Melancholic depression is a form of major depressive disorder that involves persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, combined with apathy, fatigue and suicidal thoughts. If you’ve lost interest in daily activities, struggle to find any joy in life and feel that little or nothing can improve your mood, you may be severely depressed. However, depression is a treatable condition, so understanding what it is and how to address it can help you regain your quality of life.
What Is Melancholia?
Melancholia is one of the oldest concepts in humanity’s understanding of mental health, as introduced by the Greek philosopher Hippocrates. Hippocrates, now considered the “Father of Medicine,” taught his followers that four “humors,” or bodily fluids, were responsible for various health conditions. According to this philosophy, an excess of the humor called black bile caused melancholia.
The characteristics Hippocrates identified as symptoms of melancholia are nearly identical to those we associate with melancholic depression, including constant fear, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, restlessness, agitation and sadness.
Understanding Major Depressive Disorder
Hippocrates and a later physician named Galen perpetuated the idea that physical and mental illness would result if any of the four bodily humors became unequal. Today, you may still hear that depression and related disorders like anxiety are due to imbalanced brain chemicals, but that is an oversimplification.
Nobody knows for certain why some people get depressed and others don’t. In some cases, depression is situational and has a definite triggering event, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one. Other times, melancholic depression might arise seemingly out of nowhere, leaving you feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed for no specific reason.
What Causes Depression?
Major depressive disorder and other mental illnesses are complex conditions that have several contributing factors.
- Genetics: You might be more likely to become depressed if you have a family history of mental illness. Based on our current knowledge of depression, many different genes each exert small effects, instead of one single gene that adds to disease risk.
- Age: Elderly people might be vulnerable to depression if they are lonely and lack a robust social support network.
- Adverse childhood events: If you experienced childhood trauma, violence, abuse, neglect or similar problems, the toxicity could follow you into adulthood and increase your odds of becoming depressed.
- Sexual orientation and gender identity: People in the LGBTQ+ community are much more likely to live with mental health conditions like major depressive disorder and PTSD than their straight, cisgender counterparts, primarily stemming from the discrimination, stigma and victimization they face throughout their lives.
- Neurodiversity: While some mental health professionals categorize depression as a form of neurodiversity, people who think, learn and process information differently from the rest of the world are also more susceptible to depression. This issue is often due to the stress of “masking,” or acting neurotypically to avoid others’ disapproval.
- Severe illnesses: Sometimes, depression happens after people receive a diagnosis of another health issue like cancer or diabetes.
- Substance abuse: Many people with substance use disorders also have major or clinical depression. Even if drugs or alcohol temporarily relieve your symptoms, they will eventually cause your mental health to worsen.
Reach Out for Help
If you are struggling with the weight of chronic guilt, low self-worth and feeling that you’ll never be happy again, reach out to a doctor who can perform a depression screening and suggest natural remedies such as lifestyle changes and therapy. When substance misuse problems are a contributing factor in your depression, you should also seek professional treatment.
At Vista Taos Renewal Center, our providers will create a personalized plan designed to address the unique symptoms of co-occurring depression and addiction. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.