Dealing with Depression

Canadian Mental Health Association reports approximately 8% of adult Canadians will experience major depression at some point in their lives.

Stigma attached to mental illness presents as a serious barrier preventing people from seeking assistance.

Everyone goes through periods in their adult life when they feel “down.”  Sometimes we refer to this as being depressed.  Negative thoughts or a depressive mood often leaves us feeling poorly along with a sense of vulnerability.  When experiencing depression, our negative thoughts can become amplified.  When we are feeling confident, we are more effective at deflecting these thoughts and carrying on with our life.  However, if unfavourable situations begin to accumulate, it becomes more difficult to overcome negative thoughts, our sense of self becomes “bruised”, and we begin to evaluate ourselves in a different manner such as: I’m a loser, I’m worthless, etc.  Feelings of hopelessness begin to creep into our life.

A person dealing with depression walking in the rain

Depression is different from normal sadness.  Its signs and symptoms can vary from person to person.  Mood impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others.  And in fact it impacts how we interact with the world around us.  Depression can make it difficult to focus or to remember information, causing serious difficulties at work, in a relationship or at school.  When experiencing depression, it can be hard to concentrate, to learn new things or to make a decision.  Sleep can also be affected.  Some people find it difficult to sleep, and others can’t get out of bed.  Depression varies from person to person, interfering with our work, sleep, eating, study or having fun.  Feelings of dropping into a black hole or of impending doom are often expressed by someone experiencing depression.  The entire body is affected not just the mind. Body aches,headaches and fatigue are common occurances.  It may seem impossible to do everyday things.  For example, a person experiencing depression may not care or feel too tired to take a shower.

Experts believe that depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.  If this is so, then your lifestyle choices, relationships and coping skills along with genetics are factors in the equation.  Studies show that certain risk factors can make a person more vulnerable to depression.

Person experiencing loneliness huddled in a window

Some causes and risk factors for depression can be:

  • Loneliness
  • Lack of social support
  • Recent stressful life experience
  • Family history of depression
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Financial strain
  • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • Alcohol /drug abuse
  • Unemployment  or underemployment
  • Health problems or chronic pain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it does not mean you are weak.  It may leave you feeling overwhelmed. But remember, feeling hopeless is a sign of the depression and not the reality of your situation!  The key to recovery is to start by making small changes. This could be making sure you have three meals a day and going to bed at the same time each evening.  Be careful not to get your days and nights mixed up, like staying up very late and sleeping most of the day.  Set a reasonable bedtime and stick to it, and do the same with the time you get up in the morning. Isolation fuels depression, so it is important to stay connected to a person or persons who can be of support.  In addition, seeking professional help may speed up your recovery.  There are many effective treatments for depression.  Learning about your options will help you decide what measures work the best for your particular situation.

Support is available. The Crisis Line 1.888.494.3888

Joyce Barwis is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in Victoria, BC.  Joyce maintains a private practice at the Vancouver Island Naturopathic and Integrated Health Clinic.  If you need help dealing with depression give Joyce a call at 250.881.1806.