Mental Health
June 16, 2017


by: Ellica Matthews

Counsellor, Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre

Depression is a word that we are all too familiar with, as many of us have used it one time or another. We may find ourselves in a sad state, because something did not go the way we wanted it to. For example, ‘not getting the “A” we studied so hard for’ or ‘my bf just left me and I feel so alone’ and sitting by oneself, in a sad mood, we may utter, “I am depressed.” This, however, is not what defines depression. Depression is distinguished by a depressed mood, or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. This state must last for more than two weeks, with a mood that represents a change from the person’s baseline behaviour. It may impair function in social, occupational, educational and other areas.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a person must have at least five of the following symptoms for over a period of two weeks and it must interfere with one’s level of functioning in some way. Behavioural symptoms of depression include: depressed mood; loss of appetite; diminished interest in or enjoyment of activities; psychomotor agitation or retardation; sleeplessness or hyperinsomnia; lack of energy; poor concentration and indecisiveness; social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts and/or gestures; feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or inappropriate guilt; low self-esteem; unresolved grief issues; or mood-related hallucinations or delusions.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you from leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal, or simply give up the will to live. Depression can often come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people try to cope with their symptoms without realizing they’re unwell. It can sometimes take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.

Common signs and symptoms of depression in children and teenagers are similar to those of adults, but there can be some differences.

∑ In younger children, symptoms of depression may include sadness, irritability, clinginess, worry, aches and pains, refusing to go to school, or being underweight.

∑ In teens, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, using drugs or alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, loss of interest in normal activities, and avoidance of social interaction.

In addition, depression is not a normal part of growing older and it should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated in older/geriatric adults, and they may feel reluctant to seek help.

Also, keep in mind: a large number of substances of abuse, some prescribed medication and several medical conditions can be associated with depression-like symptoms. Depression in itself may be a symptom of a larger problem.