Depressive Disorders

  • Charles F. Gillespie
  • Helen S. Mayberg
Reference work entry


Depression is an ancient illness. Rich descriptions of the clinical phenomenology of depression are found in the writings of the Greek physician, Hippocrates (460–377 B.C.), and the Roman physician, Galen (129–199 A.D.), as well as those of the Arabic physician, Ishaq Ibn Imran (tenth century A.D.), who anticipated the precipitating role of stress in depression. Independent of culture, the core construct of depression as a psychological disorder defined by despondency and a loss of will that symptomatically and behaviorally resembles grief or sadness has remained the same for over 2,000 years. However, in contrast to sadness or grief triggered by a loss, depression often has no identifiable triggering experience or if a triggering experience is identified, the depressive reaction is seemingly disproportionate to the loss. Our present day clinical definition of major depressive disorder (MDD) is defined by the presence of depressed mood and/or anhedonia accompanied by a combination of other symptoms including feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration or indecision, thoughts of death or suicidal ideation, fatigue, and changes in appetite and sleep that persist for at least for 2 weeks in the absence of an identifiable cause such as a medical disorder, reaction to a medication or illicit drug, or bereavement. In addition to MDD, a number of other psychiatric disorders also have depressive symptoms as a prominent feature and these include dysthymia, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and various personality disorders.


Depressive Symptom Major Depressive Disorder Depressed Patient Mineralocorticoid Receptor Childhood Adversity 
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Further Reading

  1. Heim C, Binder EB (2012) Current research trends in early life stress and depression: review of human studies on sensitive periods, gene-environment interactions, and epigenetics. Exp Neurol 233:102–111PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Holtzheimer PE, Mayberg HS (2011) Stuck in a rut: rethinking depression and its treatment. Trends Neurosci 34:1–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Krishnan V, Nestler EJ (2010) Linking molecules to mood: new insight into the biology of depression. Am J Psychiatry 167:1305–1320PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Raison CL, Miller AH (2011) Is depression an inflammatory disorder? Curr Psychiatry Rep 13:467–475PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA

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