If I am depressed, can I get better?
Yes. Depression is one of the most treatable diseases on the planet. Here's the catch: you have to get help. The good news is that if you get the right kind of help, you will probably feel better fairly quickly. back to top
How do I get help?
The first part of getting help is talking with someone you trust. You'll need at least one person, but it's best if you have several people who understand how you feel. They can help you find a health professional who has special training in working with teens who are depressed.
Do you feel as if you have no one you can tell that you are depressed? That's very common, not just for teens but for people of all ages. Wanting to hide depression is one of the symptoms of the illness.
At first, you may be most comfortable talking with one of your friends. If he or she is a friend you can trust, that's a good thing. Good friends can help you feel better. But because depression is a serious illness, you will also need to talk with a responsible adult.
You need an adult who can give you good advice about dealing with your depression. That person may be one of your parents, your health care provider, a counselor or therapist, an older brother or sister, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a grandparent, a teacher, a coach, a school counselor, a school nurse, a minister or priest or rabbi, a family friend. Think about which adult you trust the most, who can help you best. Here is a quick checklist of the qualities a truly supportive person should have.
- The person listens to you.
- The person believes you and supports you.
- The person helps you figure out what to do.
- The person gets help for you if you ask for it—or if you're in danger.
- The person keeps what you say private, unless you're in danger.
If a person judges you or blames you for your feelings, you should find someone else to help you.
If you're thinking right now, "I still can't think of anyone to talk to," don't worry. Sometimes, the people you know may be too busy to take the time to listen. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you. It just means that they are not the right people to turn to and that you'll have to look a little harder to find someone. But remember this: you are a good person, and you deserve the attention of adults who care about you. Here are some ideas about where to look for the right kind of help.
Check the Yellow Pages of the telephone book. Look under Health and Mental Health. You'll probably see a list of different services in your city or town, and maybe a local hotline. Hotlines have volunteers who answer the telephone and can tell you how to get help. Your local hospital should also be able to help. Some hospitals even provide special services for people who are depressed or can direct you to emergency counseling. Your health care provider may be able to help. Also, many cities and towns have teen clinics.
If you feel really stuck, call the operator and ask for the number of the emergency hotline in your community.
Check out iEmily's Hotlines
. You'll find some important telephone numbers so that you can get help right away if you need it. back to top
What kind of help will a mental health professional give me?
Once you find a mental health professional, he or she will want to learn more about you before deciding how to treat your depression. The mental health professional will ask you a lot of questions about how you feel, what you are thinking, and what's going on at home and in school. He or she will be looking to make sure that your problem is depression and not a physical or mental illness that can cause symptoms that are similar to depression. You may also discuss with the mental health professional if you are in danger of hurting yourself or whether you use drugs or drink alcohol.
If you are depressed, one of the best treatments, believe it or not, is talking. Talk therapy
is not exactly like talking on the phone with your friends (and not as fun), but it can help you in many ways. Once or twice a week, you'll get a chance to talk with a therapist or counselor who listens to you and helps you explore your thoughts and feelings.
You may begin to understand why you feel depressed and how you got that way in the first place. Talking usually makes people feel much better, and it can even help you feel more sure of yourself. You will probably tell your therapist things that you've never told anyone else before. That can be a little scary, but don't worry. It is your therapist's job to keep whatever you say completely confidential. Mental health professionals are not allowed to tell your secrets to anyone, including your parents, unless you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else.
Talking may seem like a simple thing, but there are many different kinds of talk therapy
. You may talk with a therapist on your own, or with a therapist and a group of other teenagers who are going through the same thing as you are. Some types of talking therapy include your family so that you can work out problems with them. Your therapist will help you figure out which kind is best for you. back to top
Can I take medicine for my depression?
Yes. Medication is often used to treat depression. It can't help you figure out why you are depressed or how to get rid of your troubles, but medication can take away some of the symptoms of depression, such as sleep problems, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating. It can also help people who are thinking about committing suicide
stay alive until they feel better.
Your health care provider or mental health professional, along with you and your parents, will decide whether you need medication and what kind to try first. Never take a medication that a friend offers you. That's dangerous—and it's against the law.
There are three different kinds of medicine used to treat depression, called antidepressants
. You should know which one you are using and why you are using it. All medications, including those for depression, can cause side effects, like nausea, dry mouth, and constipation. Or they can be dangerous if they are mixed with other medications or with drugs or alcohol. Your health care provider or mental health professional should talk with you about these risks. Often, if the first medicine you try does not help, your health care provider or mental health professional may recommend trying another one. Remember that it can take a few weeks before you begin to feel the medicine working.
Remember, not everyone who is depressed needs medication. Sometimes therapy will do the trick. Sometimes therapy and medication are used together to help a person who is depressed. back to top
Do people with depression ever have to be in the hospital?
Most young people with depression do not need to be hospitalized. But sometimes it may be a good idea. For instance, if you are too depressed to eat or if you are in danger of hurting yourself, you may need to be in the hospital for a while. In a hospital program, you will get care and support 24 hours a day. You will see a mental health professional every day, and you may have some kind of group therapy. Most people stay in the hospital for just a few days. People who are very sick may need to go to a residential treatment program, where they can live for a few months until they recover enough to go home again.
A special "day-hospital" program can help you if you need more care than you are getting from therapy, but do not need to be in the hospital. These programs give you the daily care you need, but allow you to live at home and even go to school. back to top
Is there anything I can do to help make my depression go away?
You can do many things to help yourself feel better if you are depressed. In fact, the more responsibility you can take for helping yourself feel better, the healthier you will be—now and later on. It's important to remember that no therapy or medication can make you get better. They can help you get better, but only if you do your part, too. back to top
What are some of the ways to feel better?
Don't do things that make you feel worse. It sounds simple, but it's good to remember when you're feeling down in the dumps. For instance:
- Don't drink alcohol. It may make you feel better at first, but it will make you feel much worse later on.
- Don't take any drugs or medications that are not prescribed by your own health care provider.
- If you're sexually active, don't have sexual intercourse with different people just to get your mind off your depression.
- Don't do anything careless.
- Don't watch television or movies that are violent or disturbing.
- Don't spend time with people who make you feel bad about yourself.
The next best way to help yourself feel better is to do some specific things that will comfort you. Remember that you might need to push yourself a little because one of the symptoms of depression is lack of motivation.
- Get up at the same time every morning. People with depression say that it makes them feel worse to stay in bed. If you are really tired, take a short nap later in the day.
- Spend time doing something you enjoy—going to a movie, listening to music, cooking, playing with your dog, reading a good book, watching a funny video, playing a musical instrument, making jewelry.
- Do some physical activity, such as biking, swimming, dancing, playing soccer, lifting weights, playing tennis, running. Pick what you enjoy most.
- Keep in touch with the friends who make you feel good about yourself. Talking with your friends on the telephone or hanging out with them after school and on the weekends will help you feel like you're still a normal person.
- Do something nice for someone else. Help your parents around the house or visit someone in the hospital.
- Eat something healthy that you like, such as a salad, a sandwich, or some healthy takeout food.
- Stay away from caffeine, especially coffee, tea, and some sodas. If you must have caffeine, try to have only one or two servings a day.
These things, of course, are not substitutes for professional help, such as therapy and medication. But they will probably give you some relief. back to top
Can my depression go away by itself?
Even if you feel depressed for a month or two and then it seems to go away, you should still seek professional help. If you don't, the depression could come back again—maybe soon, maybe in a few years. Not getting help for depression could make it harder and harder for you to make friends, do well in school, and participate in sports and other activities you enjoy. That would only make you feel worse about yourself, which could then make you feel depressed again. On the other hand, if you get help right away, chances are good that you will feel much better very quickly, which would then give you a chance to do all of the things that will help you feel good about yourself. So dealing with your depression right away can save you lots of hassle now, and even more hassle once you're in college or living on your own. back to top