Growing up, most of us aren’t taught to look out for signs of depression. So if you’re experiencing it, especially as a teenager, it’s easy to think there’s just something wrong with you — and it’s easy for parents and other adults to pass you off as another moody kid.
But young people do get depression — we just need to know the signs. To find out how people knew they were living with depression, we asked our mental health community to share, in hindsight, signs they had depression.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Looking back on it, I constantly felt guilt and had a hard a time fitting in with anyone. I was a very cautious and shy kid.” — Poppy W.
2. “I cried a lot and wasn’t as happy as the other kids. I was unmotivated and didn’t want to shower; my room was a mess and I would stay inside and play games all day. I had trouble making friends because I was super shy, and that turned into anxiety (these issues have some childhood trauma factors and environmental factors as well).” — Hannah F.
3. “For me it was never feeling good enough, like no matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t like everyone else, especially my two older sisters. Then the increased emotions came. I would get so upset or so mad so quickly and without reason. I didn’t realize I had depression until this year.” — Ashley G.
4. “Whenever I climbed a tree or somewhere up high looking down I thought how nice it would be if I was high enough to jump. Never knew that was a concerning thought.” — Brittany B.
5. “When I was really young, like grade-school, I never understood why all of the other children were so happy and carefree. Everyone else seemed great at making friends and enjoyed being a child, but I couldn’t enjoy anything. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness even at a young age. Nothing was enjoyable, I couldn’t make or keep friends, I was constantly doubting myself and worrying about every little thing. I questioned my existence on a daily basis, I just couldn’t be happy, but was too young to understand what depression was.” — Audrey L.
6. “For me, it was not being able to focus. My grades dropped from straight As to Fs from what seemed like out of nowhere. I didn’t feel the excitement of doing anything anymore. I got extremely detached from everyone, I no longer cared what happened to me. I just kind of stayed away from other kids, and it took more effort than I’d like to admit to even talk to anyone. I stopped taking care of myself. I got made fun of for it. I ended up extremely suicidal from everything and to hide the fact that I was suicidal, I ended up just faking a smile and not showing any other emotions.” — Athena C.
7. “Losing all your friends, sleeping all the time, never wanting to wake up, not wanting to eat, never wanting to hang out with the people you would normally hang out with, not bothering to do your normal routine, grades slipping because you just don’t care anymore, jealously and anger at anyone who seems to be happy.” — Danee C.
8. “Feeling more tired, losing interest in things I loved, being less outgoing, more shy. I used to not care what people thought of me until I became severely bullied and beaten. I then started worrying what people thought of me. I felt mentally drained and didn’t enjoy school and was distant from good friends.” — Karalyn G.
9. “In high school, I would wake up and cry because I had to go to school. I was afraid all of the time. I got overwhelmed by schoolwork that should have been easy for me. On one occasion, I seriously contemplated suicide because of an assignment due that I hadn’t started. Looking back, there are years that are very dim and hard to remember — a trait of my adult depressive episodes. I’m lucky I didn’t happen to know anyone who drank or used drugs, because I’m sure I would have used those things as an out.” — Genevieve O.
10. “Your brain will tell you worst possible scenarios. Intrusive thoughts will be mean to you and tell you that you don’t deserve to enjoy life. The thoughts will tell you to abstain from things you enjoy. Depression is a living being trying to always bring you down.” — Keith B.
11. “I quit my first university due to ‘home sickness.’ Now I’ve realized it was depression that caused the fatigue, social anxiety and loss of interest in everything I had been doing.” — Magdalena K.
12. “The psychosomatic parts of it that my family didn’t recognize or even know about. The headaches, the tummy aches, coming home from school with panic attacks, unable to sleep at night, or sleeping too much. I was so young. And looking back, the signs were always there.” — Jessica I.
13. “Longing for death and wanting to die since the tender age of 7. I still have my journals from back then. Perhaps it started even earlier, when I was even younger I played at the local graveyard a lot, laying down on graves and wishing to die. Ever since I was little I always felt unwanted, like I was a burden to everybody and nobody wanted to have me around. When I tried to open up they told me I was being dramatic, oversensitive, I was acting out and I was just weird and it was all in my head. I had problems focussing, finishing schoolwork and my grades were terrible. I hated the world so I made my own world in my head. I still go there sometimes.” — Ezra P.
14. “I frequently felt frustrated that everyone thought it was funny that I was so unhappy all of the time. My teachers, especially in high school, would revel when I would crack a smile and laugh. Looking back on those moments makes me realize how I went about creating this mask/persona that embraces the comedy to hide the reality of my self-loathing and angry tragedy that rumbles on the inside.” — Sean C.
15. “I had really bad anger issues, and it was hard to control my emotions. I didn’t know what was wrong with me when I was a teenager, it was really hard. I was suicidal and self-harmed. I wish I had been diagnosed earlier, instead of having friends and teachers tell me I was faking it for attention.” — Kate W.
16. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel exhausted. In middle school and the beginning of high school, I begged my parents to be homeschooled because I always stayed up at night crying about having to go there the next day. Either that, or I would stay up to make sure my homework was perfect, because if it wasn’t, that meant I was stupid and worthless.” — Sarah K.
17. “I was constantly dwelling over every mistake. There were times where I wished I would be treated as less than family and that I didn’t deserve a bed. I was constantly feeling as less than my siblings and had a streak to be perfect. I was constantly overloading my schedule with extracurriculars to get more attention from teachers because I felt so incredibly alone.” — Aislinn G.
18. “I was scared of everything. I wet myself many times at school because I was frightened of getting locked in the toilets. I once walked out of school and went home by myself — aged about 5 — because I just couldn’t cope with being there. And I started to self-harm in a very minor way — hitting myself with my hairbrush until I bruised — at around 8 years of age. But I could never tell anyone how I felt, or let my guard down; I was the one who never cried, even when I broke my leg. I was officially diagnosed with depression aged 13.” — Lucy D.
19. “From a young age, I would fantasize about suicide. Stories about me or imagined characters I would think up while daydreaming. I remember either oversleeping or not being able to sleep for long periods. I would get nagged by my mom so I thought I was just lazy.” — Chelsea M.
20. “I remember writing in this diary I had when I was like 7 or 8 that I just wanted to ‘go away.’ Not to run away but disappear completely right there and then. It’s weird because I didn’t really know the concept of suicide back then, but I just remember not wanting to exist.” — Kate Lara Solomons
21. “Always feeling like there was a black cloud casting a shadow over me even when things were happy. Never feeling like I was enough — I always could have been better. Feeling ashamed of myself for no real reason… just feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere. Like I didn’t belong in this life. Thoughts and feelings I’ve had ever since I was little but didn’t realize it was depression and anxiety for many years.” — Jennifer L.
22. “I had no desire to be around my parents or friends. I would stay in my room and read constantly to avoid being around people. I couldn’t pay attention in school (but still made straight As so my parents weren’t concerned). I would chew on the hem of my shirt and pick at my lips almost constantly.” — Amanda M.
23. “For me, it was not being able to sleep, feeling guilty for no reason, that’s what got me. I was scared of things I’ve never been scared of before, and most of the time the world felt like it was crashing down around me. I’m thankful I had a nurse sister who caught the signs and told me to see a doctor, but not everyone is as lucky. Your feelings matter and are valid. If you feel like there’s something wrong, get checked! Because you never know.” — Devin W.