Depression affects thousands of Canadians of all ages. Would you know how to recognize it if you were afflicted by it?
Depression in a few words
You haven’t been yourself for some time now... Your legendary joie de vivre and your boundless energy seem to have been replaced by a feeling of melancholy and great fatigue. You can’t seem to concentrate or complete your daily tasks like you did before. Have you considered that you may be in a depression?
Depression is under-diagnosed and is all too often under-estimated even though it is quite widespread. It is as common as other serious chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, with reports each year of more than 1 million Canadians who are said to experience what is called a “major depressive episode”.
According to Health Canada, roughly 11% of Canadian men and 16% of Canadian women will suffer from major depression in the course of their lifetime. It affects young people between the ages of 15 and 24 more than people in other age groups. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disease in the world, after cardiovascular disease.
In very simple terms, it can be said that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. When we are depressed, our body and mind send us warning signs to alert us that something is wrong. Listening to these warning signs will allow you to obtain an early diagnosis and implement the appropriate measures to remedy the situation.
The signs and symptoms of depression
Depression should not be confused with having the blues. It is normal to find it difficult to face certain difficulties in our lives or to feel exhausted from time to time. Lethargy, sadness and fatigue are some of the symptoms a person experiences when faced with difficulties such as grieving, job loss, intense stress, etc. The main difference between depression (in terms of a health problem) and having the blues, is the extent and severity of the symptoms.
Here are a few examples of signs and symptoms that may point to depression:
- Sadness and mood swings
- Sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Loss of interest in your favourite activities or just in general
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- A feeling of loss of control or despair, and
- Having negative or suicidal thoughts
If you notice that someone you know is “not quite him/herself”, has unusual or surprising behaviours, withdraws within him/herself or has begun to “let things slide”, is agitated or inattentive, it may be due to depression.
Signs of depression are not always obvious. People sometimes continue to lead what appears to be a normal existence, but inside they are suffering. This is why it is important to be attentive to changes in attitude and behaviour within ourselves and in our loved ones.
The importance of not staying in the shadows
If you think you may be suffering from depression, here are a few tips:
- See a doctor or psychologist promptly. There are many effective treatments available against depression, including medication (antidepressants) and psychotherapy. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you will be treated, which will allow you to reduce the impact of depression on your life and well-being.
- Get as much information as possible on depression and the ways to treat it. This will help you to understand what you are going through and to make informed decisions. You may find some internet sites on the subject useful, such as www.depressionhurts.ca.
- Get help. Depression is not a sign of weakness, but rather a condition that requires medical attention and the support of your family and friends.
- Choose a healthy lifestyle. Reduce your work hours if necessary and avoid unnecessary stress. Be sure to rest, get enough sleep and eat well, as this will help you to quickly get back on your feet again.
For more information on depression and the ways to treat it, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist, who will listen and help you with strict confidentiality.