Identify and discuss the major theories for the etiology of depressive disorders.


Case Study, Mohr

CHAPTER 27, Depressive Disorders

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In completing the case study, students will be addressing the following learning objectives:

Analyze different theories about the etiology of depressive disorders.

Discuss interdisciplinary treatment modalities for clients with depressive disorders.

Sarah, a 37-year-old bank employee, has developed a depressive disorder.   Sarah was engaged and planned to be married next month.  Her fiancé suddenly broke off their engagement and told Sarah that he had accepted a job in Europe and was moving there immediately.  Sarah’s depression began shortly after this and has progressed to the point that she is now seeing a psychiatrist for treatment. Sarah’s family has a history of depressive disorders.  Her father has experienced recurrent episodes of depression for 20 years.   Sarah’s paternal aunt and great uncle both committed suicide.

(Learning Objectives: 1, 2)

a. Identify and discuss the major theories for the etiology of depressive disorders.

b. What different interdisciplinary treatment modalities would be appropriate to incorporate into the plan of care for Sarah?


Etiology and Treatment Modalities for Depressive Disorders: A Case Study of Sarah


Depressive disorders are complex mental health conditions that can significantly impact an individual’s well-being and daily functioning. This case study focuses on Sarah, a 37-year-old bank employee, who has developed a depressive disorder following a sudden breakup with her fiancé. Sarah’s family history of depressive disorders adds an important dimension to understanding the etiology and treatment approaches for her condition. This essay will explore major theories of depressive disorder etiology and discuss interdisciplinary treatment modalities that can be incorporated into Sarah’s plan of care.

Etiology of Depressive Disorders

Biological Factors: Sarah’s family history of depressive disorders suggests a potential genetic predisposition to the condition. Research has identified specific genes and neurochemical imbalances that may contribute to the development of depressive disorders (Shadrina et al., 2018). Genetic factors alone, however, cannot fully explain the onset of depression but rather interact with environmental factors.

Psychosocial Factors: Sarah’s recent breakup and the associated loss of her fiancé can be considered a significant psychosocial stressor. Life events, such as relationship difficulties, loss, and trauma, can trigger or exacerbate depressive episodes. The quality of interpersonal relationships, social support, and adverse childhood experiences are also known to influence the risk of developing depressive disorders.

Cognitive Factors: Cognitive theories propose that negative thinking patterns and distorted perceptions of oneself, the world, and the future play a crucial role in depressive disorders. Sarah’s perception of her breakup may have contributed to her negative thoughts about herself and her future, potentially amplifying her depressive symptoms.

Interdisciplinary Treatment Modalities for Depressive Disorders

Psychotherapy: Different modalities of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and psychodynamic therapy, can be incorporated into Sarah’s treatment plan. CBT aims to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop coping strategies. IPT focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and resolving conflicts (Stamou et al., 2018). Psychodynamic therapy explores unconscious patterns and unresolved issues from the past.

Medication: Pharmacotherapy, particularly antidepressant medications, may be prescribed to alleviate Sarah’s depressive symptoms. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly used antidepressants. Medication management should be closely monitored by a psychiatrist or healthcare provider.

Lifestyle Modifications: Encouraging Sarah to engage in regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and prioritize adequate sleep can support her overall well-being (Tamanal & Kim, 2020). These lifestyle modifications have been shown to have a positive impact on mood and can be integrated into her treatment plan.

Social Support and Group Therapy: Incorporating social support networks and group therapy can be beneficial for Sarah. Supportive family and friends can provide emotional assistance, while group therapy allows individuals to share experiences, provide mutual support, and learn coping strategies from one another.


Depressive disorders are influenced by a combination of biological, psychosocial, and cognitive factors. Sarah’s case highlights the importance of understanding these etiological factors and tailoring treatment approaches accordingly. By incorporating interdisciplinary treatment modalities such as psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle modifications, and social support, Sarah can receive comprehensive care that addresses both the underlying causes and the symptoms of her depressive disorder. A collaborative approach involving healthcare professionals from different disciplines will optimize Sarah’s chances of recovery and improve her overall well-being.


Shadrina, M., Bondarenko, E. S., & Slominsky, P. (2018). Genetics Factors in Major Depression Disease. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9. 

Stamou, G., García-Palacios, A., & Botella, C. (2018). Cognitive-Behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy for the treatment of post-natal depression: a narrative review. BMC Psychology, 6(1). 

Tamanal, J. M., & Kim, C. H. (2020). Promoting Healthy Lifestyle in High School Students: Determination of the Lifestyle Status through the Healthy Lifestyle Screen (HLS) Assessment. Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 10(1), 30–43. 

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