depression is one of the main symptoms have been linked to hormonal changes and fluctuations. For example, when looking at Postpartum Depression (PPD) we know that both pregnancy and birth cause massive hormonal changes. 20% of women are reported feeling moderately depressed during this time; few of these then became chronically depressed. In support of this, it has been discovered that the stress hormone 'Cortisol' is very low after giving birth, which could make coping more difficult, leading to depression. ...read more.

Middle

There are also a number of studies that observe those families containing an individual suffering from depression in order to try and find evidence of genetic similarities. DSM-IV states that there is a high level of individuals suffering unipolar depression, who have parents that suffer from bipolar depression. Of course cases where close family members of those depressed (such as brothers, sisters and parents) suffer from depression themselves at a later date, must be looked at with caution as the depression could be a reaction to living directly with a severely depressed person or simply learned behaviour. In contrast to the physiological ideas, it can be argued that psychodynamic concepts such as Freud's seem to answer some questions regarding the development of depression. Freud argued that depression is like grief and that it would occur as a reaction to a loss of an important relationship. The person would repress anger and direct it inwards in the form of self-hatred and self-accusation thus reducing self-esteem and making the person vulnerable to depression. This theory would also mean that a loss as a child or a negative relationship with parents could be repressed and affect the person in adult life in the form of depression. ...read more.

Conclusion

Beck also argued that this way of thinking could be a result of a traumatic event/s or negative treatment during childhood. It can be seen that most of the theories looked at have had research carried out in order to support them. When looking at the psychodynamic and behavioural approach a large amount of research seems to suggest that depression can occur due to a loss or lack of reinforcement or even due to a traumatic experience, yet a lot of the research can be viewed to be unreliable - for instance when looking at the idea of Learned Helplessness, Seligman did seem to prove this theory to a point, however only with dogs, it must be taken into consideration that humans are extremely different to other mammals and it cannot be said that what applies to one applies to the other. The negative aspects of the physiological theories are also present however, many hormonal changes may not be necessary because of the depression suffered, but could be an effect of the illness. In conclusion, it would appear that depression is a physiological illness to a degree, whether caused by outside factors such as loss or trauma or by genetics, some hormone levels do seem to fluctuate causing the mood in a person to change and therefore depression is often treated with medication. ...read more.

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