How we feel usually relates to what’s going on in our lives. It’s normal to be happy sometimes, frustrated at other times and disappointed when things don’t go to plan.
Depression leaves young people feeling down and unable to cope with everyday life. As well as affecting how someone feels and thinks, it can also affect their physical health and overall enjoyment of life. There are different types of depression but they all share some common symptoms. These symptoms vary in intensity and in the impact they have on someone’s life. Everyone is unique and can experience depression in different ways.
“Things I normally found enjoyable would start to not be so good, I would not want to see friends or talk to people. I would feel really upset like I wanted to cry all the time.” Andrew, 18
What a young person might feel
Some young people feel irritable, while others feel sad and really stressed most of the time. Some young people become more angry than usual and are restless, unable to relax or stop thinking about their worries. Young people with depression may experience feelings of guilt, worthlessness, frustration, unhappiness, indecisiveness, disappointment and misery.
Many of the feelings young people have are connected to how they think. So if what young people are thinking about tends to be negative, their feelings probably will be too. Young people with depression can get caught up in this unhelpful cycle.
“It was as though I was a sink and any sort of happiness or energy just drained out. I felt completely helpless and empty.” Jessica, 17
What a young person might think
Young people with depression describe having negative thoughts about themselves, the people around them or their environment, and the future. These thoughts are often inaccurate or unhelpful. Depression affects their ability to concentrate and consider certain situations or decisions objectively.
Some young people think about how their condition is affecting other people and begin to feel guilty for being a nuisance or a burden, while others worry that they are a failure and that nothing good will ever happen to them.
These often really intense feelings can leave some young people thinking that life is not worth living.
Common issues that young people grapple with include:
- Friendships: being part of a group or feeling rejected or bullied, supporting someone who is also struggling to find enjoyment in life
- Intimate relationships: wanting to be in a relationship or trying to make a relationship work
- Academic performance: managing school or university workloads, preparing for exams, setting unrealistic expectations for what they will achieve at school or university
- Work pressures: learning a new job or keeping up with employer expectations
- Financial matters: having enough money for study and personal commitments
- Family stresses: family conflict or family breakup
- Loss and grief: the loss of someone close, moving house or changing schools, the end of a relationship
- Negative experiences linked to their sexuality or gender identity: discrimination or the fear of it, internalised shame or bottling up negative feelings, and negative family/friendship experiences
- Negative experiences related to cultural heritage, language or religion: being discriminated against or fearing it, being ignored, and avoiding places and situations.
What a young person might do
Young people experiencing depression often lose interest in things they previously found enjoyable or satisfying. It might be because of intense sadness or worry, an inability to concentrate for extended periods or they may feel exhausted and lack the energy to get involved in things around them. As a result, they can become disconnected from their friends and family, leaving them feeling isolated and at times more depressed.
There can also be changes in how young people eat and sleep. Some young people lose their appetite, while others use food as a way to feel better. Some young people want to sleep all the time while others just can’t sleep, no matter how tired they feel.
The experience of depression can be different for everyone but the things to look out for are ongoing changes in your young person’s mood, behaviours, and general wellbeing.
Common symptoms of depression
- lacking in confidence
- “I’m a failure”
- “It’s my fault”
- “Nothing good ever happens to me”
- “I’m worthless”
- “Life’s not worth living”
- “People would be better off without me”
- not going out anymore
- not getting things done at work or school
- withdrawing from close family and friends
- relying on alcohol and sedatives
- not doing usual enjoyable activities
- unable to concentrate
- tired all the time
- sick and run down
- headaches and muscle pains
- churning gut
- sleep problems
- loss or change of appetite
- significant weight loss or gain