Depression Counselling in Vancouver and Burnaby, BC
What is Depression?
Many of us have had our own struggles with Depression, the Blues, troubling mood swings, or any one of many other phrases that seem to describe a pattern of experience associated with this condition. Frequently the symptoms of Depression disorder include a loss of interest in things that used to bring us a great deal of joy, a change in sleep pattern, changes in eating habits, an increasing tendency toward isolation, frequent feelings of being overwhelmed by the world, and many others, including anger.
Anxiety and Depression disorders often operate together in people’s lives. Some people only experience Depression. Others only experience Anxiety. For many others, Depression and Anxiety frequently show up as a team.
Most Common Depression Disorders
There are several different ways to experience depression. While many of us use the phrase “I am depressed” interchangeably with simply feeling ‘down’ or ‘blue’ for a day, this is not typically considered ‘depression’ within the counselling and psychotherapy community. Below you will find an outline of some of the most common depression disorders.
MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
This is one of the most formidable types of depression. It is a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to eat, sleep, and generally enjoy life. People struggling with Major Depressive Disorder will typically report a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, and a general inability to engage with life as they would prefer. It is truly a debilitating disorder which can leave people feeling virtually unable to overcome a sense of inertia. Completing even the smallest of daily tasks becomes a seemingly impossible challenge and people report feeling overwhelmed and often hopeless that they will ever feel better.
The symptoms associated with Major Depressive Disorder must be present for at least two weeks to be considered a true diagnosis. Some people will have only one episode of this type of depression in their lifetime, while many others will experience a recurrence of this extremely troubling and disruptive problem.
Often referred to as Dysthymia, this type of depression can be experienced as a chronic condition lasting two years or more where people feel disconnected from themselves and their lives, for most of the day, every day. While Dysthymic Disorder is considered to be made up of less severe depression symptoms, it can be just as debilitating as Major Depressive Disorder because it wears people down after months and years of struggling to make it through day after day.
People who struggle with Dysthymia are often able to conceal their depression from all but the closest people around them. They manage to get to work almost every day, they keep some social connections, and typically look as though they are doing just fine on the outside. It can be a totally different story when things get quiet and the usual obligations no longer require attention. At times like this, Dysthymia can really take hold. When no one is looking, this type of depression invites people to simply crumble and hide from the outside world, while they summon up the courage to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.
In simple terms, this type of depression is best understood as a milder form of depression that allows people to carry on with their days and their lives, albeit, with a great deal of effort. The symptoms are also more likely to only be present for a few days at a time, even if they may recur several times a month or year.
This type of depression comes in a variety of forms that vary in severity. The most common Postpartum Depression is known as “The Baby Blues” and typically affects new mothers a few days after giving birth. The symptoms may include mood swings, weepiness, and sleep interruptions. Some estimates suggest that at least half of all new mothers will experience some version of The Baby Blues and usually the effects will pass within a few days.
Postpartum Depression is a more severe form of this disorder and may even interfere with a woman’s ability to bond with and care for her child. The symptoms include guilt, anxiety, irritability, and a profound fear of being unable to fully care for her newborn. Postpartum Depression will show up anytime between a few days after birth to six months later. It is very important that support and treatment be sought for new mothers struggling with this type of depression. The sooner that help can be obtained, the less upsetting Postpartum Depression is for mothers, their partners / families, and infants.
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Also referred to as S.A.D., Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that typically shows up in winter when our days are shorter and there is significantly less sunlight present. People struggling with S.A.D. will experience the typical symptoms of depression including a lack of energy / interest for life, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and a general tendency to disconnect from their lives. The Lower Mainland is well known for its long, grey days through the winter. As a result, people in Burnaby and Vancouver can be more affected by this type of depression than many of our Canadian friends and relatives who live in areas where they get more sun through the winter.
DEPRESSION IN TEENS
We continue to learn about the ways that depression can affect teens that look a bit different than depression in adults. While we generally think of depression as quite a passive disorder, in teens, depression can be experienced in other ways.
In teens we still look for changes in appetite, sleep, and general life engagement, but we also watch for increased levels of anger, agitation and risk-taking, as well as significant feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and thoughts of death or suicide. Developmentally, it is typical to see some of these characteristics present at different times in the parent / teen relationship but a significant change in a short period of time should invite consideration of the presence of depression in youth and teens.
WOMEN AND DEPRESSION
The history of depression has seen more women than men diagnosed with depression. There may be physiological reasons for this and there may also be explanations related to some of the socially constructed ideas about our understanding of women’s roles. Whatever the cause, there are some unique ways that women experience depression that are worthy of mention.
