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Written by: Ashlee Cantrell

Being a young person is tough. You’ve got the responsibilities of school, potential academic struggles, social and family expectations, physical and emotional changes along with the increasing pressure of “getting your life together” to figure out what you want to do with your future. What happened to just being a teenager? Unfortunately, sometimes too much pressure or stress can lead to feeling “down in the dumps” or depression. Having teen depression can cause many issues, which is why we need to discuss signs to look for and how to reach out for help. So, what does depression even look like and how do you manage it? Let’s get some answers for you.

What Does it Look Like?

First things first; what is depression? Depression is a mental health concern that causes people to feel consistently sad, unhappy, and sometimes hopeless. Depression in teenagers is often expressed in a similar way to adult depression however, the intensity of the emotions and behaviors tend to differ. So, what does teenage depression look like? When a teen’s mood is disrupted by their ability to function on a daily basis, this can be a key sign that they might be depressed. Mental health may also affect physical health. When a person is feeling depressed, their body may feel tired, run-down, and uninterested in their day-to-day life. Is this something that you can relate to? Let’s look at some general physical symptoms that may occur:

  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Loss of interest in social interaction
  • Changes in sleeping/eating patterns
  • Physical changes (posture, lack of eye contact, keeping head down, etc)
  • Difficulty concentrating, or paying attention

What Does it Feel Like?

Although depression may be easier to spot if you are experiencing it on the outside of your body, it is important to know what it feels like on the inside of your body. This will help us to catch it and ask for help sooner. It may be difficult to understand what you may be feeling if you are depressed but don’t worry. You are not alone. Let’s talk about it.

  • Confusion. Having depression is very confusing. One minute you’re a regular teenager going to school and feeling all right, and the next you might be feeling a rush of intense sadness that feels like it could last forever. Other times, you may feel nothing at all. Your moods may be unpredictable and who knows what caused it or what to do about it.
  • Anger. This is a big one. Anger is a lot different than sadness as it might be the only other mood that you can recognize right now because everything and everyone is getting on your nerves. You may be feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive right now because it may feel like no one seems to understand what you’re going through, and they may be criticizing you too. Why won’t they just leave you alone?
  • Worthlessness. With depression often comes a sense of low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness. “I do not deserve to be here.” “I do not want to be here anymore.” Have thoughts such as these or similar popped into your head recently? If so, you may know what I’m talking about.
  • Hopelessness. If you look around you, you might see other teenagers having fun, getting ready for their futures, and just enjoying life. Does it make you feel less motivated? Less excited for the future? Someone with depression often has difficulty with motivation for the future and struggles when seeing others doing well.

One of the most crucial parts of this section is that if you find yourself feeling any of these symptoms, it is important that you are willing to discuss how you’re feeling with someone that you trust. It does not have to be a parent, but it must be someone that you trust to support you and get you the help that you need.

How Do I Manage It?

As a teenager, developing a sense of acceptance, safety, and belonging is super important. When adding a depressive mood to the mix, it can cause harm to that development. Now that we have discussed what depression is, what it looks like, and how it feels, let’s talk about how to manage it!

  • Making new friends. This is easier said than done, especially when you’re not feeling your best. Try making new social connections in class, or a mutual group at school!
  • Participate in sports, and social hobbies, or get a job. Staying busy helps to keep the mind active and occupied with positive activities.
  • Self-care. Self-care is important to make sure that your body is getting what it needs on a daily basis. This may include exercising for 30 minutes 3-4 times per week, keeping a healthy balanced food plan, and aiming for eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Talk therapy is a great way to talk through how you’re feeling and learn appropriate coping skills that fit you. Therapy provides a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment that will guide you toward the appropriate treatment to help you.

There are many “rites of passage” to growing up, like going to your first football game, getting your first job, or getting your first kiss! However, experiencing depression is not one of them. Depression is not something to be taken lightly. If you find yourself relating to any of the information above or feel afraid that you might be experiencing depression and don’t know where to turn, Upstate Restorative Counseling is here to help you. You deserve to be here, and we are here for you. Please reach out.