Depressive Personality (DP) is not the same thing as depression. The two can look the same as the symptoms are similar. The major difference is that a DP person can also have depression but a person with depression is not necessarily DP.
One type of depression is situational such as grieving the loss of a friend. Another is chemical such as overproduction of certain hormones. By contrast, DP is a personality trait and is not based on situation or chemical factors.
So what is DP? The DSM-V does not list DP as a personality disorder. However, it can be classified under Personality Disorder Not Specified. This means that there was not enough research to properly classify DPs as having a named personality disorder but there is evidence enough that it exists. Here is the technical definition:
- Anhedonia – absence of pleasure or the ability to experience it
The practical definition looks more like this:
- Feels dejected, gloomy, and worthless most of the time and is not a result of situational depression or chemical depression
- Overly self-critical and derogatory without valid justification for attitude or comments
- Is negativistic, critical and judgmental toward others
- Pessimistic point of view
- Feels guilty or remorseful most of the time without reason to explain feelings
In the movie “The Hours”, the three main characters all demonstrated different forms of DP. While each of them was depressed for a period of time, such as a suicide attempt, the overall appearance was a gloomy or depressive state. This was unchanging no matter how hard the other people in their lives worked to minimize the depressiveness. The depressiveness never when away completely and two of the three characters learned to live with it.
So how do you deal with a person who might be depressive? Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t minimize their feelings of inadequacy or depression; rather reassure them that support is unconditional and not contingent upon how they feel.
- Do a small act of encouragement or show gratefulness to them whenever possible without expecting it to change or modify their behavior.
- If one thing goes wrong in their life, it all comes crashing down. So don’t overreact even if they are over or under reacting.
- They spiral easily to a depressive state so keep things as smooth as possible.
- They aren’t able to “look on the bright side” so don’t expect it or get angry when they won’t.
- Listen to their worries and fears without criticism or judgment. This is not a spiritual condition and cannot be fixed through spiritual methods. This is a personality condition and is as ingrained as the color of their eyes.
It can be frustrating at times to know a DP but their mood does not need to infect other’s mood. Learn to set and maintain good boundaries. Don’t feel responsible for helping them to feel better. Rather get some guidance as to how to approach them and have a healthy relationship despite the depressiveness.