Depression

Depression is the second-most common mental health condition, affecting between 6-10% of the general population at any one time, and is perhaps the most misunderstood.  A person might refer to themselves as “depressed” if they are feeling “bummed”, whereas another may be depressed to the point of being unable to eat, sleep, go to work or socialize.  Complicating matters, there are different degrees of depression, different types of depression and symptoms also vary from person to person.

Regardless, there are some telltale signs and symptoms that indicate that you may be depressed:

  • Low mood or lack of interest or pleasure in most things, consistently for most of the day for at least two weeks.  Others may experience this as irritability, feeling “flat,” “empty,” “uninterested,” “really down,” “totally sad”, “irritable… everything sets me off”
  • Low energy
  • Sleeping too little (insomnia) or too much (hypersomnia)
  • Feeling agitated mentally (anxiety) or physically (pacing, unable to keep still)
  • Feeling slowed down mentally or physically
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Poor appetite or significant weight loss
  • Increased appetite or noticeable weight gain
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Excessive worry; dwelling on negative thoughts
  • Periods of crying, sometimes for seemingly “no reason”
  • In rare cases, a person may hear voices that feel like they are coming from outside their head, often making negative comments about them, or commanding them to do something. Hearing voices, particularly voices telling you to harm yourself or someone else, is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 or proceed to your hospital emergency department now.
  • Having suicidal thoughts either with or without a suicide plan

The presence of suicidal thoughts or feelings is serious and requires immediate help.  If you are in British Columbia, call 1-800-SUICIDE, available 24/7. A trained suicide response worker will help assess your risk and link you with the appropriate help.  Calls from concerned family members or friends are also welcome. Elsewhere, contact your local distress line.

Click here to download a copy of a depression checklist that you can complete and show to your physical or other mental health professional.

Causes and Contributing Factors

To date, no research has been able to definitively identify a single cause of depression.  The way that depression manifests varies, as does the characteristics of those who are afflicted, leading to a complex mix of factors.  What can be said is that biological, genetic, social and psychological factors all seem to play a role.  Some believe in the “stress-diathesis” model, which suggests that some human beings are biologically pre-programmed towards depression, but that a stressful event, or combination of triggers is what “activates” the person’s biology and triggers a depressive episode.

Most of us know depressed people who come from a long line of depressed family members, others know of people who have become clinically depressed following a divorce, restructuring at work or physical health problems.  Research also has been demonstrating that the experience of trauma, especially in the first few years of life, produces structural changes in the brain that increase vulnerability to depression.

Help and Treatment

When you’re depressed it can seem almost impossible to imagine that something can be done to help you. Depression by its very nature is isolating, or what is sometimes referred to as “the dark night of the soul.” Over the years I have seen and helped many people recover from depression, including severe depressive episodes. If you would like to take the first step and start your healing journey, I invite you to contact me today. Or, learn more about my approach for helping with depression as well as other available treatment methods.  I also invite you to check out my tips for helping with depression.

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Depression Tips

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Recommended Books

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns (2008)

In reprint since 1980, this book helps the reader to identify and combat negative thought patterns that ultimately lower mood. This book introduced the public to the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Women’s Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, The Brain and Emotional Health by Deborah Sichel and Jeanne Watson Driscoll (1999)

Although two decades old, this oft-quoted book covers a lot of ground by understanding women’s moods across the life cycle. The authors also introduce readers to their self-care mood management program.

The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood: Coping With Stress, Depression and Burnout by Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett (2001)

Also includes chapters on childbearing loss and raising children with disabilities.

Your Depression Map: Find the Source of Your Depression and Chart Your Own Recovery by Randy Patterson (2002)

Randy Patterson, a Vancouver psychologist, shows how to map a picture of your own unique depression and take steps to treat it.

Resources

Bounce Back Program

Telephone coaching for people with mild-moderate depression with or without accompanying anxiety. Coaching available in English, Cantonese, French and Punjabi. Family doctor’s referral required to access this program. Free.

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC

For help in locating a family doctor in BC.

Alcohol Reality Check

Concerned about your drinking? Confidential and anonymous online assessment tool developed at the University of Victoria.

Mood Gym

Online self-help program for depression and anxiety, using cognitive behavioural principles (CBT).

Relaxation Audio Download

From the people at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA).

Canadian Mental Health Association

604-872-4902
National organization promoting mental health for all.

Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre (AAC)

604-675-3700 – Joseph and Rosalie Segal Centre, Vancouver Hospital, Level 1, East Entrance

24/7 phone, walk-in and outreach support for urgent, non life-threatening mental health and addictions issues.

Here to Help

BC-based website offering comprehensive information on a wealth of mental health conditions and addictions concerns.

1-800-SUICIDE

24-7 crisis service for anyone that is suicidal, thinking about suicide or for concerned friends/family. BC-wide service.

SAFER, Vancouver Coastal Health

604-875-4794
Works to reduce suicide risk among those in crisis, to assist family & friends who care about them and promote healing for those bereaved by suicide.

Coping With Suicidal Thoughts

Self-help guide (pdf). Not intended to replace professional help.

Antidepressant Skills Workbook

Free self-care manual for depression, available in several languages. Persons with major depression should also seek help from a physician and/or professional counselling.

Mood Disorders Association of BC

604-873-0103
 – Support groups, education, info and referral to people living with depression or bipolar disorder and their supporters. The MDA also has a counselling clinic.