Depression is a mental illness that has a bad rap. It comes with a stigma and, for many, depression feels like a life sentence of pain. Most who experience depression don’t even realize they are depressed until it turns into having thoughts of suicide and death. And, even if someone recognizes that they are feeling depressed, he or she is often shy about admitting it or getting help because of the stigma that mental illness carries.
However, experiencing depression can serve as a gateway for change. It can be a turning point for a new life. First, from a clinical perspective, depression is treatable(!), meaning that this illness can turn around. Depression doesn’t have to weigh someone down for the rest of his or her life. With psychotherapy, the right medication, and other lifestyle changes, such as exercise, depression can lift and life can be joyful
Perhaps it’s best to begin by reviewing the symptoms of teen depression to help identify what depression feels like. Depression is a persistent experience of feeling down, despondent, or low. In order to be diagnosed with depression, there are clear behavioral criteria that a person must exhibit. Some of these include:
- A depressed mood
- Loss of interest in activities
- Social withdrawal
- Suicidal thoughts
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Slow thinking
- Loss of motivation
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Weight loss or gain
An adolescent might not have all of these symptoms but having some of these consistently can indicate depression. Yet, even if you uncover that you’re depressed, if you didn’t already know it, depression doesn’t have to be a curse upon your life. It can be the very means for turning your life around.
For instance, adolescence is actually the time to become more self-aware, identify who you are and what you like. Being a teenager is a time for self-discovery and figuring out who you might be as you move into adulthood. And sometimes, depression can be an invitation to look inward and discover more about how you’re feeling and thinking. For instance, discovering what you’re passionate about, tapping into your strengths, and diving into your creativity can help turn depression into discovering joy. Essentially, finding out who you are and discovering your particular uniqueness can help brush away the debris of depression so that your inner light shines.
If you’re feeling inspired to turn your life around, you should know that there are some traditional ways that depression is treated, which you may want to explore in addition to diving into yourself. For instance, the use of psychotherapy has been incredibly successful for many teens. At times, psychotherapy can be combined with medication, if it’s necessary. For instance, certain anti-depressants, known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRI’s, can increase levels of serotonin and ease depressive symptoms. Other forms of anti-depressants can also be useful. But medication alone is often not sufficient enough to treat depression.
If you want to learn more about how to turn depression around, talk to a mental health provider. You might start out by talking to a school psychologist or therapist. Or your guidance counselor might also be helpful. You can use depression as an opportunity to get to know who you are. But, it’s still important to get the help you need so that you’re not facing the symptoms of depression alone.