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Depression

Depression is a constant feeling of apathy, sadness or loss. Take action to help yourself if you are depressed.

  • Know the signs of depression.
  • Talk to your doctor.
  • Be social.
  • Get active.

We all feel down on some days. We usually stop feeling this way when something good happens to us. Feeling down does not mean that you are depressed.

What is Depression?

Depression is more than having a few days every now and then when you feel down, discouraged, or overwhelmed. Depression is having many harmful feelings that interfere with your work or social life. People with depression have these feelings continuously for at least a few weeks or, more usually, for several months.

Signs of Depression

You may have depression if you have some of these signs.

  • sadness
  • irritability
  • hopelessness
  • helplessness
  • anger
  • lack of motivation
  • lack of energy to do things you enjoy
  • loss of appetite
  • poor sleep
  • no interest in sexual activity

Find out your risk for depression by completing the Heart Stress Risk assessment (opens in new window) »

Effects of Depression

If you feel depressed, you may also notice that your attitudes and thinking have changed. You may see only negative things in yourself, others, your future, or your life.

The signs of depression usually get in the way of daily life. They hold you back from feeling interested in doing work or seeing your friends and family. There is a shift in how involved you feel in life. You feel different from your “normal” self and don’t feel effective in the things you do.

If you have had depression before, you may find that the depression returns with a new crisis in your life, like having a heart attack. Depression can affect your heart, so it is important to look after your depression to prevent more problems with your heart.

What Does Depression Do To My Body And Brain?

Depression is not just something that is “in your head”. It is a combination of things that are happening in both your brain and your body.

In your brain there may be:

  • more inflammatory chemicals (something we do not want)
  • low levels of a chemical called serotonin (something we want more of)

These changes cause your brain to function differently. You will not feel your usual self.

The changes in your brain also cause changes in your body:

  • an increase in the stickiness of your blood (increasing the risk of having a clot).
  • a decrease in your body’s ability to fight off infection.
  • an increase in the level of cortisol (a hormone) in your body. Having the right amount of this hormone is important to keep your heart and other organs functioning well.
  • an increase in irregular heart beats.  Learn how irregular heart beats can affect your health and what to do if you have them »

Take Action to Reduce Depression

If you are living with depression, you can take action to reduce or even eliminate it. There are many different things you can try. Find something that works for you.

1. Learn new skills

  • Handle your emotions in more direct and effective ways by naming your feelings and acknowledging your thoughts.
  • Let go of being perfect.
  • Do not put off doing things that need to be done.

2. Try connecting and communicating with the people around you differently

  • Talk with people you trust. Talk honestly about the challenges you have.
  • Find new ways to deal with conflicts in your day - listen more, try different solutions to conflicts, and speak up.

3. Add positive activities to your day

  • Start each day by identifying something positive you can do for yourself.
  • Write that action into your day plan and make sure you do it.
  • Walk every day, after talking with your doctor about whether you are ready for regular exercise.

4. Watch your nutrition and supplements

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
  • Make sure you are getting the right amount of:
    • B Vitamins (particularly Vitamin B-12)
    • Omega-3s
    • Magnesium

What Do I Do If I Score High For Depression?

There are some people that may also need more help. If you score “high” for depression, take these additional steps.

5. Get therapy and counselling

6. Find out about medications that can help

  • The first one you try may not work for you. Work together with your doctor to find the one that works best for you.
  • Continue with your therapy after you start taking medication. People feel the best results when they get both therapy and medication.

Resources

  1. Depression (Helpguide.org) (opens in new window) 
  2. Undoing Depression (1997). Richard O’Connor, New York: Berkley Books.
  3. Mind over Mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think (1995). Deniis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, New York: Guilford Press.
  4. The Feeling Good Handbook (1990). David Burns, New York: NAL-Dutton.
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