Everybody feels sad or blue now and then. But if you are sad most of the time, you might be suffering from depression.
The good news is that you can get treatment and feel better soon. Clinical depression is a serious illness that can affect anyone, including teenagers. It can affect thoughts, feelings, behaviors and overall health; and, when depression is not treated, it can get worse, last longer and prevent you from getting the most out of life. In this discussion we will learn:
• Signs of Depression
• Talk to Someone
• Why do people get depressed?
• Depression and Alcohol or Other Drugs
There are two kinds of illnesses that feature depressive symptoms:
• Major depression
• Bipolar disorder, when periods of feeling down and depressed alternate with periods of being manic (feeling speeded-up and sometimes acting reckless).
You should be evaluated by a professional if you have had five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks or if any of these symptoms cause such a big change that you cannot keep up your usual routine.
When you are depressed:
• You feel sad or cry a lot and it does not go away.
• You feel guilty for no reason, you feel like you are no good and you have lost your confidence.
• Life seems meaningless or like nothing good is ever going to happen again. You have a negative attitude a lot of the time, or it seems like you have no feelings.
• You do not feel like doing a lot of the things you used to like, and you want to be left alone most of the time.
• It is hard to make up your mind. You forget lots of things, and it is hard to concentrate.
• You get irritated often. Little things make you lose your temper, and you overreact.
• Your sleep pattern changes, you start sleeping a lot more or you have trouble falling asleep at night. Or you wake up really early most mornings and cannot get back to sleep.
• Your eating pattern changes, you have lost your appetite or you eat a lot more.
• You think about death, or feel like you are dying or have thoughts about committing suicide.
When you are manic:
• You feel like you are “on top of the world.”
• You get unreal ideas about the great things you can do.
• Thoughts go racing through your head, you jump from one subject to another and you talk a lot.
• You are a non-stop party, constantly running around.
• You do too many wild or risky things.
• You are so “up” that you do not need much sleep.
• You are rebellious or irritable and cannot get along at home or school or with your friends.
Talk to Someone
If you are concerned about depression in yourself or a friend, talk to someone about it. There are people who can help you get treatment:
• A behavioral health professional
• A trusted family member
• Your family doctor
• Your clergy or spiritual leader
• A school counselor or nurse
• A social worker.
Why do people get depressed?
Having depression does not mean that a person is weak or a failure. It means that he or she needs to talk to someone and receive treatment. Treatment can help most depressed people start to feel better in just a few weeks.
Sometimes people get seriously depressed after something like a divorce in the family, major financial problems, someone you love dying or a difficult home life.
Other times — like with other illnesses — depression just happens. This is another reason why it is important to get treatment for depression before it leads to other serious issues.
Depression and Alcohol or Other Drugs
A lot of depressed people also have problems with alcohol or other drugs. Sometimes the depression comes first and people try drugs as a way to escape the sadness. Other times, the alcohol or other drug use comes first, and depression is caused by one or all of the following:
• The drug itself
• Withdrawal from the drug
• The problems that substance use causes.
When you have both of these problems, the sooner you get treatment, the better. You need to be honest about both problems — first with yourself, and then with someone who can help you receive treatment. This is the only way to really get better and stay better.
• National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov
• National Institutes of Health: http://www.nih.gov
• Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net