The term depression is very common and can cover a wide range of symptoms and feelings. It generally refers to feeling very down or very sad without hope of feeling better for longer than two weeks.
Depression can be a reaction to life’s stressors, like a traumatic event or a loss of someone close to you. It can also be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain – or it can be a combination of both, or neither.
Depression can occur gradually over time. At times the signs of depression are sometimes ignored, denied or mistakenly seen as a typical part of growing up. People can see the young person as having so many positives, it is hard to believe they might be depressed.
At times, we don’t want others to know that something might be wrong with us. We might feel others have their own problems and don’t want to be a burden or a worry to them so we hide what we’re feeling and act to convince others nothing is wrong.
Although others may tell you there’s no problem, you know yourself better than anyone else. If you have a sense that something is not quite right, there is help for you.
Recovering from Depression
Research has advanced the treatment of depression a great deal in recent years and treatment can be tailored to your particular diagnosis and situation.
With help from a mental health professional, and support from family and friends, problems with depression are treatable, and recovery is possible.
You can think of recovery as part of a personal journey to feel a degree of control over your life, and to have meaningful relationships with people you trust – whether they are family members, friends, or people at school or work.
Recovery also means different things to each person. For some, recovery means that symptoms do not persist, while for others, recovery means learning to live a full life despite any ongoing symptoms.
Signs of Depression
Have any of the following symptoms been bothering you in the last two weeks to the point of interfering with your everyday life?
(They might not be present all the time and this list should not be used to diagnose yourself or someone else. If you think you may be experiencing a mental illness see your doctor.)
Depressed thoughts and feelings:
- Persistent feelings of unhappiness or emptiness
- Dark and gloomy thoughts
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Feeling numb or empty
- Feeling irritable and angry even over small matters
- Thinking that you are worthless or a failure or criticizing and blaming yourself
- Unable to concentrate
- Finding it very difficult to make decisions
- Finding you can’t get motivated to do things
- Loss of interest or pleasure in one’s activities
- Crying a lot
- Drop in performance at school or work
- Not wanting to be with friends and withdrawing from activities
- Being grumpy and irritable with family and friends
- Problems sleeping or staying in bed all day long
- Big changes in weight or appetite
- Stomach or digestion problems
- Tired all the time and have no energy
- Feeling restless
Do you experience any of these signs and symptoms on a regular basis? Take the Depression self check and find out more.
Seek help right away if you are experiencing the following:
- Have suicidal thoughts or behaviours
- Have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with depression
- Think your depression could be linked to a physical health problem
- Are experiencing prolonged trouble sleeping
- Normal stresses of life do not explain the symptoms
Taking care of yourself is a good place to start when dealing with depression.
Self-care techniques actually help alleviate the symptoms of depression – just keep in mind these may need to be used in conjunction with professional help such as medication and counselling:
- Talk to someone you trust – Talking to someone may help you to feel supported and help you figure out what next steps might be best for your particular situation.
- Explore the link between depression and drug and alcohol use to find out if this applies to your situation. Drug and alcohol use have been shown to actually increase depressive feelings, rather than help the user cope with them.
- Increase your knowledge and use of healthy living, such as eating a healthy diet, improving your sleep habits and trying to get some exercise into your day. The symptoms of depression tend to crowd out activities that are healthy and even fun – see if you can either start some healthy habits or get back to a healthier lifestyle.
- Ask a friend to participate in activities with you. Friends often want to find ways to help each other, but often don’t know how. If you ask, chances are a friend will be happy to go with you when needed.
- Try to take part in some healthy activities.
- Make a list of things you can do by yourself that are positive and easy, like taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, writing your feelings down in a journal or as a poem or story, arts and crafts or watching an uplifting or funny movie. When you find yourself with nothing to do, try something from your list.
- Remember you are not alone. There are stories of others recovering from depression online – check out some of the site recommendations in Links and Resources for good ones. You might find some inspiration and tips from those who’ve been there.
- Get organized, clean out your closet, organize your space and keep it tidy. This has positive effects on mood and the ability to set goals and focus.
- Keep your appointments. Another side effect of depression can be a tendency to quit going when you need to keep at it.
- If you aren’t connecting with the helping professional you have been seeing, try to find another. This can be as simple as trying another agency or resource in your community.
More help online
Credible self-care websites can help you learn about ways to help yourself or connect with others who may be experiencing similar feelings. Self-care has been shown to work for many people, it might work for your situation too.
Check out the “Links and Resources” section for more information.