The type of depression that occurs in these mental health disorders is different from the everyday ups and downs that most people experience. Instead, the symptoms are persistent and severe. They must meet specific behavioral diagnostic criteria. For a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD), you would have to satisfy at least five of nine potential diagnostic criteria that occur together over a two-week period (minimally).
Many people often say, “I’m depressed,” but this is not the same thing as syndromes that are actual forms of mental illness. MDD is a debilitating disorder.
People who are diagnosed with depressive disorders have a high risk of also engaging in substance abuse. The two conditions intertwine and worsen each other.
Whenever someone has a depressive disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder, the disorders cannot be treated in isolation. Anyone with any type of mental health disorder must be treated as a whole person in order to recover properly. This means treating the substance abuse, the depressive disorder, and any other conditions at the same time.
Overview of Depressive Disorders
At one time, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified depression and bipolar disorder in the same category, as mood disorders. However, in the latest edition of the APA’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, these disorders are placed in separate categories. They are now conceptualized as different categories of mental illness.
The common feature of all depressive disorders is the presence of a sad, irritable, or empty mood that is accompanied by other symptoms that can be both physical and mental. These symptoms impact the person’s ability to function.
Two of the disorders in this classification represent the classic types of disorders people think about when they think of depression. The other disorders represent special cases of depressive-type disorders.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
When most people are talking about clinical depression, they are discussing MDD. This is a formal diagnosis that occurs when a person satisfies five of nine potential diagnostic criteria. At least one of the diagnostic criteria must include significant sadness for most of the day nearly every day over a two-week period, or a loss of interest or the inability to experience pleasure most of the day every day for a two-week period.
MDD is not diagnosed when people have everyday ups and downs that occur in life. It is typically not diagnosed when people are suffering from bereavement — the type of depression that can occur when one experiences an important loss like the death of a spouse.