Depression

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Definition

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, how you think and how you act. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.1

One in six people will experience depression at some time in their life and it affects one in fifteen adults a year. Depression usually appears during teenage years and the twenties, but it can strike at any time. Women are more likely than men to experience depression, but men also experience depression.

Depression symptoms can include feeling sad; a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed; changes in appetite (causing weight loss or weight gain); changes in sleeping pattern; changes in energy levels; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; trouble thinking; concentrating or making decisions; thoughts of death or suicide.1
Several factors can play a role in depression1 :
  • Biochemistry: certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression by causing imbalances.
  • Genetics: depression can run in the family.
  • Personality: people with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
  • Environmental factors: continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.

Certain medical conditions like thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency can cause symptoms of depression, therefore ruling out other medical causes before a diagnosis is important.1

Alternative approaches like meditation, faith, proper nutrition and exercise can be part of a comprehensive prevention and treatment plan.2, 3
Before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional should conduct a thorough evaluation, which includes an interview and a physical examination in order to plan a course of action.1
Treatment for depression can include1 :
  • Medication (like antidepressants or other psychotropics)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of therapy focused on the present and problem solving. It helps a person to recognize their distorted thinking and to change their behaviors and thought processes
  • Group therapy: involves multiple people with similar illnesses
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): it involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia
Funded by

Vulnerability, Trauma, Resilience & Culture Laboratory
School of Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Ottawa

136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ottawa, ON,
Canada, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext. 4459
vtrac@uOttawa.ca