Feeling a bit blue? You could be depressed

Issues like academic expectations, peer and social pressures, and changing bodies can bring about lots of ups and downs for a teenager. FILE PHOTO |

What you need to know:

  • Are you going through an emotional rough patch or just passing through the hassles of adolescence?
  • It is normal and expected of teenagers to feel “down” and unhappy at times due to emotional, physical, psychological and social changes associated with this stage of life.
  • Issues like academic expectations, peer and social pressures, and changing bodies can bring about lots of ups and downs for a teenager.
  • However, if the lows become more than just temporary feelings, it could signify depression, a serious medical issue that causes constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were initially appealing.
  • Depression affects how one feels, behaves, thinks, and can consequently be a source of functional, emotional and physical problems

Dear doc,
I am in Form II and my problem is that I recently started feeling sad too often. I also get upset very quickly and I blame myself every time something doesn’t work out the way I want it to. I find myself crying and experience sleepless nights, which is interfering with my academic performance. Could I be depressed?

Dear T,
Thank you for being bold enough to express your feelings as not many teens who share your problem are ready to disclose until when it’s probably late.

From what you have described, it sounds like you have many symptoms of depression. However, a diagnosis of depression is established from a combination of symptoms that have occurred over a period of time.

It is mandatory to have a full history of your symptoms taken, a full physical examination done as well as any other significant test done which may include psychological evaluation before any conclusion of a mental problem is made.

Please visit a doctor to get yourself checked. Then, if the doctor finds it necessary, you will be referred to psychiatrist for a definitive diagnosis of depression if it is still suspected.


Dear Doc,
My 19-year-old daughter was diagnosed with depression and is currently undergoing treatment. As a parent I feel I am not doing enough to help her. Is there anything I can do to accelerate her recovery?
Concerned Parent.

Dear Concerned Parent,

It is understandable how you feel as a parent as no one can be a better advocate to help your daughter succeed. The following steps will go a long way in helping her recover:

Be there: Make sure that she sticks to her treatment plan by attending all doctors’ appointments and taking medication as prescribed even when she thinks she is well.

Stopping medication can cause depression symptoms to come back. In addition, quitting medication abruptly may result into withdrawal-like symptoms.

Understand it: Educate yourself and other loved ones about depression to be able to understand that the condition is treatable.

The more education your daughter receives about depression, the more empowered and motivated she will be to stick to her treatment plan.

Be approachable: Create an environment where your daughter is free to share her concerns with you while you listen. Communicate with her openly and talk to her about any change that you may observe.

Be observant: Take notice of any warning signs. Talk to your daughter’s doctor or therapist so you can learn things that might trigger symptoms of depression and what to do in case they get worse.

Teach her: Encourage your daughter to adopt healthy practices. Light physical exercises and sufficient sleep are important to teenagers, particularly those with depression. Ask for doctor’s advice if your daughter has trouble sleeping.

Counsel her: Finally, your teen daughter may be attracted to drugs or alcohol to lessen the symptoms of depressions.

Help her avoid these for example by making the unavailable in your home as they only worsen symptoms and make the condition harder to treat.


Dear Doc,
Can lack of sleep cause depression, and what are other triggers of the condition in teenagers?
Thanks, Morris.

Dear Morris,
Lack of sleep alone cannot cause depression but it plays a role. Sleep deprivation as a result of another medical illness or due to personal problems can intensify depression.

However, chronic lack of sleep is a significant clue that a person may be depressed. There are other triggers of depression in teenagers which include a family history of depression, divorce or separation of parents, grief over loss of a loved one, sexual, emotional or physical abuse and isolation from the peers.

Other triggers could be feelings of worthlessness or self-blame and substance abuse as most teenagers with an addiction tend to have a major depression.


Dear Doc,
If something bad is happening in my life, does it mean I will develop depression?

Dear Phyllis,
Depression is not necessarily as a result of something bad taking place in your life. In some cases, teenagers will feel depressed for no clear reasons, a situation that can lead to feelings of guilt.

For example, a teen may question why he or she is not happy or satisfied despite having everything good in life. On the other hand, there are other people who have undergone traumatic events in their life such as loss of a loved one and may never develop depression.


Sad to bubbly: Ways to regain your footing

When feeling depressed, it’s good to do something about it as it cannot go away on its own. Despite having help from a therapist or a doctor, there are a few things you can do to ease those blues:

1 Exercising: Exercise is a good remedy for beating depression. Taking a 20 or 30 minutes’ walk in the park, jogging, dancing or cycling can help.

Usually, when depressed, one does not feel the mood to engage in any activity. Ask or engage friends who are actively in sports or exercises, as they will keep you motivated. Exercising will have a positive influence on your mood and will become a habit.

2 Eating healthy: Depression can take away your appetite. You may find yourself taking unbalanced foods which can worsen your situation as it can cause weight gain.

Proper nutrition can influence positive mood and energy, thus eating plenty of fruits and veggies as part of regular food can help a great deal.

3 Identify problems: Knowing what is contributing to your depressive mood is important in handling depression. Once you identify what’s wrong, discuss it out with someone you trust, be it a friend, a relative or even your parent.

Talking it out is a way of releasing the feelings and receiving some understanding. After talking it out with someone about your feelings and thoughts, shift your focus to some positive things.

Also, take action to correct your mistakes. If in need of external assistance, say financial, social or moral support, ask for it from relevant people, especially teachers and parents.

4 Express yourself: Depression may block a person’s sense of fun or creativity. However, exercise your imagination through writing, sewing, painting, dancing, composing music or any other related activity.

This will not only, have positive comments from others, but also help relieve your depression. In addition, find something fun to do like playing with your friends, a pet or even watching an exciting movie as this will lighten your mood.

5 Be positive: Once depressed, one can become overwhelmed by negative thinking, making anything appear dismal, negative and hopeless. When depression influences you to negativity of this sort, make an effort to see the good side of life.

Think about something good and look for more good reasons to smile. You may consider your strengths, blessings, gifts or opportunities ahead. Ultimately, be patient as depression takes a while to heal.

Have a question about your health? Please send it to [email protected] for free expert advice