Unipolar Depression: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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What is unipolar depression?

Unipolar depression is also called as major depressive disorder, clinical depression or major depression. People affected with unipolar depression will experience a continuous feeling of sadness and lack of interest in everything. People with unipolar depression will not undergo any cycles of other mental states like mania that occur in bipolar disorder. However, they will not be depressed all the time.

Instead, their mood changes will frequently occur between depression and mania. Unipolar depression mainly leads to negative emotions and feelings. Depression can affect a person’s behaviour, mood and physical functions.

A common symptom among people of unipolar depression is they lose interest in everything, even the hobby which they enjoyed a lot earlier. They often have suicidal thoughts, and living is not worth it. With proper treatment, unipolar depression can be treated, and overall improvement in health can be seen.

Causes of unipolar depression

Unipolar depression can be caused due to various reasons like psychological, genetic, social and interpersonal. These factors can overlap and lead to depression. For example, a person may have a family of depression and trauma or stress can activate or trigger the symptoms.

Depression can be caused by a disruption in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Symptoms of unipolar depression

Initially people experience sadness and negative feelings. Unipolar depression can be differentiated with other forms easily with the persistence of depression. The person may experience negative thoughts and subject to cognitive distortions that can affect the work, school and relationships.

The person with unipolar depression will exhibit mood disorder throughout the day. They will have extremely negative thoughts, which can impact their work and relationships.

Some of the common symptoms of unipolar depression include

  • A feeling of hopelessness about the future.
  • Sadness and irritability throughout the day.
  • Worthlessness and guilt feeling.
  • Will not be able to enjoy hobbies or previously enjoyed activities.
  • Trouble in making decisions and thinking clearly.
  • Brain fog
  • Felling tired throughout the day
  • Overeating or eating less
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling restless or pacing
  • Lack of energy
  • Thoughts of self-harm and suicide
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much


The treatment for unipolar depression will depend on the following criteria.

  • The subtype of major depression
  • The person’s health condition
  • The side effects a person can tolerate

The doctor will give different medications of different doses to treat unipolar depression. The medication and dosage can change until the person gets relief from symptoms.

Other than medication, mental health professionals will also use psychotherapy to treat unipolar depression. Some of the common psychotherapy techniques are interpersonal therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. These therapies aim to implement positive thoughts and cope better in life. It also helps manage and reduce the symptoms of depression.

If the treatments mentioned above are ineffective, mental health professionals may use electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and vagus nerve therapy. These therapies aim to stimulate the brain.

In some cases, people will not require these treatments and may need only simple exercises, a balanced diet, mediation and starting a new hobby can work.

Psychotherapy treatment aims at the following aspects.

  • Identify new ways to solve situations and challenges in life.
  • Learn to cope with depression.
  • Improve communication skills.
  • Regain life control.
  • Replace bad habits with healthy and positive habits.
  • Increase the sense of life satisfaction.

Type of psychotherapy are

  • Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy will help the patient to talk out things that are going on in their mind. The goal of the behaviour is to identify the unconscious process that manifests in the affected person’s mind. The treatment will also aim to help the patient open up about their past experiences and how they impact them.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on a patient’s thoughts and feelings. The therapy teaches new ways to handle stressful situations.

  • Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT)

Cognitive analytical therapy is a combination of psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural therapy. The therapy will help identify and provide a solution for a patient’s behaviour and how it can impact them in their life.

  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Psychotherapy examines how an affected person’s relationship with others impacts their happiness and mental health. This type of therapy is based on the idea that a person’s psychological issues stem from the quality of personal relationships.

  • Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy is also called as a family or couple therapy. This therapy aims to solve the issues in a single unit and solve issues together.

  • Humanistic Therapy

The therapist first understands the perspective of a person on how they see themself. The therapy will aim to emphasise a person’s positive behaviour and use it as their strength to grow and heal.

How does it differ from other forms of depression?

People with unipolar depression will only experience depression rather than cycles of depression and mania. This characteristic trait differentiates between bipolar and unipolar depression.

People with bipolar depression experience periods and depression and times of mania. During times of mania, they will be unusually happy. They tend to make impulsive or harmful decisions.

However, people with unipolar depression will not always be depressed, and their symptoms may improve. They tend to be happy or pretend that they are happy.  

Risk factors

Many factors can lead to unipolar depression. The risk factors for developing unipolar depression are categorised into three groups.

Biological factors

Biological factors be a major risk for developing unipolar depression. Unipolar depression can run in families, and when it is triggered by stress, the depression can show up.

One of the commonly proposed theories by scientists, unipolar depression occurs due to a lack of balance in the naturally occurring chemicals called as neurotransmitters. Serotonin and norepinephrine are the two neurotransmitters that are responsible for the symptoms of depression.

Psychological Factors

External events that impact an individual can also lead to unipolar depression. This also affects the level of happiness a person can experience in their life.

The view of the world is shaped by a person’s experiences, with most things impacting during their childhood. Childhood also includes parenting, abuse and trauma.

For instance, if a child grows up in an abusive environment, they can be impacted by negative thoughts themself and the view of their world will change. When they face this later in life, it can lead to emotional suffering, and they can develop unipolar depression.

Environmental Factors

In certain situations, we all become victims of stress. It can be caused due to family situations, work stress or unfortunate happenings. These events can trigger unipolar depression.

Some of the common risk factors include.

  • Conflicts in relationships with partners, friends and co-workers.
  • Happening of unfortunate events like the passing of a loved one, financial problems and job loss.
  • Social isolation and lack of socialisation.
  • Stress in the workplace due to pressure or difficulty in performing and relationship conflicts.
  • Health challenges particularly due to chronic health conditions like Diabetes.

When to consult a doctor?

Depression is a major symptom of any mental health condition. So consult your doctor if you feel depressed. Early diagnosis and treatment can help with the symptoms.


Unipolar depression can affect anyone and can majorly impact a person’s career and relationship. Unipolar depression can be challenging to treat. However, with the help of proper support, a person can recover from their mental health condition.

People who experience depression cannot fully express their symptoms. So a family member or friends need to help them. Some people may require only medication or psychotherapy, while others will require a combination of both.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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