Depression is a condition that can have profound and lasting symptoms. These often interfere with a person's day-to-day routine. Depression is the most common mental health issue in the world.
Certain criteria are used to identify depression. At least 5 of these criteria must be present almost every day for at least 2 weeks:
- Depressed or sad mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Change in appetite or weight
- Sleep problems (having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much)
- Agitation or slowed movements or thinking
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts
Some people may experience other symptoms, such as irritability, memory problems, or feelings of hopelessness. Others may complain of physical symptoms such as headaches or pain.
There are different forms of depression. Some forms occur only at certain times. Two examples are postpartum depression, which can occur after childbirth, and seasonal affective disorder, which is related to changes in the season.
Causes and triggers
Depression can be caused by a number of factors, including the following:
- Changes in brain structure and functioning (e.g., a chemical imbalance in the brain)
- Difficult life events (e.g., bereavement, job loss)
- How we perceive the world around us
Some people are at greater risk of developing depression. This includes individuals with any of the following:
- A personal or family history of depression
- A tendency to worry excessively
- Low self-esteem
- An anxiety disorder
- An addiction to drugs or alcohol
- A history of trauma
- Health problems
- A lack of social support
- A low level of education
However, it's important to remember that no one is immune to depression.
Certain lifestyle changes can help improve depression symptoms or prevent the condition altogether. Here are some examples:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Doing outdoor activities to spend time in the sun
- Establishing a daily routine and good sleep habits
- Keeping in touch with loved ones
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding alcohol, which can exacerbate symptoms
If you think you may be suffering from depression, please speak to your health care provider. They may need to assess your symptoms in order to suggest the right treatment for your situation. They may suggest taking medication, such as an antidepressant, or starting psychotherapy.
When should I see a health care professional?
Speak with your health care provider in the following cases:
- You have symptoms of depression
- You or someone close to you is feeling hopeless or thinking about suicide
You can also get help by calling the Talk Suicide Canada helpline at 1-833-456-4566 (1-833-277-3553 for residents of Quebec). If you or someone else is in danger, call 911.