Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Doctors use the term “clinical depression” to describe the more severe form of depression also known as “major depression” or “major depressive disorder. Clinical depression causes noticeable disruptions in daily life, such as work, school or social activities. It can affect people of any age or sex, including children. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss (such as the death of a loved one), substance abuse or a medical condition such as a thyroid disorder.
True depression is not the blues, sadness or even grief. It is a crushing despair so bad that people who have experienced it say that it is the worst pain they have ever gone through. Depression is not a weakness or a character flaw or a lack of how hard you work or how you think. It cannot be wished away.
- at any given time, almost three million Canadians have serious depression
- depression is the fastest growing type of disability cost for Canadian employers
- 10-15% of men and 15-25% of women have serious depression in their lifetime
- major depression affects up to 10% of youth and often results in severe short-and long-term health problems
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression. When these symptoms are overwhelming and disabling, that’s when it’s time to seek help.
Signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behaviour. You engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. In fact, research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there is no single cause of depression. It is likely caused by a mixture of many things like:
- family history and genetics
- medical illnesses
- certain medications
- life events or stress
- biological factors such as hormonal changes
- psychological vulnerability – ways of thinking that make someone more likely to experience stress
It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression. With this level of complexity, you can see how two people might have similar symptoms of depression, but the problem on the inside, and therefore what treatments will work best, may be entirely different. Clinical depression symptoms usually improve with psychological counselling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two. Even severe depression symptoms usually improve with treatment.
Please feel free to contact me directly at 604-488-9637 or email me using my contact form on the sidebar or at the link directly below.
Dr. Gordon Reid
Ph.D, R. Psych