Depression is one of the most common conditions that psychologists see in private practice. National estimates suggest that 5-7% of Canadians will be diagnosed with depression each year while another 10% are likely to experience some symptoms of depression.

What is depression and how is it different from normal sadness or loneliness?

Everyone feels lonely or sad sometimes but not everyone with depression feels sad all the time. Many people are surprised by this statement. Although ongoing feelings of sadness are certainly one symptom of depression, not everyone experiences this particular symptom. Furthermore, when someone with depression does feel sad, their sadness is not a temporary state the way it is for others. Sadness in the context of depression does not occur in response to one particular event or cue and continues on for many days, weeks, or even months. Here are some additional symptoms of depression that as a psychologist, I often hear clients describe.

Flat mood or loss of interest or pleasure

“I feel empty, like something is missing. Everything feels blah.”

“I don’t feel like doing anything, even things I used to get excited about.”

“I cry all the time, sometimes for no reason.”

“I feel numb, like I can’t get excited about anything anymore.”

Low energy

“I don’t have the energy to do anything.”

“My body feels heavy, like I’m moving through mud all day.”

“No amount of sleep leaves me feeling refreshed.”

Sleep difficulties

“I have trouble falling asleep and sometimes toss and turn for hours.”

“I wake up in the middle of the night repeatedly.”

“I fall asleep ok but then wake up at 4:00am and can’t get back to sleep.”

“It seems like all I do is sleep these days, many more hours than is normal for me, but never feel refreshed.”

Changes in eating

“I have no appetite and sometimes have to force myself to eat even though the thought can make me sick.”

“I eat way too much. I know I’m not really hungry but I can’t seem to stop.”

Problems with concentration and memory

“I find myself having to re-read the same paragraph over and over again because I just can’t remember what I’ve read.”

“I’m having difficulty making even the simplest decisions these days.”

Irritability

“I get annoyed or irritated over everything these days which is not normally like me.”

“I find myself yelling at my kids all the time and then feel bad after.”

Other symptoms include:  loss of sex drive, increased amount of aches and pains, and social withdrawal.  Feeling hopeless about one’s situation and experiencing higher than usual amount of guilt or worthlessness is also common. Finally, thoughts of suicide can also occur in more serious cases of depression. If your thoughts of death become persistent or you feel at risk for hurting yourself, immediate medical attention may be necessary. Calling a crisis line or visiting your local hospital’s emergency room will provide you with access to immediate care.

How can therapy help?

Whether you experience one, some, or all of the symptoms described above, a psychologist providing psychotherapy may help. Here are some of the benefits of treatment:

  • Understand the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that contribute to the depressed state
  • Identify problematic relationship dynamics that can lead to or exacerbate depression
  • Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life
  • Identify learned behaviours that may precipitate or exacerbate depression
  • Learn better coping techniques and problem-solving skills

In addition, psychotherapy has an actual physiological impact on brain activity. Researchers have suggested that this is because psychotherapy is a form of learning, which has been shown to create lasting changes on the brain. There is also new research that suggests that ongoing psychotherapy for depression may lessen the chances of future depression or reduce its intensity. Given that having one episode increases the risk of having another episode, this is an important benefit of treatment.

Dr. Patricia Doris, Psychologist, London Ontario would be happy to speak with you if you have any of the above symptoms or concerns.   You can contact our office by phone or email to schedule an initial appointment with either Dr. Doris or one of her associates.