Home » News » Health » Mental Health Awareness Week One: Depressive Disorders
Graphic: A silhouette of a man curled up in the fetal position inside a blue circle.

Mental Health Awareness Week One: Depressive Disorders

“Depressive Disorders” is the first of four articles in series on mental health awareness by Abbie Call. Read the next article, on post-traumatic stress, here.

May is mental health awareness month. This monthly series will cover five of the most common mental disorders after anxiety. It will show the ins and outs of living with the disorders as well as how to help someone who struggles with them. These disorders include depressive, post-traumatic stress, bipolar, obsessive compulsive and borderline personality disorders.

This article will focus on depressive disorders.

Depression affects 8.3% of the United States population, or around one in twelve people. Depression is characterized by sadness, but it is more than just having a few bad days. What is depression? And what can you do for somebody you care for who struggles with a depressive disorder? It’s a good thing you asked.

What Is Depression?

Sadness, like any other emotion, is a normal thing. It is normal to feel even extreme sadness after something like the loss of a loved one, a breakup or a flunked test.

Sadness can make people feel like curling up in a blanket and pushing away responsibilities to another day. Normal sadness, though, will eventually go away; time brings healing, and sadness starts to lessen as people focus on the things they like to do and the people they love. 

Depression often doesn’t go away on its own. People with depressive disorders tend to feel sad, unmotivated and numb for weeks on end without being able to enjoy activities or people they used to like.

Depressive disorders include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder and psychotic depression. Depression is also one side of bipolar disorder.

According to MedlinePlus, symptoms of depressive disorders include the following:

  • “Feeling sad or ‘empty.’”
  • “Loss of interest in favorite activities.”
  • “Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all.”
  • “Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much.”
  • “Feeling very tired.”
  • “Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty.”
  • “Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems.”
  • “Thoughts of death or suicide.”

Most depressive disorders have a risk of suicide. Depression and any other mental disorder should be diagnosed by a health professional.

What Can You Do?

Many ways to help are similar across different mental disorders. It is always helpful to learn about the mental disorder your loved one is going through and help them with healthy habits. It is also important for caregivers to take care of themselves at the same time as offering support to a loved one. 

Here are a few more ways to help that are specific to depression:

1. Give positive reinforcement.

People with depression often feel sad, hopeless, guilty and unimportant. It can be helpful to give people struggling with the disorder little reminders of their strengths and worth. Let them know that they matter to you for exactly who they are.

2. Ask questions and validate their feelings.

Show them you want to know how they feel, and then validate it by listening. Even if what they say seems unreasonable on the surface, it represents an inner emotion that is real. It can be healing for someone with depression to just have someone to listen to them and be understanding.

3. Offer to help with everyday tasks.

One Mormon Channel podcast guest described her ability to clean her house while depressed in the words of her three-year-old: “Our floors have dried up guacamole all over them!” Everyday tasks like cleaning up, taking a shower or doing laundry can be difficult for people with mental disorders. Sometimes they just need help getting started.

4. Extend loose invitations and stay in touch.

People with depression will often withdraw from social life and tend to cancel or turn down invitations. This, in turn, can lead to loneliness and negative thinking. It can be good to reach out to people living with depression to let them know you still care about them and would love their company, but without any pressure or guilt over canceled plans.

Of course, therapy, medication and other lifestyle changes are usually important parts of healing for someone with depression as well.

To dig deeper into learning about depression and depressive disorders, go to this journal article published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences and available on ScienceDirect.

by Abbie Call

Feature image caption: Depressive disorders are mental health conditions that cause people to have difficulty enjoying things they used to like. But there are a lot of things friends, family and medical professionals can do to help. Courtesy of Abbie Call, The Byway.

Portrait of Abbie Call

Abbie Call – Cannonville/Kirksville, Missouri

Abbie Call is a journalist and editor at The Byway. She graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in editing and publishing from Brigham Young University. Her favorite topics to write about include anything local, Utah’s megadrought, and mental health and meaning in life. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hanging out with family, quilting and hiking.

Find Abbie on Threads @abbieb.call or contact her at [email protected].