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Everyone feels sad sometimes. This is a normal part of life. But when feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness become persistent, it might be teen depression. Another good indicator that it’s depression rather than typical life stress is if your ability to perform daily tasks and enjoy life has been impaired. If you’re finding it difficult to go to school or work or you’ve lost interest in the things you normally like to do, chances are you’re depressed. Coping with depression isn’t easy. But knowing what depression looks like can help you recognize it and get the treatment you or your loved one needs to turn things around.

3 Important Facts

  • Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States.
  • Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before adulthood.
  • Fortunately, more that 85 percent of people with depression can be treated effectively.

Signs to look for

  • Skipping school
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Apathy
  • Changes in eating habits ⎯ either eating too little or too much, with weight loss or weight gain
  • Complaints of headaches, stomach aches, back pain or fatigue
  • Being late to classes or work, not doing homework, etc.
  • Persistent sadness
  • Withdrawing from family and friends (such as spending hours alone in bedroom with the door shut)
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Difficulty paying attention or remembering
  • Talk of suicide or death
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Poor grooming or hygiene

Next steps

If you think you or your loved one might be depressed, it’s time to get help. Talk therapy is one of the best treatments for depression. Therapy can help you or your loved one feel safe enough to discuss painful emotions and thoughts. A therapist can also provide the tools to successfully manage those thoughts and emotions. Therapy can be short-term or long-term, depending on the individual’s needs.

A consistent schedule, day after day, is extremely helpful.

Many recent studies point to the power that exercise and healthy eating have to combat depression.

Some people who are depressed may also require medication. Please consult with your doctor to learn more about the medications available.

Supporting your loved one with depression is also key to helping him recover. When asked what helped them through depression, many teens gave simple answers like, “Just listen,” or, “Tell me you love me no matter what.” You can help your teen by being patient with them, listening to them, and assuring them that you truly care about them. Also, helping your teen do healthy activities they enjoy can motivate them to work through difficult times. Make those activities a priority for them!

Be sure to take care of yourself, too. Supporting a loved one with depression can be draining so take the time to exercise, eat well, and do things you enjoy also.

Common Q and A

When is it normal to feel sad or upset and when is it depression?

We all have days where we feel sad or upset. But if these feelings continue nearly every day for more than two weeks, it might be depression. Talk to a professional if the feelings of sadness or despair are persistent.

What causes depression?

The exact causes of depression are unknown. But many things can affect the onset of depression. Genetics, difficult life situations (such as a move, a divorce, abuse, etc.), chronic stress, or health problems may all trigger a depressive episode.

What are the different types of depression?

There are several types of depression:

  • Major depression involves severe symptoms that interfere with the person’s ability to eat, sleep, study, work, and enjoy life.
  • Persistent depressive disorder involves milder symptoms that persist for two years or longer. A person with this disorder may also have periods of major depression.
  • Other forms of depression develop under unique circumstances. This includes postpartum depression (the “blues” some women feel after having a baby), dysthymia (persistent sadness), seasonal affective disorder (feeling blue during the winter months), or psychotic depression (experiencing depression and having some form of psychosis, such as hallucinations or disturbing false beliefs).
What are the warning signs of suicide?

Depression carries a risk of suicide. If you are suicidal or you suspect your loved one is suicidal, get help immediately by visiting your mental health provider. You can also call a suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Here are some warning signs to be aware of:

  • Thoughts or talk of suicide and death
  • Thoughts or talk of suicide and death with others
  • Impulsive behavior

Take any talk or about suicide or suicidal feelings very seriously and act immediately. If your mental health professional is not available, go to the nearest emergency room or call one of the hotlines above.

Can depression be prevented?

Although depression may not always be preventable, there are things you can do to lessen your chances:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Avoid alcohol and marijuana and other drugs
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Get counseling in times of grief or stress