Is melancholia a sign of mental disorder?

Is melancholia a sign of mental disorder?

Von Trier’s 2011 movie “Melancholia” was inspired by his tryst with depression. True to its name, the plot of the movie centered on the bride Justine who suffered from melancholia and was looked after by her sister Claire. Even literature is replete with many characters who supposedly suffered from melancholia. For example, Ophelia, the doomed heroine of “Hamlet,” committed suicide due to melancholic love that she nurtured for Hamlet, the enigmatic hero of the play.

The concept of melancholia is not recent. It had probably originated during the medieval ages, when philosophers like Hippocrates considered black bile humor, believed to be secreted by the kidneys or spleen to cause sadness, dysfunctional behavior and madness. Melancholia, then, was described as a mood disorder consisting of long phases of despair, fears and utter misery.

Melancholia is a serious disease of the mind, characterized by delusional thoughts and hallucinations. Prolonged melancholia symptoms often result in extreme sadness, which drives a person to take his or her own life.

Identifying link between melancholia and mental disorders

The link between melancholia and various mental health conditions is debatable. However, an instance of sadness that shows no signs of abating is bad for health. Persistent sadness and malaise not only has physiological impact on the sufferer, but also leads to significant psychological effect, which needs immediate medical help. Diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, allergies and even diabetes can arise in case someone remains sad and gloomy for a long time.

Listed below are some mental health conditions that are associated with long periods of despair and sadness:

Depression: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) no longer identifies melancholic depression as a separate disorder. It is instead considered as a subtype of major depressive disorder, or MDD. The melancholic features of MDD, as highlighted by the APA, are:

  • loss of pleasure in all or most daily activities
  • lack of reactivity to positive news and events
  • deep feelings of despair and worthlessness
  • sleep disruptions
  • significant weight loss
  • persistent feeling of excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • symptoms of MDD that are worse in the morning

However, melancholia is still considered a separate disorder by many in the medical community. Using the same standards for the treatment of melancholia as depression had often led to adverse consequences in the past.

Bipolar disorder: The disorder is characterized by episodes of mania and depression. During the depression phase, a person might experience symptoms of melancholia, wherein he or she is immune to pleasures and happiness. Certain physiological changes, such as incredibly low energy levels, can also be attributed to the melancholic condition.

Schizophrenia: It is a serious mental health disorder characterized by difficulty in differentiating between what is imaginary and what is real. Some schizophrenia patients also experience some form of cognitive problems. Other symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, along with melancholy, apathy and a sense of hopelessness.

Road to recovery

While many of the mental health conditions are not completely curable, they can be treated provided an early diagnosis is made. A broad range of therapies and medications can help one in managing the disorder.  Also, while it is natural to be sad after a life-shattering event, such as the loss of a loved one, it is essential to consult a psychiatrist if sadness starts affecting one’s day to day life.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, primary care doctors, social workers along with families of the patients need to explore available resources to complement treatment and decrease the suffering associated with mental diseases. If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental health problem, contact the Colorado Mental Health Help for guidance on mental health treatment centers in Colorado offering comprehensive treatment programs. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-899-5063 or chat online with our specialists to get advice on the best inpatient mental health treatment centers in Colorado.