Understanding Depression

When feelings of unhappiness and sadness become severe and lasts for several weeks, you may be experiencing depression. Clinical depression is a medical disorder that can impair a person’s daily functioning persistent feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, extreme sadness, and disappointment. Depression can affect your thoughts, mood, behaviour and interaction with others and may be caused by biochemical imbalances.

Signs of Depression

Signs and symptoms of depression may be different for everyone so these are only guidelines. You may experience some or all of the following:

  • Feeling persistently sad.
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Feeling irritable, anxious, and restless.
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering.
  • Loss of pleasure and interest in activities.
  • Crying a lot.
  • Lack of confidence, poor self-esteem, and self-dislike.
  • Lack of motivation and energy.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
  • Poor appetite or overeating.
  • Sleeping excessively less or more than usual.
  • Withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Suicidal thoughts or intent.

Causes of Depression

Depression can be triggered by any number of factors, such as:

  • Loss of a friend, family member.
  • Daily stressors.
  • Experiencing failure in school.
  • Work.
  • Relationships.
  • Significant changes in life (eg. starting a new job or new school and feeling socially isolated in your new environment).

Frequency of Depression

  • Two times more common in women than men.
  • Three million Canadians have serious depression at any given time.
  • Can occur for short or long periods.
  • No definite cycle; each person is unique, and frequency can change.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a reaction to lack of sunlight during winter months and changes in season.
  • 2-3% of the general population experience SAD.
  • 15% of the population experiences a less severe form of the “winter blues”.

Coping Strategies

  • Talk with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Express your emotions through activities you enjoy: art, music, writing, etc.
  • Make a schedule and break larger tasks into smaller ones.
  • Eat a balanced diet daily.
  • Eliminate stressful situations and create pleasant surroundings.
  • Refrain from making major life decisions.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
  • Think positively and expect your mood to change gradually.

When to Get Help

Depression is the most treatable of mental illnesses. Treatment can come in many forms such as medication, psychological counselling and/or other forms of therapy, support from friends and family and being part of self-help groups.

Further consultation with a professional may be needed if:

  • Previous coping techniques have not helped you feel better.
  • Daily activities and tasks are too overwhelming.
  • No pleasure in things you normally enjoy.
  • Self-esteem and mood are becoming worse.
  • You are preoccupied with the stressor and you find that things are not getting better.
  • You develop constant pessimistic thoughts about self, others and your situation.
  • You have recurring thoughts about suicide, harming yourself and others.

Early Intervention

Early intervention for depression can limit negative consequence and have a significant impact on person’s functioning and well-being. It can strengthen an individual’s ability to cope with future challenges. Considering professional help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of wisdom and strength to realize you cannot do everything on your own.