What to do if you're feeling blue

It's normal to feel sad sometimes, but if you're feeling down more often than usual, there are things you can do to help

What is depression?

Depression is more than feeling sad, it is a medical condition that can make living life unenjoyable and difficult. Thankfully, there is effective help available. 

What if I think I have depression?

This questionnaire is adapted from the PHQ-9, a tool a doctor or therapist might use to see if someone is experiencing depression, Ask yourself, how often in the past two weeks have you been bothered by each of the following:

Tally your scores by assigning one point for each "Several Days" response, two points for each "More than half of the days" response, and three points for each "Nearly every day" response.

If you scored more than four points, you may be experiencing diagnosable depression, and benefit from seeking treatment for it. Note that this quiz is not a diagnosis in itself. Below is more of a description of what a diagnosis might look like, and if you have any questions, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

What does a diagnosis of depression mean?

Adapted from the CMHA's Info Sheet: https://cmha.ca/documents/depression-and-bipolar-disorder

‘Depression’ is often used to refer to major depressive disorder, sometimes also called clinical depression. Depression is different than feeling sad for a short period of time. Clinical depression is a common medical condition, that can be treated effectively. It is generally characterized by an individual feeling down most of the time and/or losing pleasure in regular activities, for a period of two or more weeks.

Major depressive disorder is the most common mood disorder, but it is only one of a number of others.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder which is having symptoms of depression seasonally, usually in the winter months, which can be attributed to low exposure to sunlight.
  • Bipolar Disorder which is characterized by periods where an individual experiences symptoms of depression, as well as periods experiencing mania, which exhibits symptoms that are generally opposite of those of depression
  • Postpartum Depression which is having symptoms of depression after giving birth

Signs and Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Signs are things that people can notice about a person, and symptoms are things that a person feels.

In the case of someone having the flu, signs might include looking pale or tired, or coughing and sneezing. Symptoms might include feeling a fever or muscle pain.

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder is a diagnosable condition. The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-V) used by psychologists describes a diagnosis as:

1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day. OR
2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.

And one of
3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Signs of Depression

Someone experiencing these symptoms might show it in one of two ways. Some of the symptoms above are observable to others, such as a loss of interest in regular activities or weight loss or gain. Additionally, some other outward signs might be:

  • Missing school or work, or difficulties at school or work
  • Irritability
  • Increase in alcohol use
  • Loss of attention to physical appearance or hygiene
  • Increase in careless behavior

What is CBT, and how can it help depression?

Adapted from the CMHA's Psychotherapy information sheet:https://cmha.ca/documents/psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that has been shown to be effective for depression and anxiety, as well as supporting habit change, and other mental health problems. It is a relatively new form of therapy, first introduced in the 1980’s, and here have been many different versions of CBT since then. It is one of the most well studied methods of therapy. It can not only help people feel better in the short term, but is also effective at supporting lasting changes to support positive mental health for life.

One of the foundations of CBT is the idea that cognitions (or thoughts) interact with behaviours (things someone does) in a back and forth manner, and both of these are influenced by a person’s environment and a set of core beliefs a person holds about themselves and the world around them

The aim of therapy is to help a person really understand their cognitions, behaviours, and beliefs, and help them determine if they are adaptive (ones that promote positive mental health and quality of life) or maladaptive (ones that promote negative mental health). Once that is understood, the intervention is to help change those maladaptive cognitions, behaviours and beliefs to adaptive ones.

Sometimes, a therapist will discuss some common thought distortions, or ways we might think about the world that might not be true. Can you identify some times you might have thought in some of the ways below?

Adapted from the CAMH: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/cognitive-behavioural-therapy

1. ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking

2. Jumping to Conclusions

3. Overgeneralisation

4. Magnifying or Minimising (also referred to as “Catastrophisation”)

5. Mental Filter

6. Disqualifying the Positive

7. Personalisation

8. Shoulds and Oughts

9. Emotional Reasoning

10. Labelling

If so, try reaching out to a therapist. You can find a directory of therapists near you, and learn about the styles of therapy they might use: https://www.psychologists.bc.ca/find_psychologist


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