Depression is Treatable…
Everyone feels sad occasionally; it is an unavoidable part of being human. However,
when these feelings of sadness lead to symptoms that include changes in sleep, appetite,
energy and difficulty in concentrating and making decisions, it is time to seek help.
According to a Toronto-based study, the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry reports that more
than 1 out of 10 people aged 26 to 35 years old have suffered from major depression.
Though depression can affect all people, it tends to be twice as common in women than
in men. It is believed that a variety of causes are responsible for the onset of
depression. They include predisposing genetic factors, life events, psychological stress
and physical ailments. Many people find it difficult to think of depression as an illness
because there may be no obvious physical symptoms. But depression is an illness, which is
caused by chemical changes in the brain. Clinical depression can affect your thoughts,
feelings, behaviour and overall health. The very nature of depression can interfere with
a person’s ability to get help. It saps energy and self-esteem and makes a person feel
tired, worthless, helpless and hopeless. The good news is that with proper treatment,
nearly 80% of those with depression can significantly improve how they feel, thus
lowering the impact of depression on their lives.
Depression can manifest differently in children and adults simply because of lifestyle
differences. In teenagers, depression often materializes in the form of school problems,
their relationships with their family and friends, alcohol or drug use and sex.
Approximately 4 out of 100 teenagers get seriously depressed each year. Most teenagers
with depression can be helped with treatment. However, many children do not get the help
that they need. When depression is not treated, it can get worse, last longer and prevent
you from enjoying life. Getting help means talking about feelings with a trained
counsellor who can help change the relationships, thoughts or behaviours that are causing
Recognizing depression is the first step in treating it. It is important to remind
those who are depressed that with time and help, he or she will feel better.
How Do You Know If You Have Depression?
Take the following quiz to see if you may be depressed. To meet the criteria, five (or
more) of the following symptoms must have been present during the same 2-week period and
represent a change from previous functioning….
Challenging Negative Feelings
When a person is suffering from depression, the thoughts that are often racing through
their mind are negative, self-critical and/or hopeless. Through cognitive-behavioural
therapy, the patient learns to recognize their negative thoughts and then make a
conscious decision to change them. Such thoughts are often stopped with the use of
“self-talk” and with the challenging of negative feelings and beliefs. These strategies
will help a person to gain objectivity and to react less seriously to their thoughts.
Negative self-talk perpetuates feelings of despair and low self-esteem. It is
important to challenge beliefs by focusing on self-talk…
- Train yourself to recognize self-critical thoughts and record them in a daily
record. In other words, ask yourself what thoughts are going through your head and
write them down.
- Develop and record a more positive and realistic thought; one that negates the
negative thought and nurtures a healthier system of self-evaluation.
Example: You are late for a meeting and have a negative thought such as “I can never
do anything right.” Recognize that the thought is an overgeneralization and that you are
able to do some things right…write down those things no matter how small they may
Myths About Depression
Because Depression is often misunderstood, there are many myths surrounding this
illness. Many of these will sound familiar…
“What’s he/she got to be depressed about? They have a great job and a wonderful
spouse. Their life is a lot easier than mine.” Because depression is an illness, it
can affect anyone, no matter how great their life seems to be.
“If he gets out more, soon he’ll be feeling better about life.” Most people who
are depressed just can’t enjoy the activities that used to make them happy. It is likely
that without treatment, getting out more will not have the desired or expected
“Depression is a sign of weakness. If she really wanted to, she could pull herself out
of this.” Because depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, it is
unlikely that someone will simply “pull themselves out of it.” Medications and other
therapies are usually needed.
“The best thing is not to ask them about the depression. That will only make it
worse.” When people are depressed, support and good listening can be very helpful. If
depression is ignored, it may make the individual withdraw and they may feel ashamed of
How Can Counselling Help?
Depression can be treated with the use of medication, specifically antidepressants
(e.g. SSRIs), as well as with cognitive-behavioural therapy. Most people with depression
can be helped with counselling. Having depression does not mean that a person is weak, is
a failure, or isn’t really trying…it means they need treatment.
With cognitive behavioural therapy, the patient learns to identify negative thoughts
and behaviours and realizes that typically, they do not accurately reflect their life
situation. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect and depressed
feelings are replaced with more positive ones.
The following is a list of resources available to help those with depression. For more
information and to take a depression self test, refer to www.psychcanada.com.
- Feeling Good- The New Mood Therapy
David D. Burns, M.D.
- The Feeling Good Handbook
David D. Burns, M.D.
- Postpartum Depression: Every Women’s Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment &
Sharon L. Roan
- The Road Less Travelled
M. Scott Peck
- Women And Sadness: A Sane Approach to Depression
- Learned Optimism
Martin E.P Seligman Ph.D.
Depression can be difficult to understand. However, when diagnosed correctly,
depression is treatable. With the right use of medications and/or therapy, depression can
be managed and in a large majority of patients, can be eliminated altogether in just a
matter of weeks.