Clinical depression, or unipolar disorder, is the most common type of depressive mood disorder. Eight percent of Canadians will experience a major depression in their lifetime, according to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression.
Depression causes There is no single cause for mood disorders but people with depression typically have a family history. A person who has suffered a major depression in the past is more likely to experience depression again. Imbalances in brain chemistry, stress, traumatic life events and chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and arthritis, may also increase the risk of depression.
Depression symptoms Mood disorders vary from person to person, but common symptoms include: feelings of sadness and loss, guilt and worthlessness and extreme impatience; loss of interest in activities; changes in weight or appetite; insomnia or constant fatigue; noticeable lack of motivation; and anxiety and restlessness, sometimes leading to panic attacks.
Depression diagnosis/tests If you’re concerned that you might be depressed, talk to your doctor. She’ll start the diagnosis by eliminating other problems that might be at the root of your symptoms, such as thyroid disease. Your visit will likely include a physical examination and possibly blood tests to check your thyroid and complete blood count (CBC). Your doctor will ask you about your feelings and behavior to evaluate your psychological state, and will want to know if you have a history of depression or experience suicidal thoughts. If you meet the criteria for depression outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), you’ll be diagnosed and she’ll discuss treatment options.
Depression treatment Medications are the most common treatment for depression. Antidepressants may be prescribed to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes depression; supportive counseling and psychotherapy, which may be used individually or in combination with drugs.
Depression prevention There’s no known way to prevent depression but it may be helpful to find strategies for reducing stress in your life: get regular exercise and enough sleep and reach out to friends and family for support. Get help as quickly as possible to keep depression from getting worse. If you’re already on antidepressants, take your medication as prescribed and speak to your doctor if you are still feeling depressed.