Understanding Depressive Personality Trait

the hoursBeing depressive is not the same thing as having depression.  The two can look the same to an outside person as the symptoms are similar.  The major difference is that a depressive can actually have depression but a person with depression is not depressive.  Depression is situational such as grieving the loss of a friend or it is chemical such as your body overproducing certain hormones.  Depressive is a personality trait and is not based on situation or chemical factors.

So what is Depressive?  Well, according to the new DSM-V, depressive did not make the final personality disorder cut and instead is classified under Personality Disorder Trait Specified (PDTS).  This means that there was not enough research to properly classify depressives as having a named personality disorder but there is evidence enough that it does exist.  So the traits of depressive are still classifiable and qualify as a PDTS.  Here is the technical definition based on the new classification:

  • Depressivity
  • Anxiousness
  • Anhedonia – absence of pleasure or the ability to experience it

The practical definition looks more like this:

  • Feels dejected, gloomy, and worthless
  • Self-critical and derogatory
  • Is negativistic, critical and judgmental toward others
  • Pessimistic
  • Feels guilty or remorseful

In the movie “The Hours”, the three main characters all demonstrated different forms of depressive personality.  While each of them was depressed for a period of time, such as the 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 your support is not contingent upon how they feel.
  • Do a small act of encouragement or show gratefulness to them whenever you can 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 can’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 have a depressive person in your life but their mood does not need to infect your mood.  Learn to set and maintain good boundaries in your life so you don’t feel responsible for trying to help them feel better.  You are not responsible.  Rather get some guidance as to how to approach them and have a healthy relationship despite the depressiveness.


Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.