As a teenager you go through many changes that affect your moods, behaviours and feelings. It can be quite a roller coaster ride of emotions and it's normal to have ups and downs — everyone feels blue once in a while. If these feelings last longer than a few weeks without improving, then you may be experiencing depression.

Depression is more than just feeling sad. When you have depression you feel hopeless and that you can't see your way out. If you are worried about depression you may want to learn about symptoms of depression, what causes depression and how you can treat depression.

It's important to remember that you need to share your feelings with a trusted adult and get the support you need. If you aren't sure who to turn to, remember, Kids Help Phone is available free, 24-hours a day at 1-800-668-6868.

Symptoms of depression

Everyone experiences depression in different ways, but there are feelings and behaviours that are common to depression. Some of the symptoms a person may experience include:

  • Marks dropping
  • Acting aggressive or disruptive
  • Having negative thoughts or feelings about themselves
  • Taking more risks than they used to
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Losing interest in things they previously enjoyed
  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Feeling anxious, nervous or restless
  • Feeling sad or "down"
  • Feeling guilty
  • Changes in sleep patterns (e.g. having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or wanting to sleep all the time)
  • Changes in appetite (e.g. not wanting to eat much or wanting to eat all the time)
  • Feeling more fatigued or tired
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with moods
  • Having thoughts about death or suicide

If you have more than four or five of these symptoms or notice clear changes in your personality you may have depression. It is important that you get help in order to figure out why you are feeling or acting this way. Talk to a trusted adult about your feelings or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 and talk to a professional counsellor.

What causes depression?

Sometimes people might experience depression after big changes in their lives like:

  • A family divorce
  • A break up
  • The death of someone close
  • A big move
  • Conflicts at home

Other times depression just happens. Depression can be caused by bodily, psychological and environmental factors, or a combination of all three. Sometimes, depression can be genetic, which means that if someone in your family has had depression you may be more prone to developing it.

Will it go away? How can I treat it?

Extended periods of depression can have harmful consequences on your health, your social life and your schoolwork. It is very important to seek professional help if you have been experiencing four or five of the symptoms listed above for more than two weeks.

Only a doctor can diagnose depression. Most types of depression can be treated in one of three ways:

  • With medication
  • With counselling
  • With a combination of both

Counselling, or therapy, is a safe place where you can talk about your feelings with a trained professional who can help you understand and alter the behaviour, thoughts or relationships that are contributing to your depression. Remember that counsellors are professionals who want to help and they understand what you are going through.

If a doctor recommends antidepressant medication to help lift your mood, it is very important to take the medication exactly as prescribed. Tell your doctor right away if you stop taking the medication or if you start to experience side-effects or feel worse than before. If you have any questions about the medication you are taking, talk to the doctor who prescribed it.

Important things to remember

  • Your well-being is important
  • If you are feeling depressed there are professionals who can help you
  • Depression is a very common illness and no one needs to suffer alone
  • You are the only one who can tell others how you feel
  • Sometimes it takes a while for depression to go away
  • Working through feelings and emotions can be challenging, but once you do, you'll feel a lot better

Last Reviewed October 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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