Help With Depression
You know that these school years can be complicated and
demanding. Deep down, you are not quite sure of who you are, what you want
to be, or whether the choices you make from day to day are the best decisions.
Sometimes the many changes and pressures you are facing threaten
to overwhelm you. So, it isn't surprising that from time to time you or
one of your friends feels "down" or discouraged.
But what about those times when a friend's activity and outlook on
life stay "down" for weeks and begin to affect your relationship? If you
know someone like this, your friend might be suffering from depression.
As a friend, you can help.
…Find Out More About Depression
What is depression?
Depression is more than the blues or the blahs; it is more than the normal,
everyday ups and downs.
When that "down" mood, along with other symptoms,
lasts for more than a couple of weeks, the condition may be clinical
depression. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that affects
the total person. In addition to feelings, it can change behavior, physical
health and appearance, academic performance, social activity and the
ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.
What causes clinical depression?
We do not yet know all the causes of depression, but there seem to be biological
and emotional factors that may increase the likelihood that an individual will
develop a depressive disorder.
Research over the past decade strongly suggests
a genetic link to depressive disorders; depression can run in families.
Difficult life experiences and certain personal patterns such as difficulty
handling stress, low self-esteem, or extreme pessimism about the future
can increase the chances of becoming depressed.
How common is it?
Clinical depression is a lot more common than most people think. It will
affect more than 19 million Americans this year.
One-fourth of all women and one-eighth of
all men will suffer at least one episode or occurrence of depression
during their lifetimes. Depression affects people of all ages but is
less common for teenagers than for adults. Approximately 3 to 5 percent
of the teen population experiences clinical depression every year. That
means among 25 friends, 1 could be clinically depressed.
Is it serious?
Depression can be very serious.
It has been linked to poor school performance,
truancy, alcohol and drug abuse, running away, and feelings of worthlessness
and hopelessness. In the past 25 years, the rate of suicide among teenagers
and young adults has increased dramatically. Suicide is often linked
Are all depressive disorders alike?
There are various forms or types of depression.
Some people experience only one
episode of depression in their whole life, but many have several recurrences.
Some depressive episodes begin suddenly for no apparent reason, while
others can be associated with a life situation or stress. Sometimes
people who are depressed cannot perform even the simplest daily activities
-- like getting out of bed or getting dressed; others go through the
motions, but it is clear they are not acting or thinking as usual. Some
people suffer from bipolar disorder in which their moods cycle between
two extremes -- from the depths of desperation to frenzied talking or
activity or grandiose ideas about their own competence.
Can it be treated?
Yes, depression is treatable. Between 80 and 90 percent of people with
depression -- even the most serious forms -- can be helped.
There are a variety of antidepressant medications
and psychotherapies that can be used to treat depressive disorders.
Some people with milder forms may do well with psychotherapy alone.
People with moderate to severe depression most often benefit from antidepressants.
Most do best with combined treatment: medication to gain relatively
quick symptom relief and psychotherapy to learn more effective ways
to deal with life’s problems, including depression.
The most important step toward overcoming
depression -- and sometimes the most difficult -- is asking for help.
Why don’t people get the
help they need?
Often people don’t know they are depressed, so they don’t ask for or
get the right help. Teenagers and adults share a problem -- they often fail
to recognize the symptoms of depression in themselves or in other people.
...Be Able To Tell Fact From Fiction
about depression often separate people from the effective treatments
now available. Friends need to know the facts. Some of the most
common myths are these:
Myth: It’s normal for teenagers
to be moody; Teens don’t suffer from "real" depression.
Fact: Depression can affect people
at any age or of any race, ethnic, or economic group.
Myth: Teens who claim to be depressed
are weak and just need to pull themselves together. There’s nothing
anyone else can do to help.
Fact: Depression is not a weakness,
but a serious health disorder. Both young people and adults who
are depressed need professional treatment. A trained therapist or counselor
can help them learn more positive ways to think about themselves, change
behavior, cope with problems, or handle relationships. A physician can
prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of depression. For
many people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is beneficial.
Myth: Talking about depression only
makes it worse.
Fact: Talking through feelings
may help a friend recognize the need for professional help. By showing
friendship and concern and giving uncritical support, you can encourage
your friend to talk to his or her parents or another trusted adult,
like a teacher or coach, about getting treatment. If your friend is
reluctant to ask for help, you can talk to an adult -- that’s
what a real friend will do.
Myth: Telling an adult that a friend
might be depressed is betraying a trust. If someone wants help, he or
she will get it.
Fact: Depression, which saps energy
and self-esteem, interferes with a person’s ability or wish to
get help. And many parents may not understand the seriousness of
depression or of thoughts of death or suicide. It is an act of true
friendship to share your concerns with a school guidance counselor,
a favorite teacher, your own parents, or another trusted adult.
...Know the Symptoms
The first step toward defeating depression
is to define it. But people
who are depressed often have a hard time thinking clearly or recognizing
their own symptoms. They may need your help. Check the following to
see if a friend or friends have had any of these symptoms persisting
longer than two weeks.
Do they express feelings of
- Sadness or "emptiness"?
- Hopelessness, pessimism, or guilt?
- Helplessness or worthlessness?
Do they seem
- Unable to make decisions?
- Unable to concentrate and remember?
- To have lost interest or pleasure in ordinary activities -- like
sports or band or talking on the phone?
- To have more problems with school and family?
Do they complain of
- Loss of energy and drive -- so
they seem "slowed down"?
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up?
- Appetite problems; are they losing or gaining weight?
- Headaches, stomach aches, or backaches?
- Chronic aches and pains in joints and muscles?
Has their behavior changed suddenly
- They are restless or more irritable?
- They want to be alone most of the time?
- They’ve started cutting classes or dropped hobbies and activities?
- You think they may be drinking heavily or taking drugs?
Have they talked about
- Suicide - or have they attempted suicide?
...Find Someone Who Can Help
If you answered yes to several of the items,
a friend may need help. Don’t assume that someone else is taking
care of the problem. Negative thinking, inappropriate behavior or physical
changes need to be reversed as quickly as possible. Not only does treatment
lessen the severity of depression, treatment also may reduce the length
of time (duration) your friend is depressed and may prevent additional
bouts of depression.
If a friend shows many symptoms of
depression, you can listen and encourage him or her to ask a parent
or teacher about treatments. If your friend doesn’t seek help
quickly, talk to an adult you trust and respect -- especially if your
friend mentions death or suicide.
There are many places in the
community where people with depressive disorders can be diagnosed and
treated. Help is available from family doctors, mental health specialists
in community mental health centers or private clinics, and from other
For Additional Information About
Depression Write To:
6001 Executive Boulevard
Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
For More Information About NIMH
The Office of Communications and Public Liaison
carries out educational activities and publishes and distributes research
reports, press releases, fact sheets, and publications intended for
researchers, health care providers, and the general public. A publications
list may be obtained by contacting:
Office of Communications and Public
Information Resources and Inquiries Branch
6001 Executive Blvd., Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Mental Health FAX 4U: 301-443-5158
Web site: www.nimh.nih.gov
**This information came from an NIMH online article.**
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