Are You Depressed? 5 Signs of Depression and 5 Ways to Feel Better

What does it mean to be depressed? How do you know if you are depressed, stressed out, or just in a bad mood? Below are 5 signs that it’s more than just a bad mood.

5 Signs of Depression

1. You feel, sad, hopeless, or “empty” inside a lot of the time.

It’s normal to feel sad sometimes. In fact, it’s healthy! For example, things like getting a bad grade, arguing with a friend, or getting in trouble might make you feel sad or angry.

Sadness becomes a sign of depression when it feels like it almost never goes away or happens for no reason at all. Depression also might make you feel hopeless or like “things will be bad forever.” You might feel guilty when you didn’t do anything wrong or even feel worthless and think that you’re “a bad person.” You may even have thoughts about wanting to die or think about ways to hurt yourself.

2. You feel angry, cranky, or annoyed most of the time.

Depression isn’t just about being sad. Sometimes depression comes out as feeling angry or annoyed at every little thing. You may just feel overall cranky even when nothing is wrong. These angry feelings might end up causing you to get in trouble more often at school or at home. It may make it hard to get along with your friends. It may even make you want to hurt yourself or someone else.

Just like sadness, it is important to know that feeling angry is only a sign of depression when it seems like you feel that way most of the time. Feeling angry at a specific situation, like when you see something that is very unjust, is healthy.

3. You stopped doing things that you used to like, or you stopped wanting to hang out with your friends.

Depression is a drag. It sucks the fun out of things. You may feel like the things you used to enjoy just aren’t worth it. You may find yourself turning down invitations to hang out with people. This can mean you spend a lot of the time by yourself feeling lonely and isolated. It may also mean picking up unhealthy habits to cope, including using drugs or alcohol.

4. Your sleeping and eating habits have changed.

The odd thing about depression is that it can look different for different people. For some people, depression can make it hard to sleep. You may feel too upset to sleep or your mind won’t “shut off.” For other people, depression makes them sleep all the time. It may be harder than usual to get out of bed. You may feel like you are moving too slow or just “dragging” through the day.

Eating is different for different people too. For some people, depression ruins their appetite. You may not feel hungry even if you haven’t eaten in a long time. For other people, depression makes you want to eat more than usual even when you aren’t hungry.

5. It’s harder to keep up with schoolwork and other commitments.

Depression is a real motivation killer. You may notice yourself procrastinating things like homework or chores more than you used to. Even when you get started, you may find it harder to stay focused or remember all the parts of what you have to do. You might also find it hard to make decisions like, “Should I do my math homework first and get it out of the way, or should I start on something easier?”

Or, it may be hard to think through what to do if you get stuck. All this can mean getting behind in school, falling grades, or getting in trouble at home.

5 Ways to Feel Better

If you have depression, it isn’t your fault. There is nothing you did wrong to get depression. Depression is usually caused by a combination of genetics and ongoing stress. Of course, you can’t change your genetics, but you may be able to change your stress level.

Here are 5 tips to help you feel better.

1. Talk to an adult that you trust.

When you feel bad, it might seem like the last thing you want to do is talk about it. Maybe you feel like no one will understand, so why bother? But the truth is, talking to someone you trust about how you are feeling can usually make a big difference. Having an ear to listen to you can help you sort out your thoughts and make you feel less alone. Also, a trusted adult can make sure you get the help you need to get better. Safe adults to talk to include your parents, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, adult sibling, teacher, coach, or school counselor.

It is especially important to talk to someone if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or hurting others.

If you are having these thoughts but don’t have a safe adult to go to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

2. Spend time with friends and family who make you feel good.

Depression is tricky. It often makes you want to stay away from others. The problem is, that usually just makes depression worse. To feel better, it’s important to talk back to depression and say, “No!” when it tells you to do things that aren’t healthy for you, like isolating yourself.

Instead, make sure you are spending time with friends and family who care about you.

3. Do something you love to do or find meaningful.

Even if nothing sounds fun right now, try getting involved with something you used to like to do. It may take a little time to get back into the swing of things. However, the more you make it a habit, the easier it will get.

This could be sports, playing music, making art, reading, dancing, or any other personal passion. It could also be something focused on helping others, like volunteering, mentoring, or tutoring.

4. Focus on your physical health.

The body and mind are connected. Unhealthy foods can make you feel more sluggish and tired, while eating healthy foods in the right portions provides the best fuel for your body and brain.

The same is true for exercise. Regular exercise (but not overdoing it) causes your brain to make “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins.

It’s also important to get the right amount of sleep. Have you ever heard the phrase, “You should sleep on it?” Sleeping gives your brain a chance to work through problems and process feelings. Getting the right amount of sleep can boost your mood and think clearer.

Lastly, it’s important to steer clear of drugs and alcohol. These things can feel good in the short term, but they make depression worse overall.

5. Ask for help from an expert.

Depression is sometimes created by having long-term stress. Maybe you’re really struggling in a class no matter how hard you study. Let your teacher know you’re struggling and ask for extra guidance. Maybe you are worried about a health problem. Make sure your parents know and ask for a doctor’s appointment. Maybe you are having a hard time in a friendship, romantic relationship, or with a family member. Or you might be struggling with using drugs or alcohol. Ask about making an appointment with a therapist.

If you are depressed, it’s not your fault. This is not something you chose, and it does not mean you are weak. In fact, searching for help, learning what you can do to feel better, and taking that next step toward recovery is one of the bravest moves you can make.

  • Vanessa Jacoby, PhD, ABPP, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a child specialization and is Board Certified in Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology. She is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Behavioral Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center and a member of the STRONG STAR Multidisciplinary Research Consortium and the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD, whose mission is to alleviate and prevent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other deployment related problems in active duty service members and their families. In her work at STRONG STAR, Dr. Jacoby conducts prevention and supportive programs with military families with young children experiencing deployment.

The opinions, representations and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of One in Five Minds or Clarity Child Guidance Center. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. One in Five Minds and Clarity Child Guidance Center accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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