Am I Just Sad or Is It Depression?


We can all feel sad, hopeless, and tired of everything sometimes. But when do these symptoms become a mental health condition?

Depression has been compared to having a brick lodged between your ribcage; a heavy feeling that makes thinking, moving, and living your normal life an enormous effort. You may feel like you have no way out and that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to lift the weight from your chest.


Feeling this way can be especially difficult working in the film industry as people rely on your ability to work fast and make decisions quickly; and you need brain power and energy to meet the high expectations on you and your creativity. All this is compounded with long work hours and a highly stressful work environment, so the first step is to understand depression, which will help you to address it and learn to manage it.


Everyone experiences depression differently and it’s not always that obvious – you might not feel particularly sad but you may find you can’t concentrate, feel tired all the time, and you lack motivation and pleasure in life. To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must experience five of the following symptoms almost every day for at least two weeks:

  • Depressed mood

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in things

  • Changes to appetite and sleep

  • Slow physical movement

  • Being tired and lethargic

  • Feeling worthless and guilty

  • Problems with concentration and making decisions

  • Suicidal thoughts.

Here are more details on diagnosis.

What causes depression?


It’s common that people don’t know exactly why they are feeling the way they do, though their experience of the symptoms is very real. Depression is usually not caused by one thing but rather a combination of different factors.


There’s a longstanding theory that people with depression have a ‘chemical imbalance’. While there’s no consistent evidence of an association between serotonin and depression, nor for depression being caused by lower levels of serotonin, this could be a factor for some people.


However, what we call depression today did serve an evolutionary purpose. Our in-built alarm system (the amygdala) senses danger and responds in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze (a.k.a. survival mode). So when early humans were faced with uncomfortable or dangerous environmental conditions, they may have taken refuge and not interacted with the world until the situation changed. They’d lose their appetite and desire for social interaction and become generally quite lethargic and unmotivated (or depressed) as a way to preserve their life.


In modern day life, the pandemic, financial and social pressures, and the climate crisis are a few environmental conditions that can make depression more likely. But people experience depression even when there isn’t any danger or adversity so what’s that about?


Read more about the causes of depression here.


What are effective treatments for depression?


There are many forms of treatments, but an important reminder is to pick the treatment that is right for you. Below are a few forms of treatment available:


Talking therapy is usually recommended for people with symptoms of depression and for people diagnosed with depression. Although these all have different treatment approaches, their aim is to address and heal emotional and psychological factors that are causing you to be depressed. They help you to learn about yourself and to build new ways of thinking so that you can lead a happier and healthier life.

Your EFAP/MAP not only provides traditional counselling support, but also iCBT internet based counselling support that you can do at any time of day or night from your computer or phone (assessments, educational content and counsellor support via chat). As well, you can access fitness apps and services, health and nutrition coaching, and other supported and self-help resources that can help you get back to being and feeling your best.


Medication is often prescribed as the first line of treatment as it reduces the intensity of symptoms. It’s always best to speak to a medical professional, such as a doctor or psychiatrist, about whether medication is a good choice for you. It doesn’t address the underlying cause of depression so having some form of psychological intervention in combination with medication is generally recommended.

Your lifestyle is another important factor to consider when it comes to recovery from depression. Here are a few areas to consider:



Connecting with others

Speaking to loved ones and spending quality time with them is really helpful in reducing symptoms of depression as well as preventing depressive episodes. If you find socializing difficult, it might be useful to start small like texting or calling a family member or friend and then building up to meeting in person.


Exercise

Exercise releases feel-good hormones (endorphins), gets the body moving, and gives you a sense of achievement.






Mindfulness

Becoming more focused on the present moment can help to get you out of your head and stop ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. Find out more here.






Nutrition

Eating a healthy, balanced diet may make you feel physically better. This can have a significant impact on your mental health. It’s not clear what diet is best for treating depression, but eating a lot of fast food & processed foods has been linked to a higher risk of depression. Speak to a nutritionist or a trained professional to find out how you might be able to improve your diet.


Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep helps with depression but depression affects sleep – so what should you do? Start off by examining your bedtime and sleeping habits and then implement something called ‘sleep hygiene’.

Note: speak to your healthcare provider before trying supplements such as melatonin as it isn’t suitable for everyone



Nature

‘Nature is the best healer’ is a common phrase and for good reason! Going for a walk in a forest or hiking up a mountain (or any other nature-based activity) calms down the nervous system, reduces stress, increases the experience of positive emotions, and gives you a deep sense of fulfilment.




If you’re feeling low in mood or energy, or perhaps beyond just low but it’s a struggle to get up and out each day, don’t leave your condition to guesswork. Reach out to your doctor for a check up and consultation, and connect with a counselling service through your Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP)/Member Assistance Program (MAP) to get the support you need.


Resources:


General information about depression: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/depression


A few resources on our website https://www.calltimementalhealth.com/depression


This is a self-assessment tool for depression. Please note that it’s not a substitute for a consultation and diagnosis by your doctor or other healthcare provider.


Books and workbooks

A free online workbook can be found here: https://cogbtherapy.com/free-online-cbt-workbook


There is also this workbook, which costs $4.99 and has been recommended by people in the creative industry: https://store.heartsupport.com/products/dwarf-planet


This one is a highly recommended book on overcoming depression by Alex Korb called Upward Spiral

https://www.amazon.com/Upward-Spiral-Neuroscience-Reverse-Depression/dp/1626251207


Here is also a list of books about depression that you might find helpful:

https://www.verywellmind.com/best-books-for-depression-5094535


Helplines

Call 911

If you believe that your life or someone's else life is in danger.


310-6789

BC Mental Health Support Line:

(do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number). It's free and available 24 hours a day.


1-800-SUICIDE

Suicide hotline:

If you are in distress or worried about someone else. It's free and available 24 hours a day: 1-800-784-2433.


Call 811

www.healthlinkbc.ca Access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health and substance use information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.

1-800-663-1441

The Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service