Living@Guelph - Choose Your Own Adventure Living
Understanding Depression

Here at the University of Guelph, students visit counselling services for a variety of reasons. The most common reason that students across campus seek counselling is experiences with depression.

A period of depressed mood which lasts for several days or a few weeks is a normal part of life and is not necessarily a cause for concern. Although these feelings are often referred to as "depression", they typically do not constitute a clinical depression because the symptoms are relatively mild and of short duration. Moreover, milder periods of depression are often related to stressful life events and improvement frequently coincides with positive life changes.

A person experiencing a clinical depression, however, will likely be experiencing substantial changes in their mood, thinking, behaviours, activities, and self-perceptions. A depressed person often has difficulty making decisions, for example, and the day-to-day tasks of paying bills, attending classes, reading assignments, and returning phone calls may seem overwhelming.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, women are more likely to experience depression or anxiety (40% of women versus 32% of men). A common form of depression is Reactive Depression, where sufferers react to distress in their lives; this could be the failure of a relationship, the loss of a job, the burden of too much work to handle, assignments, exams, or the death of a relative or friend. In most cases, their distress is due to a combination of more than a single factor. Sufferers feel like it's not possible to "just snap out of it" and "cheer up," they think things will never get better. Even though depression is treatable (with a success rate of 80%), almost one-half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about it. Success is often contingent on whether help is sought. The earlier that treatment begins, the more effective it will be and the better the outlook for the person. You don't have to carry the burden all by yourself. Talk to someone you trust or seek the help of a professional counsellor or psychotherapist.

Warning Signs
- You feel sad or cry a lot, and just can't shake that "blue" feeling
- You feel bored, and aren't interested in doing things you usually enjoy
- Your eating patterns have changed - you're eating more or less than you used to
- Your sleeping pattern has changed - you're sleeping all the time, or not at all
- Other people are noticing your behaviour changing - sometimes you're really agitated and other times very slow
- You're zapped of energy
- You experience feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
- You find decision-making and concentrating to be extremely difficult
- You think about death a lot
- You don't feel like being around other people
- Life seems pointless
- You suffer from backaches, headaches or constipation
- You may neglect responsibilities and/or self-care

Helping Yourself
The first step towards helping yourself is to identify the emotional, psychological, and behavioural difficulties you have been experiencing which may be related to depression. You should also assess how depression may have impacted other areas in your life, including relationships with family and friends, finances, academic responsibilities, etc. Discussing these problems with the people involved or with an understanding friend may resolve some of the issues before feelings of depression become more serious. You may also want to consider the following:

- Reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol or drugs
- Exercise or engage in some form of physical activity everyday, such as walking
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Obtain an adequate amount of sleep
- Seek emotional support from friends and family
- Focus on positive aspects of your life
- Pace yourself, modify your schedule, and set realistic goals
- Eliminate or reduce unnecessary tasks so that your schedule is more manageable
- Consult with a physician if you are experiencing any medical problems
- Seek early intervention which may modify the severity of your problems

Treatment of Depression
Depression can be overcome with help. The negative thoughts associated with depression and anxiety can turn into a vicious cycle. The more we focus on negative feelings, the more depressed we become and the more negative feelings occur. How can we begin to break the negative cycle?
Counselling can provide relief. With a counsellor, we can learn to better cope with our problems. They provide support and help to uncover the underlying causes of depression and anxiety and work towards possible solutions.

If symptoms related to a depressive condition are interfering with your ability to do routine, day-to-day activities, then you should consider seeking professional help. There are currently a variety of highly effective interventions available for the treatment of depression. The majority of depressive conditions can be treated with either psychotherapy or medication and research studies have indicated that a combination of these interventions is usually the most effective form of treatment.

If you are worried about your feelings and don't know how to cope, drop by the Student Support Network (Raithby House, open for drop-ins from 12pm to 12am Monday to Friday) or Student Counselling Services (3rd floor of the UC, ext. 53244).

A note of caution
St. John's Wort is an herbal remedy for mild to moderate depression. However, it's a very powerful drug and studies have shown that it can decrease the effectiveness of the birth control pill. So women beware, taking St. John's Wort and the birth control pill at the same time could lead to unplanned pregnancies. Talk to your doctor!