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NAMI Family-to-Family Programs in Ontario

About Major Depression

Worldwide, major depression is the leading cause of years lived with disability.  Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.  Nearly twice as many women as men are affected by major depressive disorder each year.

Sex differences in the symptoms associated with depression may contribute to the differences in the prevalence of depression between men and women.  For example, men are more likely to be irritable, angry and discouraged when depressed, whereas women express the more “classical” symptoms of feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, and persistent sad moods.  As a result, depression may not be as easily recognized in a man.  In addition, women are more likely than men to seek help from health professionals.  Biological or social risk or protective factors may also differ between men and women.  (Source:  Health Canada.  A Report on Mental Illnesses in Canada. 2002.)

Depressive disorders come in different forms, the most common being major depression (unipolar depression). Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual's thoughts, behavior, mood activity and physical health.


Symptoms of major depression include:


  • profoundly sad or irritable mood
  • pronounced changes in sleep pattern, appetite and energy +
  • difficulty thinking, concentrating and remembering
  • physical slowing or agitation
  • lack of interest in, or pleasure from, activities that were once enjoyed
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain


Although major depression can bean overwhelming illness, it is highly treatable. Between 80 and 90 percent of those affected by serious depression may be effectively treated and return to their normal daily activities and feelings. May types of treatment are available, with the type chosen depending on the individual, the severity and patterns of his or her illness. There are three basic types of treatment for depression: medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). These treatments may be used singly or in combination. If untreated, episodes commonly last from six months to a year. Left untreated depression can lead to suicide.

Find Out More

●     NAMI.org Resources

●     NAMI.org Living with Major Depression