Living with depression: Symptoms, causes & treatments

Everyone feels sad or upset sometimes, but depression is deeper and longer-lasting. It can affect how you think, feel and act.

Depression is a common mental health condition that causes people to feel deep despair for weeks or months at a time. It can affect a person’s whole life including school, relationships and physical health. It’s important to seek help if you think you may have depression.

Depression is a common illness. It affects people of all ages, including kids and teens. Having depression doesn’t mean you’re lazy or weak. It’s as real and serious as a physical condition. Taking care of your mental and emotional health is just as important as taking care of your body.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Each person experiences depression differently, but certain feelings and behaviours are common:

  • feeling sad or “down”
  • feeling irritable or angry
  • feeling helpless or hopeless
  • feeling anxious, nervous or restless
  • crying a lot
  • feeling guilty
  • feeling like you’re alone
  • having negative thoughts or feelings about yourself
  • having trouble sleeping or feeling tired all the time
  • having trouble concentrating at school (perhaps affecting your grades)
  • losing interest in things you enjoy
  • having difficulty making decisions
  • withdrawing from friends and family
  • changes in appetite (eating less or more)
  • taking more risks than you used to
  • acting aggressively or disruptively
  • using drugs or alcohol to cope with moods
  • having thoughts about death or suicide

Extended periods of depression can harm your health, your social life and your school work. It’s very important to seek professional help if you’ve been experiencing four or more of the symptoms listed above for more than two weeks or if you’ve noticed clear changes in your personality.

Talk to a safe adult about your feelings or call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.

What causes depression?

Many factors can contribute to depression. Sometimes people experience depression after major changes in their lives, such as:

  • a family divorce
  • a breakup
  • conflicts at home
  • the death of someone close
  • a big move

Sometimes depression just happens without reason. A combination of physical, psychological and environmental factors might also play a role. Depression can be genetic, which means that if someone in your family has had depression, you may be more likely to develop it.

How is depression treated?

Depression is a treatable illness. It won’t go away by itself, so it’s important to ask for help. Most types of depression can be treated with medication, counselling or both.

  • Antidepressant medication lifts your mood. It’s 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.
  • Counselling, or therapy, is a safe place where you can talk about your feelings with a trained professional. They can help you understand and change the behaviours, thoughts or relationships that are contributing to your depression.

Important things to remember about depression

If you’re nervous about asking for help, remember that depression is treatable and health professionals want to assist. Also keep in mind:

  • Your mental and emotional well-being is important.
  • Depression is a 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.

Need more information or support? You can contact Kids Help Phone 24/7.