Depression (and Grief)

black dog sitting on floor

Depression experienced as a result of short-term recent events, such as loss of a job or loss of a relationship, is often referred to as acute depression. Depression that is typical for an individual over a long period of time, usually more than six months, is often referred to as chronic depression.

Depression can creep up so slowly that it may be hard to recognize when you have fallen from a state of low mood to a state of clinical depression. It is the most prevalent of psychological disorders amongst both genders and all age groups but it does tend to be more prominent in some families than in others. Depression is sometimes very clearly a reaction to current or past events. In other instances, the causes are unclear. Though depression can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, it is almost always a sign that some part of us needs healing or attention.

Symptoms of depression show up in our bodies, our minds, our thoughts, and our behaviour. There are a variety of symptoms, which may include the following:

Physical Symptoms:

Low energy or fatigue

Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

Over-eating or not eating

Irritability or agitation

Feeling unwell in the absence of a physical cause

Emotional Symptoms:

Sadness and depressed mood most of the day

Prolonged disappointment and discouragement

Flat emotions or emotional numbness


A feeling of being trapped with no options

Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy

Behavioural Symptoms:

Lack of motivation

Withdrawal from family, friends and activity

Low libido or sex drive

Cognitive Symptoms:

Pervasive negative thoughts

Self-critical thinking

Low self-esteem

Difficulty making decisions

Confused thinking

Suicidal thoughts

Thoughts of death

Difficulty concentrating

People who are depressed often seek a medical explanation but are told there is nothing physically wrong. Their doctors may prescribe antidepressant medication, or counselling, or both. Indeed, the research clearly shows that counselling and medication together are more effective than either of these treatments on their own. Counselling can help us to understand the reasons for our depression, provide skills to alter the depressive pattern, and find a greater balance in our lives. Although the experience of depression is very painful, the process of understanding and resolving depression leads to greater inner strength and wisdom.

A word about Grief...

Grief is a normal, healthy process following a loss. If an individual blocks grief, there may be emotional consequences. In this way, people find that grief is actually unavoidable. Those who do their best to deny grief in an attempt to avoid the pain will usually find the pain prolonged, but perhaps in a different way. For example, not grieving a loss can impair a person’s ability to be open to new relationships, or can result in new symptoms such as panic attacks or a chronic depression that never seems to lift. Healthy grieving leads to better adjustment to life, despite the loss.

Not everyone needs to see a therapist when they experience a significant loss. Often, however, seeing a therapist is very beneficial and helps to put into perspective the turmoil of emotions that come to the surface during a significant loss. When people better understand how emotions are part of grieving, and not personal inadequacy, they are better able to process and adjust to the loss.