A Teen’s Guide to Depression

The passage to adulthood can be messy, complicated, and upsetting. Teens often get conflicting messages from family and school, and the emotional stress of social life — especially in the 24/7 media age — can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. If you dread getting out of bed in the morning, know that happiness and independence are within your grasp, and change is possible.

Levels of depression

Like Dante’s Inferno, depression can start out on a superficial level and gradually descend into increasingly painful territory. You can have a relatively good day until you flunk a test you thought you aced, and maybe this stays with you for an hour or even a day. You can suffer a short-term bout of sadness after losing an important game, and maybe that stays with you for a few days. You can suffer a traumatic family event like a divorce that directly affects your mood for months or longer. Or perhaps you’ve suffered from abuse in ways that can potentially affect you in the long-term. Perhaps you have insomnia, social anxiety, or an overwhelming fear of failure. Sometimes all these things might collide at once and eventually a feeling may set in that you just cannot shake by doing things that once made you happy, like hobbies, sports, or shopping for new clothes, dresses, or gear.

Ultimately, depression becomes an entrenched state of mind rather than a temporary condition based on specific events. It may not be tied to an emotional event at all, it may stem from a neurochemical imbalance, endocrine problems, or even head trauma. We might commonly say we feel sad or “depressed”, but clinical depression must be diagnosed by a doctor so they can rule out any physical issues that might contribute to the problem. Some doctors use a standardized test like the Beck Depression Inventory or the Zung Self-Rating Depression scale that gives a basic snapshot of one’s emotional state.

Overcoming the stigma and fear of treatment

It can be a scary prospect if a loved one wants to bring you to a doctor for diagnosis, or if you yourself determine you need to seek help. You might be afraid of what other people will think or say about you, or how it will disrupt your life, but consider this: even if you’ve tried to hide it, the people around you on a regular basis likely know you are unhappy. Displaying that you have the courage to seek help sends a new message of strength and hope to everyone you know, and you might just set an example that inspires other friends to seek help as well.

Remember that if you have depression now, your life and relationships are already affected, and seeking help can only improve your situation, not worsen it. If your home situation is currently causing you the most pain, sometimes the most effective form of treatment is to remove yourself from that environment during a temporary stay in a teen residential treatment center. This gives you a momentary break from a negative environment while also giving you the tools to cope when you go back home.

Making a fresh start

The first step is to choose hope, and to know that you can be happy one day, even though you may not be right now. Even something as simple as calling a hotline for more information can help you begin your journey to wellness. And one thing is for certain: you are precious, your life matters, and you are worth the effort it takes to strive for brighter days.

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