Depression & Depressive Disorders

Depression Treatment in Toronto

We all experience sadness and hopelessness from time to time depending on what is happening in our lives. However, many of us may also experience symptoms of a group of mental health challenges known as a depressive disorder. Depression can be persistent, draining, and distressing, robbing us of the ability to enjoy life. It impacts our mood, how we think, and goes beyond just feeling unhappy or unmotivated at times, but we can find help. 

The good news is that research and clinical experience has proven that treatment for depression, when provided by trained mental health professionals like social workers, psychologists, and psychotherapists, can significantly improve depressive feelings.

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Table of Contents

What is Depression?

Understanding depression can be overwhelming, given its complexity and various triggers and risk factors. Depression, a mood disorder, is connected to numerous negative and often draining symptoms. Depressive disorders include Major Depressive Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder. Major Depressive Disorder is the most common type. Other types include:

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD brings predictable changes in our mood with the seasons, extending beyond typical “winter blues.” It is linked to factors like reduced daylight and it lasts about four to five months. Potential causes include decreased serotonin, Vitamin D, or melatonin levels. SAD is common among women, those aged 18-30, and those in northern regions or already living with a mood disorder. Symptoms mirror typical depression, with other signs like oversleeping, overeating, and social withdrawal. Treatments include light therapy, psychotherapy or medications.

Peripartum Depression or Postpartum Depression.

This depression occurs during and after pregnancy, and is known as prenatal or postpartum depression. Symptoms include heightened sadness, anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, and frequent crying, surpassing the usual “baby blues.” Causes range from genetics to hormonal changes. Treatment options include therapy, medications or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

PMDD, a severe form of PMS, entails heightened physical and emotional symptoms during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Unlike PMS, it involves significant mood changes, causing feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and irritability that can impact our daily lives and relationships. Hormone fluctuations, including low serotonin levels, are related to its cause. If we have depression and anxiety we may also experience severe PMS or PMDD. Smoking and body weight may also be associated with PMDD. Treatment options involve medications, hormonal birth control, and lifestyle adjustments in diet and physical activity.

Situational Depression.

This type of depression arises in direct response to a specific life event, typically lasting up to six months. Unlike clinical depression, it is triggered by a major or drastic life change like loss, relocation, divorce, or a severe illness diagnosis. Formerly called adjustment disorder, situational depression is similar to clinical depression, but is less intense and usually goes away as we cope with the triggering event. Individuals with existing mental health challenges are more susceptible. Treatment options include therapy and potentially medications.

Atypical Depression.

This kind of depression differs from Major Depressive Disorder with some unique symptoms. In addition to typical depression signs, it includes a brief boost in our mood after an event that feels positive, increased appetite, drowsiness, and heightened sensitivity to criticism. Unlike typical depression, atypical depression may start earlier in life and last longer. Imbalances in brain chemicals, genetics, and chronic stress can contribute to its cause. Treatment options often involve medications and talk therapy.

Bipolar Depression.

This depression includes mood swings with low periods, similar to other depressions, and manic episodes where we may experience restlessness, high energy, racing thoughts and unrealistic beliefs. We often feel oddly confident, may not sleep and act without thinking. Recognizing these manic episodes is crucial, as they can pose challenges. Bipolar depression can impact anyone. Various factors like family history, biology, environment, experiences, and health contribute to bipolar depression. Effective relief often involves talk therapy and medication.

 

What is the Difference Between Depression and Sadness?

We all can feel down at times, especially when life becomes difficult. Sadness, a normal and healthy response to situations like loss or disappointment, is often temporary. People may describe feeling “low” or “down.” In contrast, depression is more persistent and unrelenting.

Depressive symptoms include feelings of sadness that do not go away and a diminished interest in the things we used to enjoy. People may not recognize we are struggling with depression, attributing it to laziness or incompetence, thinking we just need to snap out of it. Depression goes beyond just sadness and, if lasting longer than two weeks, it may mean seeking an assessment with a registered mental health professional.

What Does Depression Feel Like? Signs and Symptoms

Depressive symptoms affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, negatively affecting daily routines, social life, work, and school. We can often have self-critical attitudes that worsen the condition.

While we may not meet the criteria for a mood disorder diagnosis as defined in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version five), we may still experience some symptoms of depression that impact our quality of life.

