Best understanding mental disorders
All of us experience emotions such as anger, sadness and joy. We can usually control our emotions and are able to manage them daily.
People suffering from depression experience negative emotions more intensely and for longer than most. They have difficulty controlling their emotions and may have the impression that life is limited to constant suffering. They have a hard time fulfilling their professional, family and social obligations.
Different types of depression
Depression manifests itself in various forms:
- Major depression: the presence, for at least 2 weeks, of symptoms of depression, which significantly affect a person’s general functioning.
- Bipolar disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder: the presence of symptoms of depression, which occur at the same time every year. In many people, these symptoms are usually experienced at the beginning of winter.
- Postpartum depression: the presence of symptoms of depression in women. It usually occurs in the 6 months following childbirth.
People suffering from depression experience physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms are present most of the time for a period lasting at least 2 weeks.
Here are the more frequent physical symptoms of depression:
- Lack of energy and severe agitation
- Sleep problems: too much sleep or not enough
- Decrease or increase in appetite, which can lead to weight loss or gain
- Decrease or loss of sexual interest
- Appearance of ailments, such as headaches and back and stomach pain
The most frequent psychological symptoms in people suffering from depression include:
- Profound sadness. Crying often, for instance
- Significant loss of interest in professional, social and family activities
- Feeling of guilt or failure
- Decrease in self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Difficulty making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts
When to consult
Do not wait until you are no longer able to function before consulting. If you have symptoms, there are mental health organizations and associations that can provide information and offer help and support. Read the Help and resources section to find out what resources are available.
See your family doctor or another health professional if:
- You are experiencing distress
- Your symptoms prevent you from functioning normally
- You have difficulty accomplishing your professional, family or social responsibilities
A health professional can assess if you are suffering from depression or experiencing another health problem with similar symptoms. To properly evaluate your condition, it might be necessary to conduct a physical exam or laboratory tests. You will be offered a treatment plan that is adapted to your needs.
If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety or that of people around you, read Preventing suicide. You will find further information on available help and resources.
Depression can be treated with recognized treatments. Treatment allows people suffering from depression to regain control of their lives and daily activities. The earlier you seek help, the better your chances of recovery.
In most cases, depression is treatable through psychotherapy or with antidepressants, or a combination of the two.
Experts generally recommend cognitive behavioural therapy to treat depression. This form of psychotherapy aims to change a person’s thoughts and problematic behaviour and replace them with thoughts and responses that are appropriate to reality. It also helps with establishing strategies to find balance.
Other therapies are also available depending on the patient’s needs.
Medication for depression
Antidepressants are drugs that restore the brain’s chemical balance. They decrease the intensity of physical symptoms and help:
Recommendations regarding medication
If your doctor prescribes medication, it is important that you follow the instructions carefully.
You must also be patient in waiting for results. It can take up to 4 to 8 weeks before the medication produces maximum results.
Even if you feel better, you must continue the treatment as prescribed in order to avoid the reoccurrence of symptoms.
If you experience undesirable side effects, discuss them with your pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible. If necessary, your medication can be adjusted or other medication may be recommended.
Protection and prevention
Depression is not always preventable, but if you have symptoms associated with depression, you should act immediately. The tips for maintaining good mental health will help you change certain lifestyle habits. These changes will help improve your health and reduce the number of factors that worsen or influence your symptoms.
Depression doesn’t always have a single cause. It is often a combination of several factors that leads to symptoms of depression. Here are a few of these factors:
- Individual factors:
- Social factors: Having lots of stressful experiences, such as the loss of a loved one or a job.
- Environmental factors: alcohol and drug abuse and addiction.
People at risk
Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, social status, education, nationality or ethnic origin.
People with depression are sometimes victims of their own prejudices and those of society. These prejudices discourage people from seeking help or continuing their treatment. To learn more about prejudices and how to fight them, read Fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Help and resources
Information and support resources
Resources are available for help and to obtain more information about mood disorders:
- Revivre – Quebec Anxiety, Depressive and Bipolar Disorder Support Association
- Tel-jeunes (Helpline for young people between the ages of 5 and 20: 1-800-263-2266)
- Suicide-prevention helpline: 1-866-APPELLE or 1-866 277-3553
- Réseau avant de craquer – Fédération d’organismes voués au mieux-être de l’entourage d’une personne atteinte de maladie mentale (in French only)
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Mouvement Santé mentale Québec (in French only)
- Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec (in French only)
You can also consult the Mental illness page for more available resources.
Resources for care and services
To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom you feel comfortable, contact one of the following resources:
Last update: October 29, 2018