What is depression?
Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is a common, yet serious, medical illness that negatively affects how someone may feel, think and act. It can cause feelings of sadness and can decrease one’s ability to function at work and at home. Depression affects an estimated one in fifteen adults each year. One in six people will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. It is important to recognize the signs of depression in order to establish which treatments, if any, are needed.
Other forms of depression:
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This type of depression is generally affected by the weather and time of the year.
- Postpartum depression: This affects some people who have given birth to a child, in the following weeks or months after birth.
- Depression with psychosis: When depression becomes severe enough to experience hallucinations (false sensory perceptions, such as hearing, seeing or smelling things that aren’t really there) or delusions (false beliefs that a person believes are true and cannot be convinced otherwise).
- Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder): This form of depression includes chronically low mood with moderate symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy and motor skills
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Fixating on past failures
- Change in sex drive
- Irritability, frustration or angry outbursts
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Having one of these symptoms alone would not necessarily lead to a diagnosis of depression. Often people with depression have a combination of some or all of the above symptoms in varying degrees of severity. Someone can be diagnosed with mild, moderate, and severe depression, and the treatments for each of these conditions differ.
What to do if you think you have depression
If you suspect you might have depression, we strongly encourage you to talk to a medical professional. If you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or if a loved one has expressed these, please call emergency services. Even though it might not feel like it right now, depression is treatable.
Feelings of sadness vs. depression
Death, job loss, or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations, and those facing these experiences may even describe themselves as being “depressed.”
Feeling sad is not actually the same as having depression. While sadness and depression share some similar characteristics, they also have some key differences:
- In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often mixed with positive memories. In depression, mood and/or interest are decreased for more than two weeks.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- In grief, thoughts of death may arise when thinking about “joining” a deceased loved one. In depression, thoughts are focused on ending one’s life due to feeling worthless or being unable to cope with the pain of depression.
Distinguishing between grief and depression is very important in helping people find the support or treatment they need.
Factors that affect depression
There is no single cause of depression, but rather many contributing factors and triggers that may exist on their own or as a combination:
- Biochemistry: Chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families, and is common in people whose blood relatives share the condition.
- Hormones: Hormonal imbalance may trigger depression. Hormone changes can occur during pregnancy and in the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum), as well as from thyroid problems, menopause and more.
- Environmental: Prolonged exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty may result in being more susceptible to depression. Early childhood trauma may also be a contributing factor.
- Addiction: A history of drug or current alcohol use may lead to depression. Other times, depression can lead to substance use. Whether addiction or mental health is treated as the primary issue depends on each person, but they should always be addressed together or else the treatment won’t be effective.
Coping with depression
For some people, regular exercise can help to improve mood and generate positive feelings. Getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol — which is a depressant — can also help to reduce the symptoms of depression. Feeling overwhelmed can intensify depression, so setting boundaries and learning to say “no” in both personal and professional settings can ease these feelings. If these methods are not helping, or if suicidal feelings arise, it is important to seek professional help right away.
If you are struggling with the symptoms of depression, it is important to see a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. If depression is left untreated, it can worsen over time. Many people who seek treatment notice improvements within weeks, though others may take longer.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications, such as antidepressants, or supplements to successfully manage symptoms. Various forms of therapy are also available and may be suggested:
- Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is a general term for talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider as a means to treat mental health conditions. Psychotherapy may be conducted in individual, family, couple, or group settings, and can benefit both children and adults. Psychotherapy helps patients to learn about their condition, moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviours, and also teaches coping strategies.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a structured form of psychotherapy that addresses inaccurate or negative thinking in a limited number of sessions, helping the patient to see challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in effective ways.
These therapies and more are part of EHN Sandstone’s Mood & Anxiety Program, which successfully manages mental health ailments. Our team of psychologists, nurses, and doctors, will help you regain control of your life and get your mental health back on track. Help is available and you deserve to live a happy, fulfilling life. Contact us today at 587-350-6818.
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of self harm or suicide, call 9-1-1 immediately.
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