In Vietnam today, about 1 in 7 people has a mental disorder [1]. Among them, depression is a common disorder in many age groups. For example, in Ho Chi Minh City, depression is the second most common mental disorder among people over 65 years old [2]. Globally, more than 280 million people have depressive disorders [3], and the number of mentally ill people has been increasing since the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, contrary to the prevalence of mental illnesses today, the general awareness and understanding of mental health issues is still low in Vietnam. Besides the stigmas about mental illnesses, over 90% of people with mental disorders have not received appropriate treatment [4].

In this article, we will get to know about depressive disorders, or depression - one of the most common types of mental disorders nowadays. You can get basic information about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of depression.

What is Depressive Disorder?

Sometimes, we may feel sad, angry, or have mood swings. However, when that sorrow or bad feeling persists for weeks, months, or even longer and affects our daily lives, we may be experiencing depressive disorder.

Many people with depression are not aware that they are having a mental illness or do not seek help from professionals. Their condition may worsen over time due to not receiving appropriate support and treatment [5].

Depressive disorder is a type of mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in life over long periods of time. Depression affects the way we feel, think, and behave, which then leads to many other emotional and physical issues. People with depression may have difficulty doing daily activities and tasks, and at times, they may feel like life is not worth living.

Depression is not merely boredom or “just a phase". People with depressive disorders cannot overcome them on their own and may even need long-term treatment. However, this is a mental disorder that is treatable, which means people with depression have a chance to get back to their normal lives [6].

Some Common Types of Depressive Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is most evident when the sufferer feels sad, depressed, or worthless for at least 2 weeks and also has other symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or changes in appetite. Major depressive disorder is one of the most common types of depressive disorders [7].

Persistent Depressive Disorder

People with persistent depressive disorder have mild to moderate depressive symptoms lasting more than 2 years. The symptoms of persistent depressive disorder may be milder than those of major depressive disorder. Persistent depressive disorder can make it difficult for people to improve their mood, even when their lives are going well. People with this mental illness may find themselves having a dark personality, constantly whining, or being unable to feel happy [8].

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

People with premenstrual dysphoric disorder will have symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and mood-related symptoms such as extreme irritability, anxiety, or depression. These symptoms may decrease within a few days after menstruation, but they can seriously affect the sufferer's daily life in a short time.

Prenatal Depression and Postpartum Depressive Disorder (Perinatal)

It is estimated that more than 10% of women experience depression during pregnancy and childbirth, and this rate may be higher among women living in poverty or teen moms [9]. The duration and intensity of symptoms associated with pregnancy or postpartum depression may exceed those seen during the "baby blues" period. Any person suspected of or suffering from this type of depression should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to have a healthy pregnancy or birth experience.

Depressive Disorder Combined with Other Medical Conditions

Many physical illnesses can cause significant changes in the patient's body, affecting mental health and leading to depression. Certain conditions, such as hypothyroidism, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, or cancer, can be risk factors for depression. When these conditions can be cured or improved, symptoms of depression can decrease.


Some symptoms that people with depressive disorders may experience include:

  • Having trouble focusing, remembering the details of many things, and making decisions

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

  • Feelings of negativity and hopelessness

  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping a lot

  • Feeling irritable and uncomfortable

  • Feeling restless

  • Loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed, including sexual activities

  • Unconsciously eating too much or too little 

  • Uncontrolled weight fluctuation

  • Having long-lasting pains, such as headaches and stomachaches

  • Unresolved or non-improving digestive problems even after treatment

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness

  • Suicidal ideations and loss of interest in living

People with depressive disorders may experience different signs, with varying intensity and frequency. These symptoms may also appear in patterns. For example, some people may experience signs of seasonal depressive disorder (SAD).

People with depressive disorders may have physical symptoms such as joint pain, back pain, digestive problems, difficulty sleeping, and changes in taste. Some people may have slower speech and movements than normal. The reason is that the brain chemicals related to depression, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, play an important role in managing mood and pain [10].

