Ross Chilton, MA, RCC


Depression ... what it is and what it isn't

Over the last 20 years, there has been an increasing awareness about depression and its impact on individuals and their loved ones. It is the second most common reason people seek the assistance of a family doctor. It is estimated that 4% of the adult population suffers from clinical depression. Depression costs the Canadian economy about $2 billion annually in lost productivity and treatment. A person suffering from depression is three times as likely to have been off work sick in the last month and three to five times more likely to have been on disability in the last year. The good news is that significant gains have been made in assessing and treating depression.

Depression can take a number of forms:

Clinical depression

This is the condition most often associated with the term "depression." It is identified by the number and intensity of the symptoms present. Many people are aware that they are not functioning normally, but do not recognize that they are suffering from depression until they seek assistance. A person who is suffering from clinical depression will experience significant disruption in a number of areas (see symptoms further on).


This condition differs from a clinical depression both in severity and duration. While the symptoms are typically less intense and disabling, they do tend to be chronic. This low-level depression tends to interfere with an individual's ability to enjoy life. Though less intense than clinical depression, it can result in significant pain and suffering.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This condition occurs for some people in the Fall or Winter in association with decreased daylight. Signs can include all symptoms associated with a clinical depression and tend to disappear during the Spring and Summer. The most common symptoms include irritability, weight gain, fatigue, low motivation and a desire to sleep longer.

Bipolar mood disorder

This condition causes a person to experience cycles of depression and mania. The person can vacillate between feeling elated and very depressed. While less common than clinical depression, the impact on the individual and families is no less significant.

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While all of us experience moderate fluctuations in our moods, a pattern of symptoms may suggest that some form of depression is present. Symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously experienced as pleasurable
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Fatigue that is present almost every day and is not alleviated by rest
  • Chronic physical complaints such as stomach pain or headaches
  • Persistently feeling sad, hopeless, empty, guilty or pessimistic
  • Significant change in appetite or weight
  • Thinking about self-harm (anyone experiencing this symptom should seek immediate assistance through their family doctor or Interlock).

If you or someone you know has experienced several of the above symptoms for a period of over two weeks, assistance should be sought. Interlock has been providing confidential assistance to members of the Law Society of British Columbia for over 20 years. An Interlock professional can help you determine if you are suffering from depression and can work with you as needed to develop a plan to return to healthy functioning. It is important to remember that depression is not the result of a weak personality, but is a physical condition that responds well to treatment.

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If you are a lawyer or articling student, and either you or a dependant would like assistance with personal, family or work-related concerns, please call Interlock for confidential, professional counselling. The Law Society funds this service.

Lower Mainland / Fraser Valley: (604) 431-8200
National toll-free: 1-800-663-9099
Emergency after hours: 1-800-324-9988