Depression Affects People in Different Ways
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms. Some people have many. The severity and frequency of symptoms, and how long they last, will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.
My friends keep asking what’s wrong with me. I have a great job and a wonderful family. But nothing seems fun anymore. I’m tired all the time. I’m trying to force myself to be interested in my kid’s activities, but I’m just not anymore. I feel lonely, sad, and don’t have the energy to get things done. I feel like I’m being a bad mom.
Women with depression do not all experience the same symptoms. However, women with depression typically have symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.
Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, lifecycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that are unique to women may be linked to their higher depression rate. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.
I’d drink and I’d drink just to get numb. I’d get numb to try to numb my head. You’re talking many, many beers to get to that state when you can shut your head off. But then you wake up the next day, and it’s still there. You have to deal with it. It doesn’t just go away.
Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once-pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping.
Men may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. They also may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive. Some men may throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly. And although more women attempt suicide, many more men die by suicide.
My son Timothy used to be an outgoing 9-year-old who loved school. Now he frequently complains of stomachaches and refuses to go to school. He yells at his younger sister a lot. He quit the soccer team and instead has stayed in his room playing video games.
Before puberty, girls and boys are equally likely to develop depression. A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die. Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary “phase” or is suffering from depression. Sometimes the parents become worried about how the child’s behavior has changed, or a teacher mentions that “your child doesn’t seem to be himself.” In such a case, if a visit to the child’s pediatrician rules out physical symptoms, the doctor will probably suggest that the child be evaluated, preferably by a mental health professional who specializes in the treatment of children. Most chronic mood disorders, such as depression, begin as high levels of anxiety in children.
I was constantly bullied, my heart was in the midst of being broken, and my grades were falling. The pain I suffered day after day, night after night was unbearable. I felt as if I was drowning. I hated myself. My mom was worried and took me to the doctor. My doctor diagnosed me with depression at the end of my junior year in high school. I needed help.
The teen years can be tough. Teens are forming an identity apart from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making independent decisions for the first time in their lives. Occasional bad moods are to be expected, but depression is different.
Older children and teens with depression may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative and irritable, and feel misunderstood. If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. Teens with depression may also have other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. They may also be at higher risk for suicide.
Children and teenagers usually rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. Many teens don’t know where to go for mental health treatment or believe that treatment won’t help. Others don’t get help because they think depression symptoms may be just part of the typical stress of school or being a teen. Some teens worry what other people will think if they seek mental health care.
Depression often persists, recurs, and continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated. If you suspect a child or teenager in your life is suffering from depression, speak up right away.
Quick Tips for Talking to Your Depressed Child or Teen:
- Offer emotional support,understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Talk to your child,not necessarily about depression, and listen carefully.
- Never discount the feelings your child expresses,but point out realities and offer hope.
- Never ignore comments about suicide.
- Remind your child that with time and treatment,the depression will lift.
For more information about mood and related issues, the following resources may be helpful.
Mood Disorders Society of Canada. https://mdsc.ca/about-us/
Anxiety Disorders Association of America. www.adaa.org
The Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety. www.canmat.org
Obsessive Compulsive Association. www.ocfoundation.org
The Anxiety Network. www.anxietynetwork.com
Source: National Institute of Mental health, with permission. Please note that any information regarding medications is provided for educational purposes only and may be outdated.