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Understanding Depression: Family Systems Theory Essay

3790 words - 15 pages

Depression is classified as a mood disorder by the DSM-IV (1994) and is defined as a mental illness characterized by sadness, general apathy, a loss of self-esteem, feelings of guilt, and, at times, suicidal tendencies (Lexicon, n.d). Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses that individuals receive treatment for today. In any six-month period, 9.4 million Americans, and 340 million people in the world, suffer from this disease. One in four women and one in 10 men will develop depression during their lifetime (An Overview of Depression, n.d). Although the DSM-IV has defined depression, its etiology, contributing factors, and interventions differ among the schools of thought in psychology. One such example is the different stances taken by those following the family systems theoretical perspective and those siding with cognitive-behavioral theory.

Description and Definition of Depression
The underlying theme of the article by Crethar, Snow and Carlson (2004) stems from the assumptions of family systems theory (FST). There are several points regarding etiology and interventions for the treatment of childhood and adolescent depression made, which are delineated by its concepts. Based on the perspective of FST, family communications and their distortions are speculated to play an etiological role in severe psychiatric disorders, especially depression (Slesnick & Waldron, 1997). It is seen as symptomatic of the dysfunctions of a family’s interactions which commonly affect their children (Crethar et al., 2004). The idea, that the occurrences within a familial context affect children within that system, stems from the idea of interdependence in FST, in which each member is being affected by and is affecting another (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2001). It is further postulated that the family system will function in a way that maintains its equilibrium, so if there is a change, either external or internal, the entire system as a whole must adjust to restore its equilibrium (Lamanna & Riedman, 2000). These changes are any events or occurrences within the family that cause imbalances in the dynamics and patterns of behavior which cause conflict and distress.

Within the Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective (CBP), Possel, Horn, Groen and Hautzinger (2004) explain that depression is a malfunction of one or more information-processing stages which may result in a dysfunctional interpretation of situational stimuli. This explanation is based on the social information-processing model of social competence (Dodge, 1993). This model describes behavior as a consequence of information-processing in reaction to stimulus of a certain event or situation (Possel et al., 2004). The interpretations of social competence model that Possel and his colleagues examine are a variation of what Beck, Rush, Shaw, and Emery describe as negative automatic thoughts. These negative automatic thoughts are generated by dysfunctional beliefs (i.e.,...

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