A major depressive disorder — usually just called “depression” — is different than the “blues”. Someone experiencing depression is grappling with feelings of severe despair over an extended period of time. Almost every aspect of their life can be affected, including their emotions, physical health, relationships and work. For people with depression, it does not feel like there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” — there is just a long, dark tunnel.
One of Canada’s most common illnesses is also the least understood. Everyone feels “blue” or sad from time to time. It’s a normal life experience. But when these emotions increase in intensity, persist for more than a few weeks, and start to interfere with a person’s life, it may signal depression. No amount of “cheering up” can make the depression go away; no amount of exercise, vitamins or vacation can make it disappear. That’s because depression is an illness, not a weakness.
Mood disorders are conditions that cause people to feel intense, prolonged emotions that negatively affect their mental well-being, physical health, relationships and behaviour. Almost 10 per cent of Canadians experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. While we can all have brief episodes of “highs” and “lows”, we generally do not experience extreme, extended swings in our emotions. An internal sense of control tends to moderate big mood swings and stabilize our ups and downs.