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Depression


Regular Sadness vs. Depression

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 life. 

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 — grief.

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

Who Can Help

Here are some of the things people notice with depression:

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 or school.

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 eating disorders 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.

Talk to a Counselor

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:

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.  

Get Support

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 the discussion.

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:

Help Yourself

Try these simple actions. They can have a powerful effect on mood and help with depression:

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:

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2016


Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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