WARNING: The symptoms listed are for reference only. If you suspect you have depression, see a psychologist or mental health professional to get an accurate diagnosis about your issues.

Causes & Some Risk Factors

Research suggests that depression comes from a group of factors, including:

  • Brain structure: People with depression appear to have differences in brain structure compared to people without depression.

  • Brain chemicals: A person can develop depression when some neurotransmitters related to their mood do not work as usual.

  • Hormones: Changes in hormone levels in the body due to pregnancy, postpartum problems, thyroid problems, menopause, or other reasons, can increase the risk of depression.

  • Genetics: Researchers have not yet found the genotype responsible for depressive disorders. But a person is more likely to develop depression if they have a family member who has or is suffering from depression.

Some risk factors that can make a person more likely to experience depression include:

  • Witnessing or going through the death of someone you love or are close to

  • Having conflicts in family and friends

  • Have a history of violence or abuse, including physical, sexual, or emotional

  • Experiencing major events and changes in life (marriage - divorce, having children, unemployment, retirement,...)

  • Have other health issues, such as chronic pain, insomnia, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Are being treated with medication, and some medications have side effects that affect depressive symptoms

  • Abuse of stimulants, such as alcohol [11]


If you suspect you have a depressive disorder, you can go to a hospital or psychotherapy center to be diagnosed through:

  • Psychiatric evaluation: Your doctor or psychologist may learn about your patterns of thinking, feelings, and behavior. You might need to complete a questionnaire.

  • DSM-V: A psychologist can use the DSM-V to diagnose your mental illness.

  • Medical check: Your doctor or psychologist may need more information about your general health to find out if any health problems are affecting your mental health. You may be asked to tell the psychologist more about the medications you are taking. Sometimes, you may be asked to have a blood test to check your hormone levels.

Typical Treatment Methods for Depressive Disorders

Depression can be treated and help people return to their normal lives. Some common treatments include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both for cases diagnosed with moderate to severe depression.

Psychotherapy can help people with depression gain new perspectives and find better ways to cope with their issues. Therapy may include sessions where the client talks with a psychologist. Some therapy methods allow clients and psychologists to deliver the sessions online.

Currently, some common psychotherapy treatments for depressive disorders include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Behavioral Activation Therapy (BA)

  • Interpersonal Therapy

  • Solution-focused therapy [12]

Depression Prevention

People who have been diagnosed and successfully treated for mental disorders such as depression are still at risk of developing depression in the future. To prevent and improve our mental health, we can build habits and spend time on activities such as:

  • Trying to maintain hobbies and activities that we love

  • Staying in touch and having quality relationships with family and friends

  • Exercising regularly. Sometimes you just need to take a short walk or move during your free time

  • Maintaining regular eating and sleeping habits

  • Limiting or avoiding using alcohol or stimulants

  • Sharing about your feelings for someone you trust

  • Seeking professional help from a psychotherapist, doctor or health professional


Depressive disorders can appear for a short time or mark the beginning of a journey that can last many years.

Starting with an awareness of common psychological problems, you can find a way to seek help from others, support a family member suspected of having depression, or enhance mental health literacy for you and others today.

If you suspect yourself having mental health issues or have concerns about the psychotherapies, please contact the hotline at 0977.729.396 today for advice.


[1] Gần 15% người Việt bị rối loạn tâm thần. VnExpress.

[2] 14,1% dân số cả nước rối loạn tâm thần, khoảng trống điều trị lớn. Tuổi Trẻ Online.

[3] Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx). (Accessed 4 March 2023).

[4] Việt Nam đang đối mặt với tình trạng rối loạn tâm thần có xu hướng gia tăng.

[5] Depression Factsheet (for Schools).

[6] Depression (major depressive disorder). Mayo Clinic.

[7] Depression. Cleveland Clinic.

[8] Persistent depressive disorder. Mayo Clinic.


[10] What Is Depression? WebMD

[11] Are You at Risk for Depression? WebMD

[12] Depressive disorder (depression). WHO



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