What is Depression?

Depression can be described as a sad or discontented mood, lasting months (or even longer), leaving a person feeling lethargic, unmotivated, lonely, and hopeless. In some cases, depression can lead to suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, depression is very common in today’s world, and affects both men and women.


Both physiological and environmental factors can cause depression.  Research suggests that some people may be biologically predisposed to depression due to neurochemical abnormalities. A family history of depression can lead to a person inheriting or learning these traits. In addition, life experiences affect brain chemistry.  The level of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain can affect a person’s risk of becoming depressed.

There are many life events that leave us feeling trapped by our circumstances, and may lead to depression. Some people become depressed after experiencing a trauma or stressful life change such as a separation or divorce, the death of a spouse, being laid off from a job, financial instability, relocation, or a decline in health. Everyday stressors, like social isolation, domestic violence, and the presence of other psychological conditions, can also contribute to depression.


Depression’s symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and may even change throughout the course of the illness. Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Frequent crying and overwhelming feelings of sadness.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
  • Changes in sleep patterns such as the inability to sleep or excessive sleeping.
  • Anxiety.
  • Difficulty enjoying previously-enjoyed activities.
  • Unexplained physical ailments such as headaches or muscle pain.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Nausea; changes in weight or eating habits.
  • Thoughts of suicide.


Depression is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy, and the condition is highly treatable. Unfortunately though, stigma surrounding depression inhibits many people from seeking treatment. Because an individual with depression may be viewed as flawed or weak, that person is likely to feel shame regarding his or her condition, and he or she may fear the consequences of disclosing the experience to employers, health care providers, family, and friends.

In my counselling and psychotherapy practice, I find a mindfulness-based approach very effective in treating depression.  I also assist my client to view a depressive state with curiosity and without judgment, in an effort to understand and heal the source of the depression. In fact, many times, simply identifying the source of depression can enhance treatment outcomes and provide some relief from depression. Therapy also helps people to recognize and access their strength, autonomy, and capacity for change.

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