Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. Everyone gets depressed from time to time. But when a sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with everyday activities and relationships, you may be clinically depressed.
Clinical depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder, is marked by a depressed mood all day every day, lasting for more than two weeks. Classified medically as a mental and behavioral disorder, depression negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. Depression saps your energy and self confidence, making you handicapped by your emotions.
The medical community once thought that depression only affected adults. However, now we know that the condition can begin in childhood or the early teens, and increases steadily through the mid-20s and early 30s. In most cases, the exact cause of depression is unknown. It may be a combination of underlying genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Who is at Risk?
Everyone is different‚ but some people are at higher risk of becoming depressed, such as those who:
- Have a dysfunctional family, family conflict, or come from a broken home.
- Have blood relatives who have had depression or mental illness.
- Have problems with friends or other kids at school.
- Have learning problems or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Have other mental health conditions such as anxiety or eating disorders.
- Have experienced traumatic or stressful events, such as abuse or the death of a loved one.
- Are going through a major life change‚ even if it was planned, such as moving to a new place.
- Have a medical problem, such as cancer or chronic pain.
- Have low self-esteem, a pessimistic outlook, or poor coping skills.
- Use substances such as alcohol or drugs.
- Many people with SAD experience depression during the winter months, when days are shorter.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression vary among individuals, but often include more than one of the following:
- Feeling sad, irritable‚ or anxious all the time
- Loss of interest in normal activities and relationships
- Not wanting to do things that used to be fun
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Waking up early or sleeping late
- Feeling tired‚ even after sleeping well
- Eating more or less than usual, or having no appetite
- Random aches, pains, or stomach upset with no identifiable cause
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Feeling like a failure, worthless, helpless or hopeless
- Carrying a sense of guilt, shame, or regret and unable to forgive yourself
- Feeling apathetic, no motivation to do anything
- Feeling like everything is bad and things will never get better
- No goals or plans for the future
- Feeling like your life is over
- Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
Since prolonged depression can become progressively worse over time, you should nip it in the bud. Realizing that you have a problem is the first step towards solving it. Changing your behavior — your physical activity, lifestyle, and even your way of thinking — are all natural depression treatments. Here are some home remedies you can try to help you feel better.
Sleep Schedule – Sleep is important. Getting less than eight hours of sleep a night has been linked to anxiety and depression. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, to train your body and brain to feel tired when it’s time to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and to feel wakeful when it’s time to get up.
Eat Regularly – Eat at the same times every day and don’t overdo the snacking between meals. Getting in control of your eating will help you feel better.
Eat Healthy – Certain foods can influence chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and tryptophan, which help regulate mood. Foods that boost your mood and help fight depression include: apples, bananas, beans, chamomile tea, cinnamon, dark chocolate, green tea, nuts, peppermint, probiotics, tuna, turkey, vanilla, whole grains, and yogurt. Avoid foods that are highly processed, high in sugar (including high fructose corn syrup), and that contain MSG or artificial colors.
Supplements – There’s promising evidence for certain supplements (Omega-3, SAM-e, Folate, Vitamin B-6 and B-12, St. John’s Wort) to improve mood. Melatonin or Vitamin D may be more beneficial for depression due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Aromatherapy – Essential oils used for depression include: bergamot, cedarwood, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, lemon balm, lilac, myrrh, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, spruce, orange, and ylang ylang.
Play Music – Music can do wonders to lift a broken spirit. This would include listening to upbeat songs (like contemporary Christian worship music), playing an instrument, or even composing your own music.
Art Therapy – Art therapy is a real depression treatment that helps you get in touch with your feelings and use creative expression as an outlet. Kids and teens seem naturally drawn to art therapy, and you don’t need to be a talented artist to benefit from art for depression. It’s all about the creative process, not the end result. The medium doesn’t matter, either, so feel free to sketch, paint, sculpt, craft, or whatever art form you’re drawn to.
Write a Journal – Many mental health experts recommend keeping a journal. Journaling for depression is like talk therapy that you give yourself. By regularly recording your thoughts you will gain insight into your moods. This can be a great tool to clarify your feelings and resolve the underlying issue.
Read a Book– Never Fight Alone is a book for teens that consists of 51 inspiring interviews with all sorts of people who have faced a multitude of problems – bullying, divorced or absentee parents, abuse, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and other things. From teen entrepreneurs and former professional athletes to inspirational authors and speakers, they describe the obstacles they faced, how they overcame them, and offer life-changing tips for how readers can do the same.
Set a Daily Goal – Even if it’s just a simple one like getting your homework done every day. Once you’ve proven that you can successfully complete small goals, gradually add more challenging goals.
Exercise – Depression is more likely to respond to movement than sedentary living. Exercise temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and regular physical activity seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways. There are many types of physical activities that you can do, both indoors (aerobics, weights, dance) and outdoors (walking, running, sports). The Physical Activity Pyramid for Teens recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day.
Nature – If you’re feeling blue, try immersing yourself in green. A stroll in the woods has been shown to help combat depression, or head for the hills if you need a boost to your mood. Even if it’s just hanging out in your neighborhood park, the fresh air and exercise does wonders.
