Depressive disorders is the presence of a mood in which a person has feelings of sadness, emptiness or irritability.

Specialist Behaviour Support Services and Speech Pathology

A collage of thoughts and feelings culminating in an overwhelming depression consuming the subject of the picture

Definition of Depression

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-V) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), is a handbook that is used by professionals around the world to diagnose mental disorders.

The DSM–5 describes depressive disorders as the presence of a mood in which a person has feelings of sadness, emptiness or irritability.  This mood is accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affects the individual's capacity to function (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Causes of Depression

There is no single cause, rather a number of risk factors that contribute to its development. Some of the factors include:

  • Hereditary inherited genes make the individual vulnerable to developing depressive disorder.
  • Brain chemistry (i.e. imbalance in chemicals in the brain that regulate emotions).
  • Brain structure and function differences.
  • Medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, chronic pain, stroke, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and heart attack).  
  • Stressful events such as loss (e.g. death of a loved one or a pet, parents’ divorce or conflict in the family), major life change (e.g. change of school, moving to a different school, moving to a new country) and leading a high stress lifestyle (e.g. individual is doing too many extracurricular activities).

Types of Depression

Based on specific symptoms, DSM-V classifies depression as:

  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.
  • Major depressive disorder.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia).
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  • Substance/medication induced depressive disorder.
  • Depressive disorder due to another medical condition.
  • Other specified depressive disorder.
  • Other unspecified depressive disorder.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.

Symptoms of Depression

DSM-V (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) has summarized the symptoms to make the diagnosis of depression. The person must experience five or more symptoms during a two week period, and one of the symptoms should be either depressed mood or loss of interest. Additionally, the individual will present with:

  • Depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Loss of interest in all, or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day. 
  • Marked weight loss or weight gain or loss or increase in appetite nearly every day. 
  • Slowing down of thought processes and physical movement as observed by others.
  • Lethargy and loss of energy, nearly every day.
  • Feelings of being worthless and excessive guilt, nearly every day.
  • Reduced ability to concentrate and difficulty to make decisions, nearly every day.
  • Recurrently thoughts of death and suicidal ideation without a specific plan or attempt.


American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).


Behaviour Help

If you are supporting an individual with this diagnosis, please refer to our services and resources. They aim to help children, adolescents and adults achieve better communication, social, emotional, behavioural and learning outcomes. So whether you are wanting guidance on parenting, teaching, supporting or providing therapy, Behaviour Help is at hand.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible causes, symptoms and types but some general information that can be further explored. Based on what you have read if you have any concerns about an individual, please raise them with the individual/s. The caregiver can then raise these concerns with their local doctor who can provide a referral to the relevant professional (e.g. paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, allied health professional and learning specialists) for diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.

Which resources are right for you?


Based on the Taking CHARGE of Rainbow of Emotions Workbook this app helps children of all ages develop emotional regulation skills. The app guides the child to firstly, identify and express their emotion in appropriate ways. Then the child is guided to use emotional management tool/s from the CHARGE tool kit to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The acronym CHARGE stands for the different categories of emotional management tools – Chat tools, Helpful thinking tools, Amusement tools, Relaxation tools, Good routine tools and Exercise tools.

Behaviour Help App - Using the evidence-based approach of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), the Behaviour Help web-based app allows people supporting individuals with emotional and behavioural difficulties to complete a Functional Behaviour Analysis and put together a comprehensive Behaviour Support Plan (BSP). The BSP can then be used by everyone interacting with the individual to manage and prevent challenging behaviours and ultimately improve their lives, and the lives of those who support them.


If you want to learn more about emotional and behavioural difficulties then we have a great range of books you can read on your Kindle or order from Amazon.


Personalised and practical one to one help tailored specifically to your family.

Online Courses

Access these online courses anytime online to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotional regulation skills. Also learn to utilise the positive behaviour support framework to address anxiety, aggression, ADHD, ASD and ODD.

SEL Educational Videos

Minimise or eliminate the occurrence of challenging behaviours by teaching children of all ages appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, managing their emotions and behaviours.

The SEL curriculum uses video modelling to provide direct, explicit and systematic teaching of the various skills by discussing the importance of the skill, modelling the skill so the child learns what the skill looks like? sounds like? feels like? and learn the skill in staged situations that simulate real life scenarios.


Personalised and practical behaviour therapy tailored specifically to your family.


Webinars discuss a range of practical strategies to guide your child learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.


Attend our practical and interactive workshops to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotions, behaviours, social and communication skills in your learning environment.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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