Depression (major depressive disorder) is different than just having the “blues”. We all experience feeling “down”, “sad”, “bummed out” for a period time depending on life circumstances. This is perfectly normal. Someone experiencing depression, however, is struggling with feelings of severe despair for an extended period of time. Every aspect of their life is affected, including how they feel, their physical health, their relationships and their work. Feeling motivated to get up in the morning and keep going is a challenge. “For people with depression, it does not feel like there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” — there is just a long, dark tunnel.” (CMHA).
Depression is a mental illness called a mood disorder. Mood disorders affect the way you feel, which also affects the way you think and act. With depression, you may feel ‘down,’ hopeless, tired all the time, or simply unable to enjoy your favorite things. You may also feel irritable or angry, or ‘numb’ inside.
Depression can affect anyone at any age. Depression often starts between the ages of 15 and 30, but it can affect anyone—even teens and younger children. While we don’t know exactly what causes depression, many factors are likely at play. These include heredity, personality, life events, and hormonal and physiological changes in your body. Certain medications and physical illnesses can also contribute to depression.
Signs and Symptoms: Recognizing the signs of depression is an important first step to getting help. If you feel that something is wrong, listen to your instinct. Here are the signs of changes due to depression that you can watch out for:
Physical changes: You may have more physiological complaints such as headaches or general aches and pains that have no apparent cause. You may feel tired all the time, sleep more than usual or have trouble sleeping. You may have appetite changes, leading to “comfort” eating and weight gain, or loss of appetite and loss of weight.
Behavioural changes: You may feel unmotivated to do much of anything. You may wish to withdraw from being around other people, letting relationships wither, you may cry a lot, or feel uninterested in sports, games, or other fun activities you used to enjoy. You might be more “moody” or “fragile” feeling, having sudden outbursts of anger or tears and over-reactions to small incidents.
Emotional changes: You may feel unhappy, worried, guilty, sad, angry, fearful, helpless, hopeless, lonely. You may feel that life is pointless or meaningless. It may be difficult to feel anything else besides negative despite trying.
Changes in thinking: You may feel down on yourself, thinking negatively about yourself and your life. For example, you may think, “no one cares so why should I” or “I’m so sick of being me”. You may have a hard time concentrating. In some cases, you may have thoughts about suicide.
These changes may be signs of depression, or other mental health problems. It’s important to talk to someone in order to know what’s happening.
Everyone can recover from depression. Depression is treatable. Your family doctor is often the first place to start, but you may also find support through counselling. If you are feeling suicidal, walk into any emergency department of any hospital and they will help you. Or call the Crisis Centre at 604-872-1811.
Most people find help for depression from counselling using cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people how their thoughts, feelings, and actions work together. It also teaches skills such as healthy thinking, problem solving, and stress management. CBT has been proven through many studies to be an effective treatment and prevention for depression.
Eating well, exercising, spending time with others, and making time for fun activities are part of counselling “self-care strategies” that will help you to stay well.
Support groups may also be helpful. Support groups are an opportunity to share experiences and learn from others. There are also groups specifically for family members.
You may benefit from an antidepressant if other options don’t seem to help. Antidepressants are a specific group of medications which target the chemistry of the brain to treat depression and other mental illnesses. The decision to use medication must be well-considered. While medications can be helpful, there may be extra risks and side-effects to consider. Have an thorough discussion with your physician about the risks and benefits so you can have your questions answered and can make the best decision for yourself.
At Stillwater Studio, Megan Hughes uses CBT to treat depression in her clients. If the depression has any roots in trauma, Megan also uses EMDR to alleviate symptoms.
For more information:
Stillwater Studio, Counselling and Pain Management – 604-734-2779
Crisis Centre – 604-872-1811