Positive Psychology and Depression

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Positive Psychology in the Treatment of Major Depression
Positive psychology is a strengths-oriented, positively focused approach to human behaviors and thoughts that is relatively recent to the overall field of psychology. Previous schools of thought had always focused on the abnormalities, weaknesses, and pathologies of people. Positive psychology is an exceptionally new branch of psychology and aims at making life more fulfilling, enjoyable, and happy instead of just tolerable; they wish to promote mental health and well-being instead of only treating disorders. This research paper will address the roles that hope, gratitude, forgiveness, resilience, optimism, and self-efficacy play in one’s life, and how these characteristics can be utilized in a way to maximize one’s positive affect. One of the most common mood disorders is depression. Depression comes in many forms and there are also different depressive disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymic disorder. (NIMH, 2009) For the sake of this paper, major depression will be examined. Symptoms of a major depressive episode include feelings of sadness or unhappiness, irritability or frustration, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, reduced sex drive, insomnia or excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, agitation or restlessness, angry outbursts, slowed thinking or speaking, fatigue, tiredness, loss of energy, trouble thinking or concentrating, frequent thoughts of death or dying including suicide, crying spells for no apparent reason, and unexplained physical problems such as pain (Mayo Clinic, 2012). One does not have to have every one of these symptoms, they must have at least five symptoms, they must persist for at least two weeks, symptoms cannot be caused due to drug or alcohol consumption, are not caused by bereavement or last longer than two months, and they must cause a significant amount of impairment in the person’s everyday life functioning (DSM-IV-TR, 2000). Major depressive disorder has a lifetime prevalence rate of 11.2 percent in young adults with 3.3 percent of those cases deemed severe, and a twelve month prevalence rate of 6.7 percent in adults with 30.4 percent of those cases diagnosed as severe. People ages eighteen to twenty-nine are seventy percent more likely to have experienced depression compared to those over the age of sixty, people between thirty to forty-four years old were 120 percent more likely, and forty-five to fifty-nine year olds were 100 percent more likely. Women are seventy percent more likely than their male counterparts to experience depression during their lifetime and whites are forty percent more likely than blacks to experience depression. Compared to 2 percent or less for most other disorders, major depression is quite common. (NIMH, 2009) Positive psychology interventions in cases of major depression focus on increasing positive emotions, positive experiences, subjective well-being, and beneficial engagements. This differs from traditional interventions by not focusing on the depressive, negative symptoms and instead trying to focus on the good aspects of one’s life. Positive psychologists do not ignore the fact that mental illnesses are abnormal and the fact that things do go wrong in peoples’ lives. Instead, they want to take a closer look at the good things that happen in peoples’ lives and what makes and keeps people content or happy. In one study, conducted by Seligman et al, positive psychotherapy exercises delivered through the internet were shown to relieve the symptoms of depression for a minimum of six months whereas traditional treatments lasted less than one week. In subjects suffering from severe depression, reduction in mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms was observed. It was also observed that subjects who had been suffering from major depressive disorder and underwent positive psychotherapy had a higher reduction in symptoms than those who underwent...
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