Are You Depressed? How Do You Know?

Everyone has a bad day once in a while. But have you been feeling down for weeks or even months? If there's a sadness, edginess, or even irritability that you can’t seem to shake, you might be experiencing depression. And may need to get some help.

Wait, what’s depression anyway?

Depression is a psychological condition that affects your feelings, behaviors, and thoughts.

You may:

  • Feel sad or "empty" for weeks on end.
  • Find it harder to enjoy things you used to.
  • Find that you lose your temper more easily.
  • Feel tired or have less energy, or be restless and edgy.
  • Eat more or less than you did before you started feeling depressed.
  • Have thoughts about not wanting to live or about hurting yourself, or you may have tried to hurt yourself.

You’re not alone. In fact, depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States. Statistics show that teen depression is a common problem:

  • About 20% of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood.
  • Between 10 to 15% of teenagers have some symptoms of teen depression at any one time.
  • As many as 8.3% of teens suffer from depression for at least a year at a time, compared to about 5.3% of the general population.
  • Most teens with depression will suffer from more than one episode. 20 to 40% will have more than one episode within two years, and 70% will have more than one episode before adulthood. Episodes of teen depression generally last about 8 months.
  • Teen depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school or other achievements.
  • Teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys.
  • Teenage boys are less likely to seek help or recognize that they suffer from depression.

What causes depression?

No one knows for sure what causes depression. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it's not your fault if you become depressed. Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of things, some of which have to do with the chemicals in your brain and some that have to do with what's happening in your life.

  • If there’s a history of depression in your family, you may share genes that make you more likely to get depressed.
  • A major loss or conflict in your family may cause you to feel depressed.
  • If you’re being abused or put down constantly either at home or at school, this too may lead to feelings of depression.
  • If you feel isolated, like you’re different from everyone and no one understands you, this too may lead to depression.

What now?

So, you fit the bill. You’ve had feelings of depression for more than two weeks now and are experiencing a number of the symptoms. What next? If you think you are depressed, it may help you to tell a friend, but it is also important to talk with a trusted parent or an adult who can give you objective advice.

If you don't feel comfortable telling an adult that you are depressed on your own, ask a friend to be with you when you talk with someone, or help you find someone trustworthy.

Keep in mind that there are no laboratory tests that can be done to prove that you are depressed, but professionals (doctors and counselors) are trained to understand depression and will be able to ask the right questions to help decide if you are going through a period of sadness or whether you have depression.

There are many different kinds of treatment for depression, including counseling, medication and/or even in-patient treatment at a center. You and your doctor can decide your options.

What if I am thinking about hurting myself?

It’s important to realize how serious it is to have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. When someone is very depressed, he/she is often not able to think clearly and may make hasty decisions.

You must remember that hurting yourself is never the right option, and that there are people who can help you. Talk with a parent, an adult you trust, or someone else who can get you help RIGHT AWAY. If you can’t get someone to help you or the adult is unsure what to do, call your local emergency room or 911.

There are free, anonymous screening sites all over the U.S. To find one, visit

And if still don't want to talk to anyone just yet but think you might be suffering from depression, you can always take an online depression screening. But remember, if you find that you are clinically depressed, get help. You’ll be happy you did.