Women struggling with depression frequently report struggles with making decisions, an overwhelming sense of emptiness, persistent aches and pains that defy explanation and do not seem to respond to other forms of treatment, as well as other more typical depression symptoms.
Many women will grapple with the symptoms of depression on their own for weeks, months, or years, believing that asking for help will be met with judgment and suggestions that their problems are not serious enough to result in depression. The fear of being considered a failure as a wife or mother will keep women suffering in silence and isolation. In an effort to cope with depression on their own, many women will turn to alcohol or drugs to soothe the pain, thus creating another layer of problem to be managed.
DEPRESSION IN MEN
It is widely considered a sign of weakness in our society for men to ask for help. We also tend to socialize our boys and men to show less emotion than girls and women. As a result, many men suffer depression without ever telling another soul and never asking for help.
Depression in men has some similarities with depression in women. It is not uncommon for men to experience a lack of interest, lack of focus, difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, and decreased enjoyment of activities that previously were enjoyable to them. Men may also experience increased outbursts of anger and irritation, changes in the amount of alcohol consumption, an increased need to control their surroundings, and a tendency to blame others for problems. These are key symptoms and danger signs for men who may be struggling with depression.
DEPRESSION IN OLDER ADULTS
As we age, it is not uncommon for us to struggle with depression. If people have had previous episodes of depression, they are more likely to experience a recurrence. Some older adults will experience depression for the first time as well, due to the unique circumstances of aging.
Older men in our society are often challenged by the transition to retirement from full time work which can provide a sense of purpose and identity that comes from being the breadwinner for family. Moving into retirement and entering into a more ‘senior’ lifestyle is not particularly easy for many men. This may result in a loss of interest in activities that once were enjoyable, increased isolation and alcohol consumption, and a decreased interest in sexual connection with partners. All of these can be signs of depression in older men.
Older women in our society are also vulnerable to depression. Women are traditionally tasked with taking care of families and this can extend into later years in life. The stress of moving from being responsible for raising and launching children, to taking care of older / infirm parents, as well as other family members who may be dealing with terminal or chronic illness can take a toll on women. This may result in the presence of depression in older women.
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
While there is no definitive research to indicate exactly what causes depression in people, there is general agreement that once depression takes hold, there are changes evident in our brains. This means that what people who struggle with depression have felt for years is actually true! We really are NOT responsible for feeling depressed! There really are changes in our brain chemistry that can make it almost impossible to ‘just get on with it’ which is often the advice we receive from people, with the best of intentions, who just don’t know any better.
It is also quite clear that depression runs in families, which leads many people to suggest that there is a genetic link. While this may be true, there is also generous evidence to indicate that depression is quite literally, ‘contagious’ and spending time in close quarters with someone who is depressed will significantly increase the likelihood of depression in others.
WHAT TO DO?
While it may seem inevitable that Depression will sneak up on most of us at some time in our lives, surrendering the best parts of our lives to this challenging disorder is not a given. There are many ways to take an active approach to understanding and treating Depression for ourselves and the people we love.
TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION
There are several proven treatments to help with depression. There is no need to struggle along all alone, hoping that things do not get worse. Help is available and can alleviate symptoms relatively quickly, even if full recovery takes a bit of time, the beginnings of relief are not far away.
Talking to someone is the best first step. There is a good chance that talking to almost anyone about depression will reveal an understanding response, often with a shared story of another experience of depression. Almost all of us have connections with some form of depression or love someone who has struggled with depression. When we begin talking about depression, we learn that we are not alone and that help is out there.
Many medications are available to help treat depression and a conversation with your doctor will allow you to discuss the options. While medication is not necessary to treat most depression, in some cases, it is absolutely essential to starting to get well.
Counselling and, in particular, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, have been proven to be very effective in treating most forms of depression. Some clients prefer to learn ‘skills’ rather than simply take ‘pills’ to deal with depression and the right counselling can definitely make a big difference. In most cases, a counsellor will help to identify problematic patterns in thinking, assist in building new skills, and provide a supportive environment to explore the root of depression. In all cases, a positive relationship with a counsellor, where you feel heard, understood, and accepted will improve how you feel, almost immediately.
Generally speaking, a combination of medication and counselling will result in the best outcomes in the shortest amount of time. Should clients prefer a counselling approach that does not use medication, this is certainly an option that can be discussed with your counsellor and / or your doctor.
Below are some resources that may be helpful in your quest to learn more about depression that may be affecting you or someone you love.
To learn more about resources and support for Depression and Mood disorders, click on the link below:
For general information on Depression click on the link below:
For info on Postpartum Depression you may wish to click the link below: