Have You Heard of The Black Dog of Depression?

What Is The Black Dog Of Depression?


(For dog lovers, this metaphor may not be relatable in this short video created by the World Health Organization, but I think the metaphor of a black dog is stronger than the metaphor of a black cloud, that we sometimes hear in reference to depression.  I love dogs and the photo I used for this blog, is of an adorable black Labrador called Charlie, therefore don’t let the metaphor turn you off, as the message is very important.  Interestingly, Sir Winston Churchill, was also known to refer to his depression as “the black dog”.)

Depression is a mental illness, and it’s not a matter of just being able to instantly change one’s thoughts to more positive ones and then everything being better.  As explained in the video, depression follows someone and affects all aspects of their life, even when they’re sleeping.  For people who have anxiety, they are at higher risk for developing depression, which is why it is so important for children, teens, and adults with anxiety, to understand what it is and how to manage it.  Fortunately, through our increased knowledge of brain science, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Mindfulness, researchers have developed very effective tools to help manage anxiety and keep it from growing like a snowball effect.

Do You Know about the Dementors of Depression and JK Rowling?

If you have are familiar with the Harry Potter book and movie series, you will be well aware of the dreaded Dementors.

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them…Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself  ~ Remus Lupin

It turns out that JK Rowling, herself, suffered from severe bouts of depression and therefore created these Dementors to illustrate her feelings of depression.  She also created the Patronus Charm, which Harry Potter, uses successfully to ward off the Dementors.

A Patronus is a kind of positive force, and for the wizard who can conjure one, it works something like a shield, with the Dementor feeding on it, rather than him. ~ Remus Lupin

When a Patronus is summoned through a magical spell, the person conjures up an image of an animal which has significance to him/her, and it appears in the form of a very strong white light.  The Patronus represents goodwill and happiness.  This metaphor fits with CBT, in which one learns to challenge irrational, negative thinking patterns, and convert them to more positive, reality-based thoughts.

What is S.A.D?

November is a time of year, (for those of us in countries heading into Winter) where we have less light in the day, and for some people, this can impact one’s mood.  There is actually a diagnosis of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for people who have a more depressed mood during the months with less daylight, on a repeated basis from year to year.  For these people, doctors sometimes recommend options of medication, counselling, and/or light box therapy.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.”

Next week I’ll talk more about what do if we suspect someone we know is suffering from depression.

Let’s do everything we can to look out for one another in our circles of life, show non-judgmental compassion, and support people in getting help when needed.



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