Major depressive disorder (also known as major depression and unipolar depression) is:
• Like schizophrenia, a brain disease with concrete and specific symptoms due to physical and biochemical changes in the brain.
• Almost always treatable with medication.
• Affects a significant percentage of the population at least once during their lifetimes.

Signs and symptoms
(Excerpted from the Mood Disorders Association of B.C.)

Activities and interests, once pleasurable and stimulating, become stale. Depressed persons isolate themselves by withdrawing from their friends and family members. Work habits may deteriorate and the depressed person is often very fatigued.

With depression there may be indecisiveness and slowed thinking, difficulty concentrating and poor memory. People with depression may feel sad and unhappy deep down. Pessimism and negativity are also common feelings for someone who is depressed. The depressed person may not have a clear understanding of why they are depressed, what to do about it and how they are acting.

As well as mental and emotional symptoms, a person with depression may experience physical symptoms:
• Feelings of sadness, anxiety and hopelessness
• Sense of impending doom or disaster
• Reduced enjoyment and pleasure – void of emotions
• Loss of energy and motivation
• Low self-esteem or guilt, feelings of worthlessness
• Feelings of deep insecurity
• Preoccupation with failures or inadequacies
• Eating disturbance – increased or decreased
• Sleeping disturbance – increased or decreased
• Diminished ability to think or concentrate; slowed thinking or indecisiveness
• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts or attempts
• Headaches or body pain
• Increased risk of heart disease and magnification of cardiac problems

More information on depression

Internet Mental Health
A detailed description of depression, including symptoms and associated problems, plus a long list of reference material and links on treatment, causation, illness variations, and how to manage the illness.

Help for families and patients

For family members: The Family Support Centre covers all serious mental illnesses, including depression. Specific programs helping families deal with the illness include the family support group, one-on-one peer support, and our Family-to-Family education program.

For those with depression: The Mood Disorders Association of B.C. runs support groups for those suffering from depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, and provides a wide range of specialized materials and resources.

For more resources, please check Books and Resources, in our Information section.