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  • Created on: 11-04-14 20:51

Unipolar Depression


Also known as clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, unipolar depression is a mood disorder, characterised by varying degrees of sadness, disappointment, loneliness, hopelessness and guilt. It is a relatively common mental health disorder, with an estimated 3.5 million sufferers in the UK.

Unipolar disorder should be distinguished from bipolar disorder. Whereas unipolar depression is a mood disorder which is seen as a constant disturbance to mood, bipolar disorder involves fluctuations between moods of manic depression and mania, which is not the case with unipolar depression.

Features of unipolar depression include:

Depression is twice more common in women than men, although men are more likely to commit suicide. However girls tend to rely more on social relationships as a source of self-definition and self-validation, and their friendships are also characterised by greater intimacy, self-disclosure, empathy and emotional support which helps to mitigate genetic vulnerability to depression (but not so in boys)

Different people have different courses of the disorder; some are only affected once in others it is chronic.

The peak time for depression is between 50 and 60yrs, although it typically occurs between 30 and 40yrs.

People who suffer any form of depression usually live shorter lives, possibly due to a link between depression and heart disease and other stress-related illnesses.



  • Individual has feelings of intense sadness most of the day, nearly every day as indicated by subjective report or observation by others –in children/teens this may be an irritable mood. They may find that feelings of intense lethargy and apathy tend to dominate.


  • There is a lack of enjoyment or pleasure in activities which used to elicit such feelings nearly or all the time as indicated by subjective report or observation.

    AND 4 OF

  • Significant weight loss or gain (5%+ per month without cause) or an increase/decrease in appetite daily- in children they may not meet expected weight gains.
  • Sufferer finds it difficult to get off to sleep and difficult to wake up (hypersomnia/insomnia)

  • Their levels of motivation are very low nearly every day as reported subjectively or observation.

  • The sufferer may show recurrent thoughts of suicide (with or without plan) or of death.
  • The sufferer may find it difficult to concentrate or be indecisive nearly every day

  • Psychomotor agitation (i.e. self-harm or purposeless/unintentional repetitive behaviour) or psychomotor retardation (slowing down of thoughts and a reduction of physical movements as the simple seem impossible) present nearly every day reported by the subject or by other’s observations.


The symptoms must not meet the criteria for a mixed episode or bereavement (more than 2months and marked by functional impairment) or be due to the direct psychological effects of a substance or a general medical condition. The symptoms must have caused clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational etc functioning.


The Cognitive Model of Depression, Beck (1976)

  1. Faulty thought processes/schemata (learned through experiences and interactions), such as a generalised


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