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Teen Depression: What to Know

Signs that you might be depressed, and what to do about it.
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What Is Depression? continued...

Everyone gets the blues from time to time. That's different from depression.

Let's say you didn't make the team, broke up with someone, or had a big fight with your best friend. If you're bummed for a couple of weeks and then start feeling better, that's probably not depression. It's normal to feel sad, mad, or frustrated when tough things happen.

"But if you're feeling irritable, grumpy, sad, or down more than half of the time for more than a couple of weeks, that's a problem," says Dallas psychiatrist Graham Emslie, MD.

What Causes Depression?

Depression is not a sign that you're a weak person or a loser.

Depression isn't always exactly the same. For some people, it's so intense that they have trouble getting through the day. For others, it's not as severe, but it goes on for months or even years. Then there's depression that follows a tough time, like the death of someone you love or your parents' divorce.

All of these types of depression can be treated. 

What You Can Do

If you think you may have depression, you may worry that if you seek help you'll get labeled as crazy.

Forget the whole "crazy" thing. That has nothing to do with depression, and it doesn't help anyone.

"In fact, knowing that you have depression is good news in a way, because we do know that there are effective treatments," Emslie says. "Don't assume that we're going to stick you in a hospital or put you on medications you don't want. There's a lot more to it than that."

Some treatment options for depression are:

  • Therapy. You can see a therapist one-on-one, or in a group. Therapy helps you figure out what's going off track in your life, and how you can make changes -- handling school stresses, for example, or working on healthy relationships with friends and family.
  • Lifestyle changes, like getting more exercise, eating well, and finding social support. Many studies have found that exercise can be as effective as medication at treating depression.
  • Antidepressant drugs. Sometimes prescription medicines can help to get your brain chemistry back to normal. There are lots of them. (These medications have been linked, in a few cases, to suicidal thinking in young people, so if you find your thoughts getting worsewhile on medication, tell your parents and doctor right away.)

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