What is depression?

It is natural to go through periods of time when we feel down or sad but depression is a mood disorder that is much more serious than the occasional “blues” or feeling sad. Depression is also referred to as major depression or clinical depression, and is a mood disorder that colours the way a person thinks, feels and engages with the world. People with depression often struggle with extreme feelings of unworthiness, sadness and loneliness. The recognized feature of a major depressive episode is a period where a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities is experienced most of the day or nearly every day for at least two weeks, plus a person also experiences other symptoms that may include changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating or making decisions, and having recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation, plans or attempts.

Depression can be experienced in different ways:

  • Depression can be experienced as a sense of apathy, feeling “blah” or feeling numb.
  • Depression can be experienced in the body as aches and pains, weakness and tiredness.
  • Depression can be experienced as feelings of anxiousness or irritability. This can be experienced as a sense of persistent anger such as in responding to events with frequent angry outbursts and/or feeling frustrated, impatient and accusatory towards others.
  • Depression can be experienced as loss of pleasure in hobbies or activities that were once considered enjoyable.
  • Depression can cause a significant reduction in sexual interest and desire.
  • Depression can cause a person to tend to isolate themselves from the world. Common isolating tendencies include cancelling work or social plans, not showing up to social commitments at the last minute and spending the majority of free time by one’s self instead of engaging with others.

 

What causes depression?

Depression is experienced by people all over the world. Anyone from all nationalities and countries can develop depression and the illness can arise at any time. However, many cases of depression will first appear in the late teens to mid-twenties. More women than men are diagnosed with depression. Causes of depression can vary but in general, the following can trigger depression:

Childhood trauma: Depression may appear in the teenage or adult years as a result of past trauma or childhood adversity.

Adult trauma: Trauma experienced as an adult such as from motor vehicle accidents, prolonged caregiving of a loved one who is dying, or through certain jobs involving emergency response work or work of an emotionally intense nature can cause depressive symptoms to appear in an individual.

Life events and transitions: For people who already have a pre-existing diagnosis of depression and also for those without a history of depression, life events and upsets such as losing a loved one, losing a relationship or pet, or changes in living or work conditions can cause a depressive episode.

Post-Partum depression: About 10% of women experience post-partum depression after the birth of a baby with or without a history of previous depression. Post-partum depression can appear weeks after a baby is born but about half of women who experience post-partum depression also experience symptoms of depression during their pregnancy. Seeking medical help immediately for post-partum depression is essential to the health of new mothers and their babies.

Medical conditions: Thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, heart disease, chronic pain and other medical conditions can increase one’s chances of developing depression. If you are experiencing depressive symptoms it is important to consult your general practitioner for any underlying medical causes and for help in relieving existing pain and symptoms related to any known medical conditions.

Genetic and hereditary factors: Depression can run in families so individuals who have relatives with depression may be at higher risk for developing depression during their lives. Life events may trigger depressive episodes, but sometimes there seems to be no reason that an individual can pinpoint for having symptoms of depression.

 

Depression is different than grief

It is normal for grief associated with the death of a loved one, or any kind of loss, to bring about feelings of extreme sadness. The grieving period does appear to have commonalities with depression such that a person who is grieving may describe themselves as being “depressed”. But grief and depression are different.

Whereas a person who is experiencing grief may tend to withdraw from people and usual activities in order to spend much time processing a loss alone, this person will often feel the love of others and even emotionally depend on their support through their grief journey, despite it being difficult to connect at different times during their grieving process. A grieving individual may need to re-establish a sense of self in the face of their loss but this sense of self is often eventually restored in a new way.

For a depressed person, their sense of self is not affected by current outside events so much as experienced as a persistent sense of self-loathing and worthlessness that has been a persistent feature of much of their lives, despite how others may be expressing their support and love in the present. Love and support from others may even feel misguided to an individual with depression who may not comprehend that others think they are worthy of love since they may not feel worthy themselves. A person with depression may isolate excessively and occasionally have thoughts that people are better off without them.

 

Seeking Professional Help

According to the American Psychological Association, depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all individuals gain some relief from their symptoms.

Contact your family physician. Your physician will evaluate your condition by asking questions about your current life and will review your medical history. A physical exam and blood tests might be done to rule out any underlying medical factors. You may be given resources and information on counselling professionals, therapy groups and medication.

Consider talking to a counsellor. Talking to a counsellor can be enormously beneficial for people who suffer from depression. If you are currently taking medication for depression, your treatment is most effective when combining this with professional therapy.

 

How therapy helps

Provides a safe space in which to work through past traumas or current life stressors: A professional and compassionate ear can go a long way in the healing journey. Counselling can provide a safe space needed for focused reflection and allow for a cathartic release of emotions. By allowing yourself the opportunity to tell your story and express what is important to you at this time, you may arrive at new insights and a sense greater inner peace.

Teaches you cognitive mental coping skills: Researchers have shown that learning cognitive mental coping skills may be the most important positive change that individuals can continue to benefit from for the rest of their lives. Studies have shown that people who completed a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) had a lower rate of relapse in depression than people who stopped taking antidepressant medication. CBT aims to help people identify and change negative, self-depleting thought patterns. The therapy is designed to equip people with the skills needed to critically examine those negative beliefs and arrive at more realistic and helpful responses in daily life.

 

How I can help

Depression can bring up so many emotions and issues from the past that overlap into the present to an overwhelming degree. I can allow you a safe space to sort through the many emotions and issues that you are currently struggling with and provide helpful information, clinically sound strategies and resources for managing depression.

Each person responds to counselling therapy in their own unique ways in managing depression. Some people prefer an emphasis on practical tips and cognitive behavioural strategies for coping with depression whereas others benefit from insights through lots of opportunity for self-reflection. Others may be searching for meaning in their experience through spiritual exploration. We will work together to develop an approach that includes the right balance of components that match your needs.

My aim is to help you identify and work towards your inner goals using holistic evidence-based practices that work for you in improving your emotional well-being and ultimately, your enjoyment in life.