Depression: How to Identify it

Depressive disorders are widespread and multi-faceted. Referred to as both a feeling and a medical issue, depression can begin benignly as a simple state of sadness, but left unaddressed, can develop into a condition far more severe.

In this day and age of “don’t let them see you sweat” and “keep a stiff upper lip,” we may tend to hide our emotions even as our morale spirals downward. Fortunately, there are symptoms that alert us to this state and give us away — altered sleep patterns, indecisiveness, lethargy, mood swings, risky behavior or acting out with a generous shopping spree to help make us feel “empowered.”

It’s important to understand that these feelings may not be what we think they are. Sadness for a couple of weeks due to distressing news, a tragic media story or a high-stress event, for example, is natural and not indicative of a mood disorder.

Sufferers, and those who want to care for them, should seize any opportunity to discuss instances of deep sadness and personal trauma as soon as they are detected. Age and gender do not discriminate for or against these disorders. Symptoms may appear as early as childhood if someone has been exposed to a traumatic event, though onsets of depression and mood disorders more commonly happen in the early 20s or 30s.

Meanwhile, geriatric depression is not an insignificant issue, as the Canadian Psychological Association says 15 per cent of Canadians 65 and over report having significant levels of depressive symptoms.

In its report, Depression: A Global Crisis (2012), the World Health Organization stated, “Who gets depression varies considerably across the populations of the world. Lifetime prevalence rates range from approximately 3 per cent in Japan to 16.9 per cent in the United States, with most countries falling somewhere between 8 and 12 per cent.” Eight to 12 per cent is a large number of people with which to contend.

“How will these numbers affect the mental health of our families, friends and the society of tomorrow?”

What exactly is a depressive disorder?

• Perinatal depression – during or after pregnancy
• Major or clinical depression – sadness or extreme melancholy of longer than two months
• Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) – a longstanding low mood lasting at least two years

Even mainstream television has popular shows depicting leading characters with disorders such as major depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, a powerful condition that distresses the person who suffers from it.

Has Mental Illness Increased Over the Years?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, produced by the American Psychiatric Association, appears to support the position that there has been an increase in mental illness, noting that the number of disorders has risen from 106 in 1952 to 365 in 2015. But could this be only because mental illness is now more accurately recognized? And could the growth in the world’s population (from 2.6 billion to 7.4 billion) also account for the surge?

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, which collects health data across the province, said in its 2017 report “The Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario” that there has been a staggering increase in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for children and youths with mental illness. How will these numbers affect the mental health of our families, friends and the society of tomorrow?

How Can I Offer Support?

The Canadian Psychiatric Association in 2014 said, “Almost a third of Canadians who seek mental health care report that their needs are unmet or only partially met. The rate is even higher for children and youth.”

1. Remember that resources are limited. Encouraging someone to talk and being a sounding board for them is good medicine. Recognize that depression is a medical issue for which there is treatment, so let your friend, loved one or colleague know he or she is not alone.

2. Exercise is a form of therapy that produces endorphins, a naturally occurring opioid that elevates mood, releases aggression and reduces stress. Returning to everyday routines provides something to look forward to and gets a person moving and thinking. The act of retrieving the mail or walking to the corner store is progress in itself!

3. Any mention of suicide should be taken seriously. When in conversation with someone, it is okay to mention the words “death” and “dying.” You will not push someone over the edge that way. (It should be noted that not everyone who is depressed contemplates suicide. However, suicide victims of every age are diagnosed with depression. Victims do not take their lives because they want to die, but rather because they are desperate to end their pain.)

Where to Find Answers:

1. The National Institute of Mental Health booklet, Depression: What You Need to Know 

2. The Bible. Psalm 42:11 (KJV) says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.” King David knew that once he began to praise and worship God, his mood and even his physical features would be lifted. Faith, prayer and encouraging oneself goes a long way on the road to recovery.

3. For additional information, refer to the sources listed at the end of this article.

No one should have to go through a battle alone. If you or someone you know needs help, please see the list of resources we put together just for you.

While we are not equipped to offer support, we are more than happy to pray for you! Feel free to get in touch, with your request. 

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Andi Ayers
Andi Ayers

Andi Ayers is a writer and editor with The Assistants, a virtual assistance company in Ontario, Canada. Andi was former Communications Director for her church, and 2016 Director for Write! Canada, Canada’s largest conference for writers, editors and publishers who are Christian.

  1. Thanks for sharing this oh so important information. It can be hard to know what to do or say, but you make it simple! Thank you. May God bless the work you do to help those who need it most!

    1. Hi Liz, thanks so much for stopping by, and for your kind wishes. May God bless you as well with your future ministry endeavours. 🙂

  2. Such an awesome post! We don’t talk about depression enough in our Christian circles. As someone who suffered for many years, I truly am thankful that you are reaching out! Blessings to you sweet sister!

    1. Hi Donna, so glad that you have stopped by! 🙂 Yes, opening up the conversation about this issue is the first step in changing how we approach it in our Christian circles. Blessings to you too!

  3. Recognizing the symptoms is key. Unfortunately, about half the people who have depression never get it diagnosed or treated. Other symptoms of depression are as follows; Hopelessness and Suicidal thoughts. I was diagnosed with Depression back in September 2015. Emotionally and mentally it has been hard for me but I am grateful to have the understanding that Depression is difficult, but we do not have to feel defeated. Depression is treatable. Psalm 34:17 (NLT) states, ” The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” a great scripture that Im living by,

    1. Hi Teliah, thanks for the valuable information. Unfortunately, there are a lot of undiagnosed cases and other accompanying symptoms for depression that are not so easy to deal with me. I’m sorry to hear of the challenges you have experienced as a result of having this condition, but it’s great to know that you have lots of hope. Thanks also for sharing such a powerful scripture. God bless you!

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