This essay will be looking at unipolar depression, its symptoms, diagnosis and will also be looking at biological and psychological evaluations and treatments for the condition.
Unipolar affects five per cent of the population and is more prevalent in women than in men. There are a range of symptoms for unipolar depression these symptoms include; a depressed mood most of the day, diminished ability to think or concentrate, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, recurrent thoughts of death, insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day, significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day and feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt. To be diagnosed with unipolar depression then the individual must show five or more of these symptoms during a two week period Billingham et al (2008).
The biological evaluation for mood disorders such as unipolar is that there is an imbalance of chemicals or a deficiency of certain neurotransmitters. The brain produces chemicals to pass messages between different parts of the brain and the nervous system. These are neurotransmitters and are proposed as a possible cause for depression. These neurotransmitters in the brain may be reduced in episodes of depression and increased in periods of mania. The neurotransmitters implicated in mood disorders are noradrenaline and serotonin. The brain deactivated the neurotransmitter substance, once it has passed on the neural message, in two ways: either an enzyme called monoamine oxidase is produced, which breaks down the chemical messages or the neurotransmitters are reabsorbed into the neuron that produced it. This process is called reuptake. If reuptake does not occur then more substances are produced (Turner, 2003).
The strengths of the biological model are that the model is based on well-established sciences such as medicine and there is evidence that biochemical and genetic factors are associated with some mental illnesses, it also provides a structured and logical system of diagnosis and treatment and the research is laboratory based and controlled so the results can be replicated. PB Works (2007)
A study conducted by Teuting et al (1981; as cited by Turner, 2003) showed support for the biological approach. He noticed that a compound, produced when noradrenaline and serotonin are broken down by enzymes, is present in urine. Teuting analysed and compared urine samples from depressed and non-depressed participants. The result was that the depressed patients urine had lower than normal levels of compounds. This suggested that depressed people have lower than normal activity of the neurotransmitters in the brain, which causes the depressed mood.
The difficulty with the biological approach is that it cannot be completely established whether the lower levers of neurotransmitters cause depression or whether the depression causes a reduction of the neurotransmitters. The approach itself focuses more on internal, physiological factors; however depression may be a reaction to external life events, such as bereavement.
The biological treatments for mood disorders are psychotropic drugs. These drugs are designed to affect mental symptoms. These drugs are commonly known as anti-depressants and are frequently used in the treatment of mild or severe unipolar depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, selectively target serotonin, by stopping the reuptake process, which then increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. Anti-depressants can be an effective treatment of unipolar depression caused by low levels of certain neurotransmitters as cited in Turner (2003).
The advantages of anti-depressant drugs are that they help to elevate the individual’s mood and are effective in treating depression. Early anti-depressants had serious side effects such an increased risk of cerebral