Understanding Depression

Depression is a common illness that can be overcome

When it comes to understanding the prevalence of depression, the statistics speak for themselves. Experts say that 5% to 12% of all men will experience an episode of major depression at some point in their lives. The statistics are even worse for women, at 10% to 25%. At this very moment, hundreds of thousands of Canadians are suffering from depression. Unfortunately, many of them will never be diagnosed.
A big part of the problem lies with the diagnosis itself. Doctors often don’t detect depression because it’s masked by the more visible problems, like insomnia or weight loss. But in most cases, depression is an illness that can be overcome, and when a person receives the appropriate care, they can go on to lead a happy, normal life.


For the past month or so, Mark has been having a hard time at home and at work. He’s feeling depressed all the time. He says it’s just the winter blues and that it will go away in the spring… he couldn’t possibly have a “mental illness”. Is Mark right or wrong? Should he be more concerned and think about getting help? If he feels a profound loss of interest in his activities and all sense of pleasure has disappeared from his life, then seeking help would definitely be a good idea.
The chart on the back contains a list of symptoms used by professionals to diagnose depression. Overall, it’s important to remember that what characterizes this illness most is a sense of inner distress, a loss of happiness and an absence of hope.
In addition, you can often notice a change in behaviour in someone who’s depressed. Sometimes the person doesn’t even recognize themselves, and feels that they have no control over their life or their emotions. As a result, the person’s self-esteem starts to suffer, leading them to feel ashamed of their “weakness”.


There are many different causes of depression. It may be hereditary, but it can also be related to family patterns, since individuals who grew up around depression are more at risk. Certain personality types, like perfectionists who are naturally too hard on themselves, also have an increased risk of depression. Depression can also be related to specific events in a person’s work or family life, like getting divorced or losing their job.
There are also a number of biological triggers. Certain afflictions, or even childbirth, have a tendency to trigger depression.
This is the basis for the theory that depression is caused by hormonal imbalances in the body. In the case of childbirth, this theory is very true. It’s also true in the case of “seasonal” depression,which some people suffer from in the winter due to longer nights and limited exposure to sunlight.



It’s important to distinguish between bipolar disorder and depression. While the loss of enjoyment experienced with depression is pretty much constant, individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder alternate between episodes of euphoria and depression. Not long ago, this was known as manic-depressive disorder.

Unlike depression, bipolar disorder makes people behave unpredictably. When they’re euphoric, they’re very energetic and enthusiastic. But when they’re depressed, their friends and family often tiptoe around them because they’re sullen, irritable and angry.
Psychotherapy can help people suffering from bipolar disorder accept and adapt to their condition. Unlike depression, however, this illness is primarily related to a chemical imbalance in the body. As a result, the person must take medication on a regular basis, often for the rest of their lives. Individuals suffering from depression, on the other hand, can often talk to their doctor about stopping their medication once they’re feeling better.


One thing is for sure… depression can be overcome. Research and experience have shown that there is light at the end of the tunnel, however long and far away it may seem. It is possible to conquer depression and start enjoying life again.
Getting there, however, requires some effort. So if you think that you or someone you love may be suffering from this illness, the important thing is to do something about it. Studies on the subject have shown that psychotherapy combined with the right medication can have very positive results.
While some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of taking antidepressants,it’s important to note that, in the right context, medication can help significantly in the treatment of depression. By alleviating the negative effects caused by depression, medication makes it easier to treat the person’s reactions to the factors that triggered or precipitated the illness in the first place. In most cases, with the guidance of their doctor, the person can stop taking the medication once they’re feeling better.


Once treatment has begun, how long it takes depends on the severity of the depression and the psychological issues involved. Generally speaking, when someone is suffering from a mild case of major depression, treatment can take up to three months. If the intensity is moderate, it can take four to six months, and for a severe case, six months to several years.
Whatever the situation, it’s important to remain hopeful and to remember that in many cases, individuals who overcome depression are happier than they were before their illness because they have a stronger sense of self-esteem. They’ve also modified their personal values, attached greater importance to life, are often more sensitive to others and have learned to balance the different areas of their life. In short, like any obstacle that’s successfully overcome, conquering depression is an opportunity for growth.


To be diagnosed with depression, a person must experience at leastone of the following symptoms almost every day for at least two weeks.1. Depressed mood almost all the time.2. Pronounced loss of interest or pleasure in all or most of their daily activities.
In addition to these two symptoms, there are seven others as well. In total, five of these symptoms (including at least one of the first two)must be present almost every day in order to constitute depression.3. Significant weight loss or gain without dieting,or decreased appetite.4. Insomnia or hypersomnia.5. A feeling of feverishness, of internal “slowing down” or any other similar feeling.6. Significant fatigue or lack of energy.
7. Feelings of low self-esteem, or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
8. Decreased ability to think, focus, or make decisions.9. Recurring thoughts of death, suicidal ideasor plans to kill oneself.In order to diagnose depression, it’s important to make sure the symptoms aren’t associated with the use of a substance like drugs,alcohol or medication, or attributable to some other cause like arecent bereavement or a physical illness like hyperthyroidism.


This newsletter is part of the Posaction®assistance program for employees and their families. Published by © Solareh 2013. All rights reserved. PE 417