Coping with Depression

  • Depression is a disorder that causes persistent and intense feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you think, feel, behave, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. A person who is depressed may struggle to do normal day-to-day activities and feel that life isn’t worth living. Everyone gets sad or down from time to time, but depression is different – it can last for several weeks or longer and doesn’t simply get better on its own. It’s not something that you can just pull yourself out of, but requires support from a doctor or therapist. Symptoms of depression typically are experienced most of the day, nearly every day, over a period of a few weeks. These symptoms can include:

    • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness and hopelessness
    • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration, even over small things
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities and hobbies that a person normally enjoys
    • Sleep disturbances, including an inability to sleep or sleeping too much
    • Tiredness and lack of energy – even small tasks take a lot of effort
    • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
    • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
    • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixation on past failures or self-blame
    • Trouble thinking, concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
    • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
    • Unexplained physical problems such as back pain or headaches

    For many people with depression, symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

    In younger children, symptoms of depression may include:

    • Sadness
    • Irritability
    • Clinginess
    • Worry
    • Aches and pains
    • Refusal to go to school
    • Being underweight

    In teenagers, symptoms of depression may also include:

    • Feeling negative and worthless
    • Poor performance or attendance in school
    • Feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive
    • Using drugs or alcohol
    • Eating or sleeping too much
    • Self harm
    • Loss of interest in normal activities
    • Avoidance of social interaction

    In general, if symptoms such as the ones above last for more than a couple of weeks, it’s very important to reach out for help. Calling your child’s doctor is a good start. You can also call the school and speak with your child’s counselor, school social worker, or school psychologist for guidance. Typically, treatment is a combination of therapy and medication, but every situation is different and much depends on the age of the person who needs help. It is important to provide support as soon as possible and not wait or ignore the symptoms for too long. When the person struggling with depression is a child or teenager, it is also important to involve the school, both to gather information and observations about the situation and to help formulate a plan to support the student. If you are concerned that the person struggling with depression is at imminent risk of suicide, call 911 immediately and stay with the person until help arrives. 

    *Adapted from the Mayo Clinic