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Mood Disorders

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  • Learned helplessness: The psychologist Martin Seligman proposed that depression results from learned helplessness, or a tendency to give up passively in the face of unavoidable stressors. Seligman pointed out that people who have a pessimistic explanatory style are likely to experience depression.
  • Self-blame: Depressed people tend to attribute negative events to internal, stable, and global factors. When a problem occurs, they blame themselves rather than situational factors. They believe the problem is likely to be permanent, and they overgeneralize from the problem to their whole lives.
  • Low self-esteem: Some researchers have suggested that a pessimistic worldview is only one of several factors that contribute to depression. They say that other factors such as low self-esteem and stress also play an important role. All these lead to hopelessness, which then leads to depression.
  • Rumination: Rumination, or brooding about problems, is associated with longer periods of depression. Some researchers believe that women have higher rates of depression because they tend to ruminate more than men.

Although many researchers believe negative thinking makes people susceptible to depression, most also acknowledge a two-way relationship between depression and negative thinking. Negative thinking makes people susceptible to depression, and depression makes people more likely to think negatively.

Interpersonal Factors

Various interpersonal influences are also linked to depression:

  • Lack of social network: Depressed people tend to have less social support than other people, and the relationship between social support and depression is likely to be two-way. People with poor social skills may be more likely to develop depression. Once people are depressed, they tend to be unpleasant companions, which further reduces their social support.
  • Loss of an important relationship: Some researchers have suggested that depression can result when people lose important relationships.
Environmental Stressors

The onset and course of mood disorders may be influenced by stress. Stress also affects people’s responses to treatment and whether they are likely to have a relapse. Some researchers have suggested that women are more vulnerable to depression because they tend to experience more stress in the form of discrimination, poverty, and sexual abuse and because they may have less satisfying work and family lives than men.

Even if people are usually happy and have friends and family to rely on, they can still become depressed. Major catastrophes and personal traumas can also contribute to depression. For instance, living in a war zone, having a home destroyed by fire, suffering from a chronically painful or debilitating illness, going through a divorce, or losing a loved one can all bring on depression.