But sometimes sad feelings can go on for too long, hurt too deeply, and make it hard for someone to enjoy the good things about life. This deeper, more intense kind of sadness that lasts a lot longer is called depression.
People of all ages can become depressed — even kids. Depression brings down a person’s mood and energy. It can affect how people think about themselves and their situation.
If you think you have depression or you just have sadness that simply will not go away, it is important to talk to an adult about it (a parent, relative, doctor, teacher, counselor, coach, or close adult friend) so this person can help you.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression?
People who are depressed have some (but not necessarily all) of these symptoms:
- Negative mood: Depression causes a sad, hopeless, or grumpy mood that lasts for weeks or longer. When people are depressed, they can also seem easily annoyed or angry.
- Negative thinking: People who are depressed might mistakenly think they are worthless, unlovable, or bad. They might think things will never get better.
- Negative attitude: People who are depressed might feel like nothing is worth trying, nothing’s any good. This can make them feel like giving up.
- Low energy: People who feel depressed often feel too tired to do things they normally do, like play, go to school, or go to work.
- Not enjoying things: Depression can ruin enjoyment of the things someone normally likes, such as being with friends, enjoying family, or having fun.
- Trouble concentrating: Depression can make it hard to concentrate on schoolwork, reading, or what people say.
- Sleeping or eating problems: Depression can cause someone to sleep or eat too much or not enough.
- Feeling overwhelmed by problems: Depression can make it seem like every problem is too big to deal with.
When these problems last for weeks or longer, it is most likely a sign that the person is depressed. Some people who have depression may not even realize it. Often it’s a parent, teacher, or family member who notices behavior changes like the ones in the list above.
What Causes People to Get Depressed?
There is no single reason why people get depressed. Everyone’s different. Too much negative thinking can make it easier to become depressed. Having a parent who gets depressed can increase someone’s chances of becoming depressed. But some people become depressed for no apparent reason. Becoming depressed is never the person’s fault.
Difficult problems or an overload of stress can sometimes lead to depression. A kid could become depressed after the loss of someone really close, such as a parent, or if there are long-lasting problems at home (including violence, divorce, alcohol or drug use, abuse or neglect, difficult health conditions, or serious accidents).
Living with too much criticism and yelling, or dealing with bullying that isn’t stopped, could harm a person’s self esteem and lead to depression.
But going through difficult problems, grief, or having family members with depression doesn’t necessarily mean someone will become depressed. Many times, people are able to stay positive, cope, and do well, even through bad times. Certain things can help protect people from depression.
Getting Help for Depression
When someone is dealing with depression, it can seem that problems are too big to bear and that things will never get better. But people who feel depressed can get better and feel happier.
It’s very important for people of any age who have depression to reach out for help. When they do, they can get better quickly. Sometimes treatment involves talking to a doctor, therapist, or counselor who knows all about depression. Sometimes medications can help depression heal. Sometimes both of these things are used.
When kids or adults get help with depression, their negative moods and thoughts can become brighter and more positive again. They have more energy and problems become easier to solve. Taking steps to solve problems helps them feel better about themselves. Things seem more hopeful. Depression starts to lift with each positive step.
In addition to getting help, there are things people can do to help themselves get better. Eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, daily exercise (such as walking or playing), and taking time to relax can do a lot to improve depression.
Sharing your sad feelings with someone who cares can help, too. There is always somebody to talk to when you are sad or depressed. You feel better when someone knows what you’re going through. Plus, the other person can help you think of ways to make the situation better.
But don’t spend all your time talking about what’s wrong. Be sure to talk together about the good things, too. Paying attention to the good stuff (especially during sad times) can help turn your mood in a positive direction. It may seem simple, but it’s another powerful way to help yourself if you’re dealing with depression.
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: March 2015