Depression: Everything You Need to Know

depression: woman lying on bed

It’s one of the biggest challenges that people in modern society face, and yet it’s seen as largely invisible – only in the last few decades has it moved out of the shadows and into the light. Too often, people with depression feel alone and isolated in their struggles – so we’re here to provide professional depression help alongside the information you need to help you or your loved ones feel stronger and more empowered.

Quick Links:

1. WHO Depression Statistics
2. What Depression Looks Like
3. Childhood Depression
4. A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Depression
5. Causes and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults and Seniors
6. Symptoms and Treatment for Postpartum Depression
7. Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression
8. Why Depression Happens and Where It Comes From
9. Are Depression and Anxiety Related?
10. Depression Near Ovulation
11. Will Depression Go Away?

WHO Depression Statistics

Globally, the World Health Organization estimates about 280 million people suffer from a form of depression – roughly one out of every 25 people on the planet. This contributes to over 700,000 suicides each year, and plenty of other associated complications and conditions. So, if anything can be said at all, it’s this: people with depression are definitely not alone. There are many others with similar struggles and insights to share. View the WHO Statistics.

 

What Depression Looks Like

Not only does depression look a little different for everyone, but there are different types of it, manifesting in a variety of ways. For some people, it causes moodiness, irritability, or fatigue. Others experience a loss of appetite or addictive behaviour. Sometimes it is infrequent and episodic, and for others, it is an ongoing condition requiring constant management. 

Much of this depends on age, unique characteristics, and lifestyle. We dive deeper into these later on this page.

 

Childhood Depression: Causes, Signs, and Treatments

As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. If they are going beyond normal feelings of sadness or other negative emotions, depression might be the root cause – after all, it’s more common than you think, with about 4% of kids aged 5-11 struggling with their mental health. You can help by becoming aware of and monitoring their feelings and potential depressive episodes, and taking appropriate actions along the way.

Causes of Childhood Depression

There’s no single cause of childhood depression (or for any other group of people). Here are some of the main influencing factors (you should always get a professional diagnosis, though):

  • Physical health – obesity, diet, sleep, and medical conditions
  • Stress – disruptive life changes or difficulties at school
  • Environment – an abnormal or unstructured home life, or a lack of creative outlets
  • Genetics – children with affected relatives, especially parents, are more likely to develop depressive symptoms
  • Biochemistry – hormones and other chemical imbalances can heavily influence mood and emotions

Signs of Depression in Kids

Periodic sadness or disappointment is a part of growing up. However, if your child is exhibiting some of the warning signs for more than a few weeks, it could be worth getting a professional opinion:

  • Self-harm/self-destructive behaviour
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • No focus on or interest in their surroundings
  • Lack of empathy
  • Constantly tired, tense, or irritable
  • Changes to sleep or eating patterns
  • Doesn’t want to try new things
  • Suicidal thoughts or statements

Treatment for Childhood Depression

Childhood depression can be treated, diminished, and managed in a variety of ways. These will depend entirely on the child being treated and what they respond to, as well as the recommendations of the therapist you see. Some of the most common behavioural therapies we use are: 

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Read our dedicated full blog post on Childhood Depression’s Causes, Signs, and Treatments.

 

A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Depression

Teenagers can get a bad reputation – they’re stuck between childhood and adulthood, struggling to find their own identity, while dealing with hormone swings and heavy peer pressure. It’s no wonder that a large number of teenagers fall into depression as a result.

Is Teenage Depression Common?

About one in five teens experience depression, but even more concerning, less than a third of those affected seek out treatment. Contributing factors play a bigger role here, too, such as:

  • Chronic diseases
  • Minority status (often tied to less affluence, a broad contributing factor to depression)
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Substance abuse and addictions
  • Past trauma
  • Gender (the risk of depression is doubled for women)

What Makes a Teenager Depressed?

