- Cynthia Yoo
Depression - Definition, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
What is depression?
Depression is different from feelings of sadness. Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder that causes significant distress and interferes with our positive sense of self and daily functioning. While depression looks different for everyone, some common symptoms include the following:
persistent feelings of emptiness, sadness, or worthlessness;
irritability, frustration, or anger;
loss of energy (fatigue) and motivation most of the day, every day;
loss interest or pleasure in what used to be pleasurable activities;
feeling discouraged, helpless, or hopeless about the future;
significant changes in appetite and/or sleep;
significant weight loss or weight gain;
diminished cognitive processing that impacts memory, concentration, making decisions, thinking, movement, and/or speech;
social withdrawal from friends/family and isolation;
recurring thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide.
Some people are more vulnerable to experiencing depression and its associated challenges. Biological differences, genetics, brain chemistry, hormones, health issues, and substance and alcohol use/misuse can all increase risk. Environmental factors can also exacerbate struggles with depression, which can include personality, sensory sensitivities, accumulated stress, and trauma.
While people who struggle with depression often feel hopeless and helpless, the good news is that depression is treatable. The most effective form of intervention for depression includes medication (to balance your neurochemicals) and/or counselling support (to increase your sense of self-control, self-efficacy, and self-confidence). Counselling can help you:
identify meaningful and realistic goal(s) to work toward;
manage and alleviate negative emotions of despair and emotional suffering;
challenge unhelpful thought patterns that maintain a sense of hopelessness and helplessness (e.g., rigid, global, catastrophic, permanent, internal, avoidant thoughts);
break negative behavior patterns that promote activation, wellness, and connection (e.g., hygiene, eating, sleeping, exercise, meditation, daylight, social connection).
If you struggle with depression, speak with your doctor and/ or a mental health professional to discuss your symptoms and determine an appropriate form of treatment for you. And in the meantime, even if you don't feel like it, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by:
spending time with friends and family;
expressing yourself (e.g., talk to someone you trust, journal, dance);
doing some of the things you used to enjoy;
exercising a little each day (e.g., walk, stretch, yoga);
keeping to a regular sleep schedule;
eating a balanced diet.
- Written by Cynthia Yoo, Registered Psychologist -
My Health Alberta (on depression) offers free health information put together by the Alberta Government and Alberta Health Services (AHS)
Healthline (on depression) provides articles, apps, and podcasts to promote physical and mental health and wellness in the community
National Institute of Mental Health (on depression) promotes the understanding and treatment of mental health illnesses