Counselling for Depression

Seeking out counselling for depresssion can be very helpful.

Depression is a term used by many people for periods when we feel sad, down, or “blue”. But when these emotions last for longer than a few weeks and start to interfere with other aspects of a person’s life, it could signal what is commonly called “clinical depression”. It can affect all areas of life – health, relationships, work and sleep. Often people will describe a long lasting feeling of not being interested in things, including activities that once brought them joy. When that occurs, it is beyond a simple matter of “just cheering up” or getting more exercise or taking a vacation. It requires professional help. It you or someone you know is experiencing depression, they should first see their physician.

Dysthymia

Dysthymia is a chronic condition with low or dark moods that can last two years or more. People with dysthymia will often take a negative or discouraging view of themselves, their future, other people, and life events. Problems often seem more difficult to solve. It can be very debilitating and interfere with employment and family life. Sometimes people with Dysthymia successfully hide their depression from friends and co-workers and “hold it together” only to “fall apart” and hide when alone.

Many people with dysthymia have a long-term medical problem or problems such as anxiety, alcohol abuse, or drug addiction. Most people with dysthymia will also have an episode of major depression at some point in their lives.

Postpartum Depression

Many women experience “baby blues”, often described as a roller coaster of moods beginning 1 to 3 days after having a baby. Symptoms can last several weeks and can include uncontrollable weeping, lack of sleep, and irritability. It is estimated 50% to 80% of women have some of these symptoms. The term “Postpartum Depression” is used to describe a condition much more serious than the blues described above. Women describe feeling despondent, guilty, out of control, and being profoundly fearful and unable to care for their 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. Women and their families who are concerned about postpartum depression are encouraged to see their doctor or talk to their local public health nurse. Postpartum psychosis is a relatively rare disorder. The symptoms include extreme confusion, fatigue, agitation, alterations in mood, feelings of hopelessness and shame, hallucinations and rapid speech or mania. Studies indicate that it affects only one in 1000 births. Women experiencing these symptoms need medical attention as soon as possible.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Also referred to as S.A.D., Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that typically shows up in northern areas in winter when days are shorter and there is significantly less sunlight. Typical symptoms include low energy and a lack of enthusiasm for life, changes in appetite and poor sleep. People living on the West Coast of Canada are particularly more at risk than other areas due to the long grey winter with over cast skies.

Women and Depression

Women are more prone to episodes of depression than men. The reasons are complex – it can be related to the effects of the reproductive hormones, the societal expectations of women to carry multiple roles and/or the differences among the genders to recognize problems and seek help. Although the signs and symptoms of depression are the same for both men and women, women tend to experience certain symptoms more often than men. For example, seasonal affective disorder–depression in the winter months due to lower levels of sunlight–is more common in women.

Many women delay seeking help and struggle with 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

Many men who are experiencing depression delay seeking help as they find it difficult to talk about their feelings. Instead, it is not uncommon for men to focus on the physical symptoms that often accompany depression, such as back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or sexual problems. 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.

This can result in the underlying depression going untreated, which can have serious consequences. In fact, men suffering from depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. It’s important for any man to seek help with depression before feelings of despair become feelings of self-harm.

Depression in Older Adults

The changes that often come in later life–retirement, the death of loved ones, increased isolation, medical problems–can lead to 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.

Transition to retirement can bring with it a loss of identity or sense of purpose in life. This transition is not easy for older adults, especially if their career played a significant role in their life. This may result in a feeling of anxiety, a loss of interest in activities that once were enjoyable, increased isolation and alcohol consumption, and a decreased interest in sexual connection with partners.

As children mature and leave the family home, the older parent, especially women, can begin to experience depression. This can be complicated by added pressures of caring for aging parents or an ill spouse.

Treatment of Depression

A person with mild or moderate depression should first see their family doctor and/or a mental health counsellor. Depression is often made worse by feelings of isolation. Starting to talk to a skilled therapist can be an important step toward recovery. It can help a person validate their feelings and understand how the depression has been impacting their life.

Counselling and, in particular, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been proven to be very effective in treating most forms of depression. For some people, medication can be helpful to treat the depression. It is important to discuss this option with a physician. It can take several weeks for medications to begin to work so it is important to follow-up with medical appointments and follow the treatment plan.

In cases of severe depression or if treatment is not helping, a person may need to see a psychiatrist. If a person has thoughts of suicide, they might need to be treated in hospital.

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