Depression is much more common than most of us realize. It affects approximately 4% of the population at any one time and 10% over the course of a person’s lifetime. That means that at any given time 160,000 people in British Columbia suffer from depression. If you are one of them, then you are not alone.
Many of us have the experience of feeling depressed, blue, or down at some time in our life. Usually these feelings only last for a few days and they gradually disappear on their own. But sometimes, these feelings just won't go away quickly. They may last for weeks or months and begin to interfere with our work, family, and other aspects of life. When that happens, I encourage you to talk to your friends, and family members. If talking to them doesn’t help you much, it’s time for you to consider seeking some professional help such as counsellors or doctors can offer. Research shows that 75% of people with depression can be successfully treated quickly.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression?
Sometimes depression does not show itself as sadness, but as numbness or emptiness. Other symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Loss of energy, feeling fatigued
- Loss of appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Slowed movements or agitation or restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Depressed mood
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Thoughts of hopelessness or suicide
Depression can impact many areas of our life including our emotions, thoughts, bodily responses, and behaviours. When we are depressed, we may feel down, tearful, or isolated. We may be unrealistically negative about our current situation, unfairly critical of ourselves, and overly pessimistic about the future.
Depression is often accompanied by a number of physical symptoms such as insomnia or oversleeping, fatigue, and changes in brain chemistry. We often want to be alone and withdraw from others, and even daily life tasks become a burden to us. As a result, our feelings of guilt or worthlessness are increased.
What Triggers Depression?
Depression is often triggered by loss, conflict, isolation, or stressful life situations, like having a low income or a chronic physical illness, and personality factors such as one’s way of looking at the world and at situations. For example, if we feel or think that we or others cannot or didn’t meet our expectations, we may become disappointed at ourselves or others. If this disappointment lasts too long, or becomes severe, we may feel down, or even depressed.
There are many other things can cause or contribute to depression including stress, genetics or family history of depression, and gender. Do you know that women are two times as likely to have depression as men?
Depression can occur in any age group, but is most prevalent in people of middle age, and in certain portions of the elderly population. Depression can occur in childhood and adolescence as well, despite our society's past tendency to think that moodiness in young people is just “part of growing up.”
How Does Depression Affect Our Life?
Depression can affect how much money we make. People with depression likely have more sick leaves than people without depression. In 2008, people with depression had 2-3 more work-disability days per month. That means we make less money comparing to others who don’t have depression. If we have depression, according to the survey, we have less chance to be hired as well.
Sometimes depression can be fatal. When the feelings of hopelessness and emptiness are too strong, some people become suicidal and some do commit suicide. In BC, ten people commit suicide every week. Most people who commit suicide are depressed. Suicide is the #2 killer among young people.
If you have other physical illness, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, you are more likely to have depression as well and vice versa. A recent study shows that “depression is a small but significant predictor of mortality in cancer patients. Estimates were as high as a 26% greater mortality rate among patients enduring some depressive symptoms and a 39% higher mortality rate among those diagnosed with major depression.” However, only 50% of depressed people ever seek any help despite the huge negative impact depression has on our life.
Four Major Types of Depressive Disorder
Not all depressions are alike. In general, four types of depressive disorder are more common. They are Major Depression, Dysthymia, Post-Partum Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Major depression is different from a state of normal sadness. People who experience depression describe it as agonizing pain that cannot be shaken and seems to have no end in sight. They feel trapped. It seems that they feel they are in a dark tunnel and cannot see the end of it. Some people even think about committing suicide.
A Major Depression Checklist
Read the following question and answer it with “Yes” or “No”. If you answer five or more “Yes” to the following questions, you are more likely experiencing a major depression.
- Are you feeling struck and the place you want to reach seems so far away and unattainable?
- Do you feel tired all the time and have no energy to enjoy anything?
- Do you feel sad, low, or down and cry easily?
- Do you have no appetite or eat too much?
- Do you sleep too much or wake up too early?
- Are you easily irritated and people are staying away from you?
- Do you move too slowly?
- Do you have trouble to concentrate?
- Are you indecisive?
- Do you feel excessively sorry for what you have done or not done?
- Do you feel hopeless or helpless?
