What is Unipolar Depression? (And How to Find Treatment)

Unipolar depression affects 8.4% of Americans, primarily women and people between 18 and 25. Of those with unipolar depression, close to 15 million people had a severe episode. In addition, 17%, or nearly 3 million, adolescents between 12 and 17 had at least one unipolar episode.

Unipolar depression is another name for major depressive disorder. Because there are at least ten types of major depressive disorders, and each requires different treatments, it’s essential to know how to distinguish between them.

What is Unipolar Depression?

To be diagnosed with unipolar depression, you must lack mania. Also, you must have at least five symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM5) for two weeks or longer, including:

  • Feeling sad or down for no apparent reason that lasts most of the day and multiple days a week.
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Gaining or losing weight without trying due to appetite changes.
  • Experiencing sleep disturbances.
  • Feeling emotionally and physically tired, interfering with functioning.
  • Having difficulty concentrating and staying focused.
  • Having thoughts of harming yourself in some way.

Aside from these primary symptoms, you may also experience anxiety, physical aches, agitation, guilt, and internal numbness. The DSM5 states that the symptoms cannot be due to a physical illness or side effects of medication.

Subtypes of Unipolar Depression

Subtypes are like niches, they fall under the category of unipolar depression, but the symptoms are much more specific and relate to certain factors that distinguish them from other subtypes. Below are the most common subtypes:

  • Postpartum depression, which appears after the birth of a baby
  • Seasonal affective depression appears during certain seasons, like winter or summer
  • Manic depression includes both depression and mania or rotating from high to low moods 
  • Dysthymia has symptoms that are milder than typical unipolar symptoms but may last longer
  • Psychotic depression is a psychological break from reality, such as delusions or hallucinations
  • Premenstrual dysphoric depression occurs in the week before your period begins due to hormone fluctuations
  • Atypical depression describes mood that improves in happy and fun situations but returns after
  • Situational depression refers to short-term symptoms that occur after a traumatic event
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation depression is when children have anger and anger outbursts at things that seem minor to everyone else

Seeking Treatments for Unipolar Depression

While unipolar depression affects millions of Americans, only a percentage receive treatment. There are numerous reasons people don’t seek treatment, including stigma, transportation, money, and a lack of understanding about what takes place when treating unipolar depression.

The good news is that all the reasons preventing people from getting help can be overcome. Even stigmas are fading. Today, there are online and in-person options for meeting with psychiatrists and therapists. There are even more options when it comes to payments.

By contacting mental health professionals, you can learn how attending treatment has become more accessible than ever before. They can also tell you about the specific treatments for unipolar depression.

Medications to Treat Unipolar Depression

Antidepressants are the most prescribed medications to treat depression and anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work for many by improving how neurotransmitters associated with mood are released in the brain. Other antidepressants are norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

For those who have tried antidepressants but have not seen improvements in mood, there are advanced treatments that a psychiatrist can prescribe, including Ketamine-infused therapy and Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Medication alone can improve unipolar depression symptoms, but unless you learn coping skills, relationship management, conflict resolution, and overcome past traumas, you may find yourself struggling from time to time. Most mental health professionals recommend behavioral therapies as part of your treatment plan.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies aim to learn new ways to cope with negative thoughts. Psychology is based on the theory that what you think influences how you feel and behave. If you have negative thoughts, you will start feeling bad; eventually, your actions will reflect your feelings and thoughts.

Someone with unipolar depression may think that they will never feel good again and will always be sad. They may begin to feel hopeless like things will never get better. Thoughts and feelings like this can lead someone to consider harming themselves or taking their own life.

Medication clears your mind so you can replace negative thoughts and feelings with healthy ones.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most used behavioral therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy where you meet one-on-one with a psychologist or licensed counselor to figure out why you are depressed and teach you how to make changes that will lead to happiness.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treats post-traumatic stress disorder quickly and effectively. It must be performed by a certified EMDR therapist who helps you identify the trauma-causing symptoms and how to move past them.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT to treat those with suicidal and self-harming thoughts. The focus is on acceptance of how things are and embracing change for the better. Some DBT therapists include mindfulness techniques to aid therapy.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy helps you get to know yourself on many levels, both unconsciously and consciously. Think of it as exploring yourself and how your discoveries influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Additional therapies often used to treat unipolar depression include the trauma-resilience model, trauma-focused CBT, post-induction therapy model, family therapies, and DBT-informed skills groups.

Professionals, like those at The Mental Health Center, understand treating the whole person gives you the best chance for long-term success. 

If you think you may have symptoms of unipolar depression, call for a consultation today. You can request an online meeting or make an appointment at The Center. You can overcome depression, and we can help.