Beyond just “feeling sad”, depression is a serious medical condition that affects many Canadians. Read on to learn more about it, who is at risk, how it can be treated and how you can reduce your risks.

What is depression?

Many people say they feel depressed when they have a rough day or week at work and are feeling unhappy. Everyone feels sad or down at certain times in their life such as a job loss, loss of a loved one or a major traumatic event. For most people this sadness is temporary and the person will start to feel better after a few days.
In about 10-15% of men and 15-25% of women the depressed mood sticks around and does not get better on its own. This can cause major problems with their family and work life. Some may have a condition called clinical depression or major depressive disorder.

What are the symptoms of depression?

People with depression don’t just experience a sad mood. You should let your doctor know if you have any of the following:
  • Depressed mood most of the day and nearly every day
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities, even ones that usually make you happy
  • Weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite
  • Sleeping problems like insomnia or sleeping all the time
  • Slowed thinking, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless or having inappropriate guilt
  • Feeling anxious or agitated
  • Feeling suicidal

How long does depression last?

Depression can be treated for most people. The length a person has depression depends on their willingness to start treatment. A treated person may only feel depressed for 2 to 6 weeks. An untreated person may have the symptoms for 6 to 18 months or longer. The average bout of depression lasts about 5 months.


Will my depression recur?

Unfortunately depression is a recurring condition. About 50% of people diagnosed with depression will have another bout of depression at some point in their life. For this reason people that have recovered from depression should be monitoring themselves for the symptoms of depression. If they start to feel depressed they can talk to their doctor about early treatment to lower the impact of depression on their life.


Are there tests to diagnose depression?

Depression cannot be seen by x-rays or blood tests. Your doctor will diagnose depression based on the symptoms you report.
You can’t self-diagnose depression. If you or a family member is starting to have symptoms of depression you should talk to your doctor. Two questions that experts recommend doctors ask their patients are:
  1. “In the last month, have you been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?”
  2. “In the last month, have you been feeling down, depressed or hopeless?”
If you or a loved one answered yes to either one, you should discuss this with your doctor.


Are some people at higher risk of depression?

Yes. People with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk of becoming depressed. Conditions such as COPD and emphysema, migraine, multiple sclerosis, cancer, back problems, asthma and heart disease all put you at higher risk of depression.


What are the goals of depression treatment?

The target goal for treating depression is a complete elimination of your depression symptoms. Canadian depression experts feel a lowering of depression symptoms is not acceptable because it puts a person at higher risk of relapse and people with a small reduction in symptoms tend to have poorer long-term results.


What treatments are effective for depression?

The treatment of depression usually involves either medications or psychotherapy and counselling. The most effective treatment of depression is actually a combination of counselling and medication.
Some people have strong feelings about different treatment options. Working with your doctor you can help select the treatment that you feel fits best for your condition.


How can I prevent a depression relapse?

About 50% of people who’ve had major depression will have a relapse. You should monitor your mood and report any major changes to your doctor. 
CAMH has some tips to help prevent a relapse:
  1. Educate yourself on depression and treatment
  2. Make a list of warning symptoms and watch to make sure that you still take pleasure out of fun personal activities
  3. Take your medication as prescribed
  4. Adopt a healthy regimen of diet, exercise & sleep.
  5. Avoid negative features of your personality that may lead to depression
  6. Learn to cope with stress
  7. Surround yourself with positive people


Important information

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