What is Depression?
Adolescence can be a difficult time when we experience several mixed emotions related to who we are and who we want to be, peer pressures, family pressures, and school pressures. Feeling angry, frustrated, sad, and discouraged are all normal emotional reactions to events going on in your life.
We often feel sad after a disagreement with a friend, a break-up, and losing someone special. We likely feel disappointed with a poor grade on an assignment or test. We can feel discouraged after our team loses a big game. Most of the time though, we are able to deal with these emotions and we move forward with time and support.
Unfortunately, some people are not able to move forward after difficult events and will experience depression. Depression is more than occasional feelings of sadness or disappointment. Depression is when we experience feelings of sadness, discouragement, despair, or hopelessness for longer than two weeks, it can last possibly months, or even longer.
Depression affects our thinking patterns; it causes us to have negative feelings toward most things, including ourselves. This can cause someone to think about harming themselves or about ending their own life. Depression is common, experts believe about 1 in 5 youth will go through a depression at some point. Unfortunately, many people with depression do not get help.
Getting help is very important in order to begin treatment as soon as possible.
Signs of Depression
Depression can feel different for everyone. Not everyone experiences the same signs, this is normal.
- Depression affects your energy level, your motivation, your focus, and your interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Depression can also affect you physically, causing body aches and pains, stomach aches or headaches
- Depression interferes with your relationships with friends and family members
- You may feel sad, worried, irritable or angry
- You may feel hopeless and worthless
- You may have trouble coping with everyday activities at home, school, or work
- You may have trouble doing simple things, like having a shower or brushing your teeth
- You may find you sleep more or less
- You may have changes in your appetite
- Your grades may drop
- You may feel helpless and hopeless
- You may be thinking about death or suicide (if this is true, you need to talk to someone right away). (link to CHIMO or mobile crisis line)
What Causes Depression?
Depression is an imbalance of chemicals in our brain (called neurotransmitters). These chemicals are responsible for regulating our mood. Several factors can upset the balance of these brain chemicals causing us to experience signs of depression. These factors can be different for everyone:
- Family History: depression tends to run in families, if one of your parents or another family member has depression, there is a greater chance of you developing it.
- Stressful events: difficulty at home with parents or siblings for example, your parents fighting, are separating or getting a divorce; being bullied; problems with friends; not doing well in school or feeling too much pressure to do well in school; or the death of someone close to you.
Sometimes people are not able to identify a particular reason for becoming depressed and that is normal.
What should I do if I think I am depressed?
It is really important for you to get help. Do not wait for it to go away on its own, because it won’t.
- Start by talking to one of your parents or another adult you can trust such as your teacher, a coach, or a family friend. You can also talk to a trusted friend for support.
- Stay connected with those you trust. Your parents or a trusted adult can get you in to see your family doctor or a qualified mental health professional. Let him or her
know how you are feeling.
- Tell your parent or trusted adult how they can help you. For example, if you need them to just listen or if you need their support. They may not be sure how best to help you.
- It is important to take care of yourself: get enough sleep (link), exercise (link), and eat healthy to feed your mind and body with important vitamins and minerals (link).
- Avoid using street drugs and alcohol to make things feel better, these will only make things worse.
- Check your stress level, when we become stressed things can feel overwhelming. Are there things you can let go of or do differently to eliminate some stress? Can you ask your parent or a trusted friend to help you find ways to deal with whatever is bothering you?
How is Depression Treated?
Treatment for depression can take time and it is different for everyone, be patient with yourself. Treatment might include talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
- Talk Therapy: A trained therapist can help you understand your feelings and emotions. He or she can help you identify and change your negative thinking patterns that are caused by depression. Once you are able to develop more positive ways of looking at things, you will become more accepting of yourself and increase your self-esteem. (link CBT and IPT)
- Medications: Medications can be prescribed by your family physician or psychiatrist to help you deal with the symptoms of depression. Medications may be needed to adjust the balance of the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) responsible for regulating your mood and helping you think more clearly. Medications can take time to work so be patient. Let your doctor know if you don’t feel like the medication is working after you have tried it for a period of time.