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.