We can’t really say what causes teenagers to become depressed – there isn’t even a single cause to identify. Studies have found that teenagers’ brains are different enough from adults’ that the same initial conditions can have different outcomes and influences. The biggest contributing factors are almost always:

  • Traumatic childhood experiences, like abuse or a major family death
  • Genetics – children of depressed parents are more likely to be depressed
  • Poor emotional intelligence, as healthy emotional outlets are crucial to proper self-management

Signs of A Depressed Teenager

The trope of the moody teenager can cloud our judgment when it comes to noticing the signs of depression. If the following symptoms are constant for weeks at a time or more, consider a professional diagnosis:

  • Incessant angry or sad feelings
  • Hostility or irritability that’s out of character
  • No interest in usual activities or academics
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Lack of motivation, focus, or self-confidence
  • Physical fatigue or pain
  • Suicidal thoughts

H4: Seasonal Affective Disorder

At Calgary’s latitude, the changing seasons can have an emotional toll, with a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you notice an annual pattern in your teen’s behaviour, this could be the reason why.

How to Deal with Teen Depression

Teenage depression can manifest in some very negative ways, like self-harm, drug use, or reckless behaviour. Having proper emotional outlets is vital to seeing them through the fog of depressive episodes.

As parents, trying to smother your child and “force” better behaviour will likely just push them away. Respect their space and individuality, but encourage things like:

  • Exercise
  • Proper sleep
  • A good diet
  • Personal boundaries and space
  • The option of professional or medical treatment
  • Talking whenever they are ready to

do depressed teenagers recover?

It will, but not on its own. Depression is a genuine medical condition that requires time, the right treatment, and a lot of patience. Providing a stable foundation for your teenager to grow and flourish is the first step in a lifelong journey – but the sooner they are on that road, the easier it is to walk.

Read our full dedicated blog post A Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression.

 

Causes and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults and Seniors

Depression and its many forms can affect people of any age, even later in life. In fact, in seniors it is often overlooked or minimized as a natural part of aging – a decline in mental health along with physical abilities. As with other demographics, known the signs and possible treatments can go a long way in restoring quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Seniors

Identifying depression in seniors can be tricky, because many of its most common symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as dementia. As a general rule, some of the usual signs of depression for the elderly are things like sadness and anxiety, fatigue, a change in sleep patterns, irritability, lack of focus, change in appetite or weight, and a sense of despair that leads to frequent tears. 

What Causes Depression in Seniors?

Depression in older adults is generally less attributable to brain chemistry and stress. More commonly, it occurs as family and friends pass away, or accompanies a big life change like loss of mobility or moving away from a long-time home. Genetics, past trauma, and rapid shifts in routines can compound and create runaway depressive feelings.

Caring for a depressed Senior

Imagine you are feeling sad and lonely – how would you want someone to care for you? Those ideas can help guide you with an elder family member or friend:

  • Spend time with them, socialize, and let them know they are not alone
  • Ask about how they feel, but don’t pry if they are not comfortable
  • Recognize when they would benefit from professional help, and recommend counselling, therapies, or other strategies to improve mental health

Read our full dedicated blog post on the topic of the causes and symptoms of depression in seniors.

 

Symptoms and Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Having a child is a huge lifestyle change and adjustment – and that’s before the full effects of hormones and stress set in. New parents often feel incredibly burned out, trying to juggle their previous lives with their new roles and responsibilities. As a result, postpartum depression can easily take hold. Studies show that anywhere from 10-20% of women, and even up to 10% of men, suffer from it in some way.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

The term “baby blues” sounds playful, but it’s a phrase born out of the real symptoms of moodiness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany a new child. Clinical postpartum depression goes a step further, with parents experiencing:

  • Mood swings or negative moods
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Severe anxiety, panic, manic behaviour, bouts of crying, or anger
  • Ongoing sadness, hopelessness, shame, or guilt about not being a good parent
  • Trouble bonding to your baby or other family and friends
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Lack of concentration or decisiveness
  • Apathy in usually enjoyable activities
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Who is Affected by Postpartum Depression?

Did you know that fathers and adoptive parents can experience postpartum depressive symptoms, too? It’s not just a hormone imbalance – the CMHA has identified other causes like genetics, personality, and environment as factors as well. 

Treating Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression, like any other type, is manageable with the right course of action and treatments. Taking the right steps toward this is important to restore and grow a healthy family dynamic.