You do not need to meet the diagnostic criteria for a depressive disorder in order to seek treatment. Most of us who seek help for depression have only some symptoms, but the symptoms can be troubling enough to need professional help from a therapist. 

Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling down, tearful, empty, sad, or helpless. 
  • Feeling worthless, guilt or fixating on past failures.
  • Loss of interest in people, places and activities you used to enjoy.
  • Inability to experience pleasure or joy.
  • Difficulty with concentration, memory and making decisions.
  • Thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, restlessness and feeling anxious.
  • Loss of motivation and difficulty getting things done.
  • Changes in your appetite, eating too much or too little.
  • Fatigue or lack of energy where even small tasks take a lot of effort.
  • Problems with sleep: sleeping too much or insomnia.
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches.

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Who is Affected By Depression?

We are all shaped by what we witness in life, and depression can affect anyone. However, certain groups may be at a higher risk of developing depression or depressive disorders. Prolonged vulnerability in the following groups can lead to significant psychological and mental health consequences:

  • People who experience behaviours like violence, bullying, abuse and neglect during childhood or adulthood.
  • LGBTQ+ individuals who often face hostile environments affecting their work, school, and overall mental health.
  • Those impacted by increased stressors due to Covid-19, including front-line workers and essential service providers.
  • Individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses may face depression because of the loss of roles, poverty-related stressors, or a lack of access to appropriate healthcare.
  • Military personnel face persistent stress and danger, leading to lasting adverse effects. Military wives and children have to cope with the possibility of losing a family member deployed overseas.
  • Social factors such as racism, immigration issues, war and social injustice can also create deep trauma in individuals, elevating the risk of various health issues.
  • Recognizing the unique mental health challenges of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or a person of color) corporate employees is crucial, because of ongoing systemic oppression, discrimination, economic disparities, and microaggressions they may encounter.

How Do I Know If I am Experiencing Depression?

To be certain you are experiencing depression or meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis, a comprehensive assessment by a licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist who are trained to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Did You Know: 
Communicating a mental health diagnosis is controlled and restricted to qualified members of certain health professions such as psychologists and psychiatrists.  

At Toronto Psychology Clinic, our team of qualified and registered social workers, psychologists, and psychotherapists is ready to help you effectively identify and manage depression or depressive disorders. Click below and reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment.

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If I am Depressed, What Can I Do About it?

Like most mental health challenges, depression often creates problems in our relationships, impacting connections with friends and family. Working with a qualified mental health professional can lessen or resolve depressive symptoms. Professionals experienced in depression counselling can accurately assess the severity and find suitable treatment options for you. 

If you have encountered depression or depressive symptoms and wish to explore how therapy can help, reach out to the Toronto Psychology Clinic for support. Our team of knowledgeable professionals can assist you in developing an effective treatment plan and coping strategies to get your life back on track.

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Finding Help for Depression in Toronto

Coping with depression alone can be challenging. If you or someone you know is struggling, it’s imperative to reach out for help. Therapy offers a supportive and comfortable place to talk about feelings, explore unhelpful thoughts and habits, and begin using coping strategies. Often, depression will not go away on its own, but it can get better. Don’t hesitate to reach out for the support you need.

What to Expect: Depression Treatment Options

Depression Assessment

While we may think or feel we are depressed, the only way to know for sure if we are experiencing depression is to meet with a mental health professional. A psychologist or psychiatrist can complete an assessment to clarify any potential diagnosis and provide a better understanding of the symptoms you may be facing.

Medication for Depression

Medications can be effective in treating depression. At the Toronto Psychology Clinic, we offer assessments to determine if you may need medication as part of treating depression. We work closely with your psychiatrist or family doctor, who may prescribe medication based on the assessment. For severe depression, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often recommended for a comprehensive approach to treatment.

Depression Therapy Options

Many therapeutic and counseling modalities have proven effective in treating depression. Common approaches include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
  • Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT).
  • Dialectical-Behavioural Therapy (DBT). 
  • Psychodynamic Therapy.

Every person responds to treatments differently, so what works for you may not work for another. It is essential to find a therapist who will get to know you so they understand your unique needs.

