It's natural to feel sad, down, or discouraged at times.
We all feel these human emotions, they're reactions to the hassles and hurdles of
We may feel sad over
an argument with a friend, a breakup, or a best friend moving out of town. We might
be disappointed about doing poorly on a test or discouraged if our team can't break
its losing streak. The death of someone close can lead to a specific kind of sadness
Most of the time, people manage
to deal with these feelings and get past them with a little time and care.
Depression is more than occasionally feeling blue, sad, or down in the dumps, though.
Depression is a strong mood involving sadness, discouragement, despair, or
hopelessness that lasts for weeks, months, or even longer.
Depression affects more than a person's mood. It
affects thinking, too. It interferes with the ability to notice or enjoy the good
things in life. Depression drains the energy, motivation, and concentration a person
needs for normal activities.
Signs of Depression
Here are some of the things people notice with depression:
Negative feelings and
mood. People with
depression might feel unusually sad, discouraged, or defeated. They may feel hopeless,
helpless, or alone. Some people feel guilty, unworthy, rejected, or unloved. Some
people with depression feel, angry, easily annoyed, bitter, or alienated.
Any or all of these
negative emotions can be part of a depressed mood if they go on for weeks or more.
Negative thinking. People with depression get stuck in negative
thinking. This can make people focus on problems and faults. It can make things seem
bleaker than they really are. Negative thinking can make a person believe things will
never get better, that problems are too big to solve, that nothing can fix the situation,
or that nothing matters.
Negative thinking can be self-critical,
too. People may believe they are worthless and unlovable — even though
that's not true. That can lead people with depression to think about harming themselves
or about ending their own life. Negative thinking can block our ability to see solutions or
realize that a problem is actually temporary.
Low energy and motivation. People with depression may feel tired,
drained, or exhausted. They might move more slowly or take longer to do things. It
can feel as if everything requires more effort. People who feel this way might have
trouble motivating themselves to do or care about anything.
Poor concentration. Depression can make it hard to concentrate
and focus. It might be hard to do schoolwork, pay attention in class, remember lessons,
or stay focused on what others say.
Physical problems. Some people with depression have an upset stomach
or loss of appetite. Some might gain or lose weight. People might notice headaches
and sleeping problems when they're depressed.
Social withdrawing. People with depression may pull away from
friends and family or from activities they once enjoyed. This usually makes them feel
more lonely and isolated — and can
make negative thinking worse.
Depression Can Go Unrecognized
People with depression may not realize they are depressed. Because
self-critical thinking is part of depression, some people might mistakenly think of
themselves as a failure, a bad student, a quitter, a slacker, a loser, or a bad person.
Because depression can affect how a person acts, it might be misunderstood
as a bad attitude. Other people may think the person isn't trying or not
putting in any effort. For example, a negative or irritable mood can cause someone
to act more argumentative, disagreeable, or angry. That can make the person seem difficult
to get along with or cause others to keep their distance. Low motivation, low energy,
difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of "why bother?" can lead someone to skip classes
Some people with depression have other problems as well. These
can intensify feelings of worthlessness or inner pain. For example, people who cut themselves or who have
or who go through extreme mood changes may have unrecognized depression.
When depression is recognized and treated, it often clears the way for other problems
to get treated, too.
What Helps Depression Get Better?
Depression can get better with the right attention and care — sometimes more
easily than a person thinks. But
if it's not treated, things can stay bad or get worse. That's why people who are depressed shouldn't wait and
hope it will go away on its own.
If you think you might be depressed,
talk to a parent or other adult about getting the right help. The right help can mean doing all of these things:
Get a Medical Checkup
A doctor can check for any health conditions that might cause symptoms of depression.
For example, hypothyroidism can cause a depressed mood, low
energy, and tiredness. Mono
can make a person feel tired and depressed.
Having meetings with a counselor
or therapist is called talk therapy. Talk therapy can help people overcome depression.
Talk therapy works by helping people to:
understand their emotions, put feelings into words, and feel understood and supported
build the confidence to deal with life's struggles
work out problems they face
change negative thinking patterns that are part of depression
increase self-esteem and become more self-accepting
increase their positive emotions and feel happier
Overcoming depression might include talk therapy, medication, or both. A therapist
might also recommend daily exercise, exposure to daylight, or better ways of eating.
A therapist might teach relaxation skills to help someone get a good night's sleep.
Many people find that it helps to open
up to parents or other adults they trust. Simply saying something like, "I've
been feeling really down lately and I think I'm depressed" can be a good way to begin
If a parent or family member can't help, turn to your school counselor, school
nurse, or a helpline.
Let friends and other people who care about you offer their support. They can:
listen and talk, showing that they understand what you're feeling
remind you that things can get better, and that they are there for you through
the downs and ups
help you see the things that are already good about your life, even when it's
hard for you to notice
keep you company and do enjoyable or relaxing things with you
give you honest compliments and help you find things to laugh or smile about
Try these simple actions. They can have a powerful effect on mood and help with
eat healthy foods
get the right amount of sleep
walk, play, or do something else to get exercise every day
take time to relax
take time to notice the good things about life, no matter how small
Focusing on positive emotions and being with positive people can help, too. Do
yoga, dance, and find creative self-expression through art, music, or journaling.
Daily exercise, meditation, daylight, and positive emotions all can affect the brain's
activity in ways that restore mood and well-being.
Depression can be treated if
you take the right steps: