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What is depression?
· Depression is an example of an affective disorder.
· Affective disorders are disabling moods. This means that the
disorder prevents the individual from leading a normal life,
at work, socially, or within their family, which would cause
them to be diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.
· Depression is more than just feeling `down'. A general loss
of interest and increased tiredness are the most typical
symptoms and patients may complain of `feeling nothing'.…read more

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Behavioural explanation
· The behavioural explanation would suggest that affective
disorders are learnt through operant or classical
conditioning. Classical conditioning would suggest that we
make associations between events or circumstances and
mood change, and this leads to learned behaviour which is
then diagnosed as depression. Operant conditioning on the
other hand would suggest that a lack of positive
reinforcement is directly linked with depression.
· This is explained by Lewinsohn et al (1975), who suggested
that if people lose the positive reinforcement for living
normally, that is, go to work, being at college, they may
become depressed. Lack of positive feedback can lead to
depression, which makes a person less likely to perform
well and so reduce the positive feedback even more. It
becomes a vicious circle.…read more

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Lewinsohn et al. A behavioural approach to
depression
· Aim: To compare the amount of `positive reinforcement'
received by depressed and non-depressed pp's.
· Methodology: longitudinal study over 30 days where pp's
completed a self-report of pleasant activities on the
pleasant events schedule, and a self-rating of depression
using the depression adjective checklist. This research
operationalises positive reinforcement as taking part in
pleasant activities.
· Pp's: 30 pp's who were diagnosed with depression, a
disorder other than depression and `normal' controls.
· Design: Independent design.…read more

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Lewinsohn et al continued ...
· Procedure: A quasi-experiment as the IV was naturally occurring
and therefore not manipulated by researchers.
Pp's were asked to check their mood daily using the depression
adjective checklist which included emotions such as happy,
active, blue and lucky. The pp's ticked the one they felt that day.
Then they were asked to complete the pleasant activities scale
rating 320 activities such as talking about sports, meditating in
yoga. These were rated twice on a scale of three, once for
pleasantness, once for frequency. This was seen as positive
reinforcement.
· Findings: There were significant positive correlations between
mood ratings and pleasant activities, with involvement in more
pleasant activities being correlated with more positive mood
ratings.
There were individual differences, from a correlation of 0 to 0.66,
which shows that there is more to depression than
reinforcement from pleasant activities.
· Conclusion: There appears to be a link between reinforcement
from pleasant activities and mood, but further research is needed
to identify the individual characteristics that make some people…read more

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Biological explanation
· The biological approach to depression suggests that a
genetic disposition towards depression may explain why
depression can be found in more than one member of some
families. It is of course reductionist to assume that genetics
is the only explanation, since family groups may have the
same socio-economic problem, which could be linked to
depression, or the social learning theory could explain the
tendency to copy role models.
· Some people experience life events that are enough to
trigger depression in people who have no relatives with
depression. What we do know is that there is a clear link
with neurochemicals and depression, serotonin levels are
lower in people diagnosed with depression, but we do not
know whether depression reduces the serotonin or the low
serotonin causes depression, or even if there is a third
factor, which causes both.
· Wender et al's research (1986) into adopted individuals with
affective disorders assumes that a genetic link between…read more

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