- Do you sometimes even thinking about ending it all?
People with major depression respond well to psychotherapy or combined with medication.
People with dysthymia experience chronic, long-lasting symptoms of depression, which are not disabling, but prevent a person from functioning at top capacity or from feeling good. Dysthymia often leads to a life without much pleasure, and many people with this condition tend to mistaken it as a part of their personality, which it’s not.
The primary symptoms of dysthymia include a depressed mood, a feeling of being down in the dumps, and a lack of interest in usual activities in most of the days for at least two years. People with dysthymia can experience any of the symptoms of major depression, but usually not to the severe degree that may be found in a full-blown depression. In another word, dysthymia is a form of long-lasting, mild to moderate degree of depression. During stressful times, people with dysthymia are more likely to move into a major depression than others.
People with dysthymia respond well to psychotherapy.
For every woman, having a baby is a challenging time, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for many new mothers to have mood swings after delivery, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next. These feelings are sometimes known as the "baby blues", and often go away within 10 days of delivery. However, some women may experience a deep and ongoing depression which lasts much longer. This is called post-partum depression.
Post-partum depression is more severe than the "blues." Women with this condition suffer despondency, tearfulness, feeling of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, irritability and fatigue. Physical symptoms include headaches, numbness, chest pain and hyperventilation. A woman with post-partum depression may regard her child with ambivalence, negativity or disinterest. The depression can begin at any time between delivery and 6 months post-birth, and may last up to several months or even a year.
Women with post-partum depression respond well to psychotherapy or combined with medication. Psychotherapy has been shown to be an effective and acceptable choice for women who wish to avoid taking medications while breastfeeding.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Weather often affects our mood. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull and rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. These shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called seasonal Affective Disorder," or SAD.
Recent studies suggest that SAD is more common in northern countries, where the winter day is shorter. Deprivation from natural sources of light is also of particular concern for shift workers and urban dwellers that may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments.
Many people with SAD respond well to exposure to bright, artificial light. "Light therapy," involves sitting beside a special fluorescent light box for several minutes a day. A health care professional should be consulted before beginning light therapy. Antidepressant medications are effective in relieving SAD symptoms. Counselling and psychotherapy can also be helpful.
What Can You Do to Deal With Depression?
Try not to set difficult goals for yourself or take on more responsibilities than you can realistically handle. Focus on short-term goals. Set priorities and take things one at a time.
While it may seem impossible, try to get some exercise. Exercise half an hour every other day can be helpful to lift your mood. You can do it by walking.
Go out and try to connect with other people, such as look for free or inexpensive activities, check with your local library, community centre, etc.
Postpone important life decisions until your depression is brought under control.
Eat healthy foods with protein, healthy fats, and vitamins, such as eggs, fish, meat, fresh vegetables and fruits. Stay away from junk foods.
Avoid using alcohol or drugs. While you may feel a temporary “high,” this can lead to a dangerous pattern of highs and lows which can ultimately create a negative spiral that is difficult to get out of.
Spend time with your partner and/or close friends.
Share your feelings and ask for help.
Consult with professionals, such as your family doctors and clinical counsellors.
How to Treat Depression?
With effective treatment, the majority of people with depression will improve significantly. According to the research, 75% of people with depression can be successfully treated quickly.
Psychotherapy and antidepressant medications are the two main types of treatment options for depression. You can choose the best treatment option based on a number of factors such as the type and severity of the depression, past responses to particular treatment approaches, and your personal preference.
Once you’ve found an approach that works for you, it is important to stay with the approach long enough for it to be maximally effective. If you choose medication, I suggest you to be aware of the following: 1) some people will experience side effects and some will be unable to tolerate the unwanted side effects. 2) it might take a longer time for medication to be effective. 3) symptoms of depression may return when people stop taking medications.
If your depressive symptoms are not severe, I suggest you explore alternatives other than medications. Psychotherapy is a good and scientifically validated treatment method for depression, and it can be combined with medication treatment. In therapy, your counsellor will help you to explore your psychological blockage and help you to feel content and happy again. People with depression tend to benefit from psychotherapy in the long run.
Call 778-235-4027 to find out how I can help you to combat depression or book an appointment.