The Toronto Psychology Clinic offers personalized therapy and counseling options to help cope with and manage your specific depressive symptoms. Contact our team and our Intake Team will assist in discussing various treatment options available with one of our qualified clinicians.

Depression Therapy at the Toronto Psychology Clinic

Our therapists at the Toronto Psychology Clinic work with you to find a personalized treatment plan that suits your unique experience. We provide various effective and proven treatments and work with you to determine the best option for getting your life back on track.

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All of our therapists are experienced in depression treatment and therapy and will guide you through the next steps. We can help. 

To learn more about each therapist therapeutic approach check out Meet Our Team.

More Resources

Many resources on the internet provide accurate and helpful information about depression, its causes, and what we can do to get help. Various websites offer valuable insights and support to enhance your understanding of depression and guide you toward seeking assistance.

CAMH website – Depression Info
CMHA website – Depression and Bipolar Disorder Info
NIMH website – Depression Info
Health Info website – Symptoms of Depression

FAQs

What books can help me with feelings of depression?

As everyone’s journey to recovery is different, having supportive books to read can be helpful. The following books may offer you additional forms of support.

  • Unstuck: Your Guide To Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression.
  • The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs.
  • The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.
What does it mean to be clinically depressed?

Clinical depression, often referred to as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is one of the most common types of depression. This type of depression involves:

  • A low mood, feeling sad or down most of the time.
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
  • Changes in weight and sleep.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Thoughts of suicide or ending our life.

A diagnosis is typically given if your symptoms persist for at least two weeks, more days than not, significantly impacting various aspects of life, including work and relationships. Major depressive episodes may recur, ranging from once a month to several times in our lives, leading to a diagnosis of mild, moderate, or severe depression. 

The science shows that major depressive disorder responds well to psychotherapy with a trained mental health professional. Some people may require medications in the short or long-term. It is very common for people to take antidepressants and engage in counseling.

What is Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) or Dysthymia?

Persistent Depressive Disorder, previously known as dysthymia, is a chronic form of depression lasting for at least two years, with symptoms present more days than not. The symptoms are typically less intense than Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Diagnosis involves experiencing symptoms for more than two years, with no symptom-free periods exceeding two months. 

Similar to Major Depressive Disorder, PDD can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Symptoms mirror those of Major Depressive Disorder and include:

  • A low mood, feeling sad or down most of the time.
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
  • Changes in weight and sleep.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Thoughts of suicide or ending one’s life.

Individuals facing Persistent Depressive Disorder do not often realize they may be depressed as it’s a low-grade form of depression and people may believe it is just who they are. The good news is that PDD responds well to psychotherapy and medication. 

How can I help a loved one through depression?

Supporting a loved one through depression can be challenging and overwhelming. It can be frustrating to witness our loved ones struggle. It is essential to understand depression, recognizing it as more than a choice and not a result of laziness. Take time to learn about depression and listen to your loved one’s experiences. Provide emotional support by listening without judgment and offering practical assistance with daily tasks or recognizing signs of relapse. Listening and empathizing with the struggle is very powerful.

Tasks may be difficult for your loved one to take on. Suggest specific ways to help, organize outdoor activities, and ask how you can assist. 

While you cannot “rescue” a loved one from depression, you can offer support and gently encourage them to get help

Patience is essential, as the journey to recovery varies for each individual. It is crucial to be mindful of the risk of suicide, as those dealing with depression face an elevated risk. If you sense your loved one is at risk, reach out to the following resources for help:

  • Toronto Distress Centre (416) 408-4357 
  • Gerstein Crisis Centre (416) 929-5200
  • Call 911


Sometimes, trying to help a family member with their mental health issues can put you at risk for caregiver burnout or other psychological issues. Establish boundaries for yourself when needed and consider seeking counseling for additional support. The Toronto Psychology Clinic has helped many family members in better supporting their loved ones facing depression.

How do I help a child or adolescent through depression?

Coping with a child’s depression can make us feel worried, scared, frustrated, or helpless. Parents worry that they did not do enough and may overcompensate. Encouraging open communication is essential, assuring them that your home is a safe space to share their feelings. Numerous therapists specialize in working with children and adolescents. Seek recommendations from your child’s pediatrician or contact local psychology clinics to schedule an appointment for your child.