The primary treatments for postpartum depression are medication (such as anti-depressants) and counselling, like cognitive-behavioural therapy. For mothers who are breastfeeding, this makes an attractive alternative to pharmaceutical treatment.

Read our full blog post on the symptoms and treatment for postpartum depression.

 

Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression

When is it depression, and when is it just a bad week? Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. However, a clinical diagnosis is a mood disorder that affects your thinking on an ongoing basis, so knowing if it’s affecting you can be crucial to your quality of life. 

How Being Depressed Feels

The answer to this is different for everyone, but perhaps a good place to start is unstoppable. Heavy. Constant. People with depression can’t choose to stop, or just “get over it”. Fresh air and tough love are not cures for it. For many people, it’s an unending feeling of flatness and a total lack of joy – nothing is that interesting, exciting, or worth doing.

Symptoms to watch for

The usual symptoms of depression vary by age – for example, young kids might be extra clingy or avoid school – but often, these are what to look out for:

  • Constant feelings of helplessness, sadness or emptiness
  • No interest in usual activities
  • Change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Irritability, frustration, angry outbursts, or negative thoughts and self-criticism
  • Exhaustion, restlessness, or anxiety
  • Physical symptoms including headaches and back pain

Causes of Depression

Why does depression happen? Where does it come from? This is a question that scientists have been studying for a long time. The following factors combine differently for everyone to form the root causes:

  • Biology – physical differences in brain structure
  • Chemistry – the interaction of neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Hormones – major life changes (puberty, pregnancy, etc.) often cause hormonal shifts
  • Genetics – family history of depression

How to Treat A Depressed person

There is no magic cure, but it is treatable and usually rather manageable through therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of them all. Only a professional can accurately recommend the best course of action for someone with depression, so consult a therapist or psychologist to discover what’s best for you.

In general, things like exercising, eating a good diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding intoxicants and stressors is a good start. Plus, these have health benefits beyond mitigating depression. After that, therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can help individuals find a better way forward. Medication may be appropriate (e.g., anti-depressants) if psychotherapies are unable to address the root causes.

Read our full blog post on Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression.

 

Why Depression Happens & Where It Comes From

Depression is a direct result of processes and patterns in the brain, and how a person interprets the outside world. It is often beyond their control to improve how they think, which is why professional assistance can be so helpful.

Originating deep in the brain, depression can be linked to multiple areas of behaviour, emotional regulation, and memory. 

For more, read our full targeted blog post on Why Depression Happens.

How being depressed Affects Your Brain

Depression doesn’t just manifest as behavioural shifts – it can also physically affect the brain itself. The science is far from finished, but studies show that there may be a shrinkage of particular brain areas: grey matter volume, the hippocampus (affecting learning, memory, and emotions), and the prefrontal cortex (affecting high-level thinking and future planning). The amygdala, which controls strong emotions and memories, can also be affected in different ways.

 

Are Depression and Anxiety Related?

Major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder often present together, both belonging to the category of internalizing disorders. They can play off each other, exacerbating symptoms and making recovery and treatment more difficult for both. With that said, they are not quite the same thing. It’s possible to have one without the other, but the sheer number of different variations makes a substantial overlap. Here is a useful article explaining some more of the differences involved.

 

Depression Near Ovulation

The menstrual cycle has plenty of hormonal shifts involved and feeling depressive symptoms around the time of ovulation is fairly common. For most people, these disappear after a few days, even if they are a bit unpredictable. 

Usual symptoms include irritability, anxiety, mood swings, persistent feelings of sadness or the urge to cry, and difficulty concentrating on the task at hand. If this sounds like you, don’t worry – you’re not alone! You can read more about the phenomenon of menstrual depression here.

 

Will Depression Go Away?

This is a question with as many answers as there are people in the world. Treatment and a higher quality of life are very dependent on individual circumstances. However, we can confidently say that with the many therapies and breakthroughs in the field over the last few decades, depression has never been more manageable.

It will take time and patience, as well as consistent effort and a commitment to seeing treatment through to the end, but depression can become a footnote rather than a defining part of your personality. 

Step one, though, is as simple as reaching out to a professional to get you started on the path to a better life. 

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