See also:     anxiety     bipolarity

what is depression?

“I’ve got the blues.” Many of us have said these three words before or heard them spoken, sometimes with “today” or “these days.”

But is this sadness really the same thing as depression?

No, far from it. If sadness is a hill, depression is a mountain. If sadness is a pothole, depression is a crater. If sadness is a crack in the dam, depression is the dam collapsing.

That doesn’t mean that sadness is easy. You may experience significant downs as a result of life events such as a death, separation, divorce, job loss or bankruptcy, but usually the sadness you feel is limited in duration.

Sadness can be a dark time, but you can still see the light. Depression is total, pitch-black darkness. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

You are unable to take pleasure in anything, and while you regularly shed tears, you hardly ever smile. You can’t move forward. You feel beat down. Your hope, energy and ability to focus have evaporated. Depression is dark, heavy and painful.

Understanding it puts you on the right path.

Discover the workshop on depression



what are the most common depressive disorders?

Understanding that you live with depression is the first step. The second is knowing which depressive disorder you’re living with. Maybe you’ve already been diagnosed, or maybe you haven’t.

there are several depressive disorders, including the following:

major depression

(formerly called depressive disorder)

If you’re living with major depressive disorder, the above description probably struck a chord with you. You have felt extremely hopeless over a long period of time, sometimes as much as a year or two. You derive no pleasure (or virtually no pleasure) from the little things that make up everyday life.

postpartum depression

(also called depressive disorder with peripartum onset)

Bringing a child into the world turns your life upside down in many ways, and most women experience the “baby blues,” including excessive sadness and mood swings. However, these “baby blues” last only a few days, or two weeks at the most. If you are living with postpartum depression, you will experience anxiety, insomnia and depressive symptoms for several weeks or even months. You may be irritable and unable to enjoy your baby. This is a tough ordeal that causes you to feel exhausted, desperate, overwhelmed and often guilty. The symptoms begin during pregnancy or within a month of giving birth.

seasonal depression

(sometimes called seasonal depressive disorder)

The onset of fall and winter are difficult times for many of us, especially given the lack of sunshine they represent. It isn’t unusual to experience changes in our appetite, weight, sleep, mood and energy during these periods. But if you experience these changes every year, at the same time of year — not necessarily fall or winter, although it’s often the case — and over several months, you may be living with seasonal depression.

persistent depressive disorder


This is a chronic form of depression that lasts for at least two years. Although the symptoms are less severe and fewer in number than in major depressive disorder (major depression), this does not mean it doesn’t affect your quality of life. In the long term, the impacts of persistent depressive disorder are comparable to those of major depressive disorder.


several factors may heighten the risks of developing a depressive disorder

They can be personal (genetics, temperament, personality, etc.), environmental (conflicted relationships, stressful events, etc.) or associated with your life story (difficulties in childhood, etc.).



what are the signs and symptoms of a depressive disorder?


major depression (depressive disorder)

When you live with a major depressive disorder (major depression), you experience at least five of the following symptoms, including at least the first or second symptom on the list, as well as some of the others:

  • Depressed mood nearly all day, every day, for at least two weeks
  • Loss of interest and pleasure, every day, during nearly all activities
  • Weight loss or gain and changes in appetite
  • Sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Psychomotor slowdown or agitation
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feeling guilty or diminished
  • Decreased ability to concentrate, think or make decisions
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

Some people will experience more health complaints or physical pain than feelings of sadness. Sometimes, relatives may also find that the depressed person is more socially withdrawn.

postpartum depression (major depressive disorder with peripartum onset)

The warning signs of major depressive disorder with peripartum onset (postpartum depression) can be very hard to detect, because in the beginning, they are nearly indistinguishable from the “baby blues.”

It’s especially important to pay attention to the intensity and duration of your symptoms, for example, severe irritability that lasts several days and is not punctuated by more peaceful moments.

Although this is often called postpartum depression, in about half of cases, the depressive episode begins during pregnancy.

When living with major depressive disorder with peripartum onset (postpartum depression), you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Great sadness and frequent desire to cry
  • Digestive problems and appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances, often in the form of insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Apathy and lack of interest
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety, sometimes leading to panic attacks
  • Irritability around the baby
  • Lack of enjoyment when interacting with the baby
  • Difficulty caring for the baby
  • Disturbing thoughts about the baby and fear of hurting him or her
  • Strong feelings of guilt and inadequacy
  • Exhaustion
  • In more severe cases, obsessing about death, suicide, and hurting or even killing the baby
seasonal depression (seasonal depressive disorder)

If you have been experiencing depressive symptoms such as severe irritability or loss of energy every year for at least two years, recurring at the same time of year and resolving at the end of the year, you may be living with seasonal depressive disorder, often called seasonal depression.

Usually the depressive episode coincides with the onset of fall or winter and lasts until spring. During this period, people living with this disorder experience significant suffering that can prevent them from functioning at their usual pace.

Because the signs of this type of depression can easily be confused with the signs of major depressive disorder (major depression), it is important to know the actual triggers. The onset of depression or a relapse may occur during the fall without being considered a seasonal depression. The decisive factor is the recurrence of the symptoms at the same time of year.

When living with seasonal depression, you may also experience some of the following symptoms:

  • A depressed mood almost all day on most days
  • A loss of interest and pleasure in activities that you usually enjoy
  • Increased appetite
  • Sleeping longer, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and lower energy levels
  • Decreased ability to concentrate, think or make decisions
  • Feeling slow, or on the contrary, feeling agitated
  • Feeling guilty or worthless, or even death or suicidal ideation in certain cases
persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)

It’s normal for you to feel more depressed some days or when going through hard times, or to be sad occasionally, or to feel inadequate.

However, if the feeling persists for a long time and your symptoms cause significant suffering or interfere with your general functioning, you may be living with persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia).

However, psychomotor symptoms, sleep problems and appetite problems are less frequent than in the case of major depressive disorder (major depression).

You may feel sad frequently, be self-critical and hard on yourself, be critical of everthing around you, ruminate about the past, feel guilty, be irritable or angry, be less productive, and take little interest or pleasure in most activities. You may also isolate and withdraw into yourself.

You might write off your symptoms to your personality, believing that you have always been this way, especially if the disorder began early in life.

You may feel more cheerful or energetic on occasion. However, in the case of persistent depressive disorder, the intervals when you feel better are no longer than two months over a period of at least two years.

Symptoms sometimes worsen, in which case the persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) may be accompanied by major depressive disorder (major depression) for a certain period of time. This is called a double depression.

When you live with persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), you feel at least two of the following symptoms in addition to a depressed mood for most of the day and at least one out of every two days for at least two years:

  • Appetite problems (poor appetite or overeating)
  • Sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Low energy levels or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness

how do I live
with depression?

It is possible to live with depression and still have a good quality of life. One way to do this is to have the right tools to guide you in your daily behavioural choices. Take back control of your mental health with self-management.

Discover self-management

how can I help
a loved one who
is living with depression?

It isn’t always easy to know what to do. But there are a few strategies to help a loved one regain control over their mental health, without compromising your own.

Find out more

how can Relief
help me live
with depression?

We offer a self-management workshop to help you live with depression. The workshop includes strategies, tools and exercises to help adopt behaviours in order to reduce your symptoms, identify warning signs and prevent relapses.

Explore our workshops