Sunshine – It’s true; sunshine makes you happy. Sunlight offers powerful restorative, protective, and healing effects. Go for a walk, play ball, or set up a lawn chair outside when it’s nice and sunny. Don’t waste the daylight playing video games in your room.
Do Something Different – Force yourself to get out of the rut you’re stuck in. New experiences boost levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning. Start by doing some of the suggested activities we’ve listed on this page.
Make a Difference – Volunteering is one of the best activities that you can do if you have depression. Performing acts of kindness gets your mind off your own problems and releases a happy blend of mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. Spending some time helping people who are worse off than you will help you feel better about yourself.
Start a Hobby – Healthy lifestyle hobbies such as music, martial arts, and cooking can boost your spirits and improve your mood. Taking time to relax and engage in any type of hobby, such as crafting or collecting things, can keep you busy and take your mind off your troubles.
Explore the World Around You – Plan a regular outing or other activity that will keep you active and engaged, and give you something to look forward to. Take a walk in the park. Explore a museum. Pick out a book from the library. Go to a Farmer’s Market.
Take on Responsibilities – Find something you can do on a regular basis that gives you a sense of accomplishment – especially if does double duty as a physical activity that gets you outside – like watering the garden, mowing the lawn, or walking the dog.
Get a Pet – People who suffer from depression often find solace in the companionship that their pets provide. Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs can help people with loneliness, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cats are the second most popular choice after dogs, followed by rabbits and guinea pigs. Birds and fish are other possibilities, but they’re not as cuddly.
Challenge Negative Thoughts with Logic – You might feel like the most worthless person on the planet, but is that really likely? It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control. Think hard and make a list of your favorite things or things you are thankful for (your mom, sunsets, birds, flowers, chocolate chip cookies, etc.), and it may just prove that your life isn’t really that bad.
Prayer and Worship – For many people, going to church leaves them feeling renewed and refreshed. If you don’t feel like being around people right now, the Bible will give you hope and strength as you wait for God to lead you out of the Valley of Darkness. Bible verses for depression: https://theblazingcenter.com/bible-verses-for-depression
Talk it Out – Don’t keep your problems to yourself. Venting your feelings can really make a difference. Opening up about your struggles to a friend, parent, or youth pastor may be enough to get some relief. Even better, these people will probably be able to offer you some helpful advice from their own experience.
7 Cups of Tea – If you have no one to talk to, try an online emotional support system. Founded by a licensed clinical psychologist, 7 Cups provides support for teens between the ages of 13 and 17 through trained volunteer listeners who are available 24/7 over online chat. It’s anonymous and completely free. The listeners come from all walks of life, have undergone background checks, and you can choose a listener that’s right for you. You can also join their teen community forums and chat rooms dedicated to many issues including depression. Get support from peers who understand what you’re going through, and you may even make new friends along the way. This will help you build confidence and feel better about yourself. Learn more about how it works.
Advice for Parents
Parents, do you get frustrated with your teen for being so lazy and unresponsive? Have you ever considered the fact that he or she may be depressed? The intense feelings of despair associated with this malady often make it difficult to focus on anything else.
Depression is a disease of withdrawal. Don’t leave your teen alone to deal with their thoughts. Talk them into coming out of their room. Plan on doing something special together like going to a movie, concert, shopping, road trip, etc. Make it a stress-free environment, keep saying positive things, and stay upbeat around them. Don’t let yourself get angry or frustrated, or your own attitude will bring them down.
If the depression is severe and your teen is in danger of harm, you will have to seek professional help. This may involve taking your teen to see a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or counselor. Don’t wait until it’s too late, even if you feel you can’t afford it. Many agencies and private therapists offer free or reduced-cost therapy to people with low income or no insurance. Teletherapy, or online mental healthcare, is another option.
Some teens who have severe depression will need more intensive treatment. They may have to check into a behavioral health clinic. Day programs can be full-day or half-day, and they often last for several weeks. Both offer counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients. Believe it or not, mood disorders are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S.
In some cases, your doctor may suggest medication. A few antidepressants have been widely studied and proven to help teens. But medication should only be taken as a last resort. In some cases, a teenager may actually have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants. This risk is higher in the first few weeks after starting the medicine and when the dose is changed. The medicine can’t be stopped suddenly, either. Your doctor will have to slowly and safely decrease the dose.
What if your teen doesn’t want help?
If you’re trying to help someone who doesn’t want help or think they don’t need help, you can’t force them to do something unless they want to do it too. Ask your teen what they want! It may take a while to coax it out of them, but listen carefully and show concern so they know they are being heard and understood. Be patient, let your teen talk as long as they need to, and don’t interrupt. Even if they’re rambling about nothing specific, eventually it may come out. If you’re still not having any success, invite someone over like a close relative, friend, or pastor that your teen respects and may be more open to talking with. Family therapy is another option in which parents, brothers and sisters can go to therapy together. Because everybody is there, no one will feel self-conscious about being singled out.
Anyone having thoughts of suicide or self-harm can access free support right now:
- Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 for free 24/7 crisis counseling.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Or for immediate emergency help, dial 9-1-1.