How Do You Really Feel? Check off the ones that fit you.
Top of Form 1
You feel sad a lot, and it doesn’t go away.
You feel guilty; you think that you’re no good; you have no confidence.
You lose interest in ordinary pleasures like music, sports, friends, or having fun.
Most of the time you’d rather be left alone.
You feel restless or tired most of the time.
You’re a nonstop partier, constantly moving around.
You get unrealistic ideas about the great things you’re going to do…things you never
really could do.
Thoughts just go racing through your head.
You think about death a lot, or thoughts about suicide pop into your head.
You seem to take pleasure in extremely dangerous activities, like reckless and
Bottom of Form 1
These are the warning signs of medical illnesses known as depression and manic
depression. To see what you should do if you have some of the warning signs, add up
the number of boxes you checked.
You checked either of the last two boxes. If the
last two boxes describe your feelings, you should seek help immediately.
You checked four boxes. Or more than five?
You’re having a tough time and may be suffering from depression or manic depression.
It’s important for you to find an adult you can trust and tell them what’s on your mind.
Show them this brochure. If the first adult you talk to can’t (or won’t) help, find someone
who will. It’s hard to do, but very important.
You checked three boxes. When you get a
chance, it would be a good idea to talk to a friend, especially an adult who knows how
to listen to you and discuss things.
You checked one or two boxes. Guess what?
You’re fine. Everybody has some problems.
Kinds of Depression
Bad Mood–frustrations that are temporary.
Mild Depression–being “bummed.” You feel bad but can still enjoy family and friends
and look forward to activities.
Situational or Reactive Depression–You may feel depressed because you are
expressing a normal (and healthy) sadness about some loss, or a major change in your
life. If this kind of depression lasts more than a couple of weeks, it’s important to talk to
a medical professional or an adult whose advice means a lot to you. You’ll be surprised
at how much just talking about your feelings will help you get over situational
Major Depression–Major depressions are wholebody illnesses which affect a person’s
eating and sleeping patterns, as well as his/her energy levels. Moods and the ability to
think clearly are also affected. These illnesses are painful and the person experiencing
them usually looks for ways to escape. Often the person withdraws from other people.
People of all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes suffer from depression. For
teenagers, symptoms appear most often between ages 14 and 18. About 10% of them
will experience some form of major depression at some time. The illness strikes about
15% of all adults.
Major depression is a medical illness. To fit a medical diagnosis of major depression, a
person must have a clearly specified cluster of symptoms and the symptoms must have
lasted longer than two weeks. The illness may be brought on by problems or stress in a
person’s life, but it is rooted in the biology and chemistry of the brain. Sometimes these
depressions seem to center on no particular event in a person’s life, but they impact
everything he/she thinks, says and does.
The two main kinds of major depression are:
Unipolar depression. Symptoms include feeling sad most of the time, persistent
feelings of hopelessness, difficulty with concentration, thoughts of death, and low self
Manic depression. (also called bipolar disorder). Symptoms include racing thoughts,
grandiose yet unrealistic plans and ideas, feeling high and having less need for sleep. A
manic or speededup phase will be followed by a phase of depression. Mania and
depression might then alternate in a cycle.
Major Depression or Situational Depression?
It is often difficult to know the difference between situational and major depression.
Why? Mainly because the inward suffering associated with depression in teens is
masked by conduct that adults don’t generally regard as depressive behavior. Even
though depression is generally a feeling of sadness or helplessness, someone may act
angry, combative, or even silly, just to cover up their depression. A professional can
help teens sort out symptoms of either situational or major depression.
If You Show the Warning Signs of Depressive Illness
Be your own best friend. Think about how you would react to a friend who needed help.
Find someone you can trust–your parents, an adult, a friend, a teacher, a counselor at
your school. They can advise and support you in finding help.
It isn’t always easy to reach out for help. All the changes that are going on during the
teenage years make it hard to know what’s normal and what’s a problem. Plus, because
of the still present misinformation about teenage depression, it’s hard for adults to admit
that something could be wrong. It may be difficult for parents, teachers or friends to
understand exactly what you’re going through. Show them this pamphlet and your test
Keeping a journal may help you to describe your thoughts, your feelings and your
behavior. Expressing yourself in words and drawings may make you feel a little bit
better. It can help a professional understand your experiences.
Some people still believe that it’s shameful to have an illness that affects your thoughts
and behaviors. They are wrong. Getting well is not as simple as using willpower or
talking yourself out of your mood. There is conclusive scientific proof that depression in
many people is caused by changes in chemistry of the body and brain. Millions of
depressed people have been able to lead normal lives with the help of modern medical
treatment just like those who have any other illness.
How to Help a Friend or Family Member
OK, so what do you do if you think a friend has depression or manic depression?
Let your friend know that you really care.
Encourage your friend to get professional help.
School counselors, social workers, and psychologists at community mental health
centers will help decide what to do. Or have your friend talk to his or her regular doctor.
DO NOT take on the responsibility for making
your friend well. Do not agree to keep your friend’s condition secret; if a friend is
suicidal you must tell a responsible adult immediately.
Know the facts. You may be your friend’s most
trusted source of good information about depressive illness–maybe the only source.
Remind your friend that treatments for this
illness are almost always available, and have proven to be effective.
Stand by your friend during the recovery
period. Stay confident that treatment will be successful in time.
Depression Runs in Families
Biological and genetic factors that shape personality can make some people more at
risk for major depression. Sometimes, but not always, if a family member has had a
form of major depression, it means that other family members are at greater risk of
having the disorder.
Depression and Teens
Some of the big problems many teenagers face in their lives are linked to depression.
These problems not only cause personal unhappiness, but can also affect progress at
school or work, damage family relationships and may lead to trouble with the law. Just
struggling with a problem can trigger depression. But often unrecognized depression is
one of the underlying causes of problems.
Sometimes life’s problems can trigger depression. When parents get divorced, or a
loved one dies, or you break up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, or your grades aren’t
what you want them to be, the pressure is hard to deal with. Many teens, but not all, will
find ways to cope with these major pressures. Others can become depressed and may
need some treatment.
Other signs or symptoms of possible depression:
difficulty achieving in school
trouble with family, friends and peers
excessive alcohol or drug use
low self esteem or self-worth
suicidal thoughts and attempts
In many cases, depression is a cluster of symptoms which indicate that a teen is
struggling to solve some difficult problems but is overwhelmed.
As a teen, you may need help in coping with the problems, or with controlling the
depression and pain.
Remember–it’s okay to ask for help. Do it today!
What is Treatment Like?
Fortunately there are many safe and effective treatments. People with unipolar
depression and bipolar illness usually need some kind of medication and counseling to
help them control their illness. Merely talking with your friend and family isn’t enough to
treat unipolar depression or bipolar illness, although having understanding people
around for support is very beneficial.
It’s important to see a physician who can make a diagnosis, rule out other health
problems which imitate depression, and prescribe medication if needed. Medications
known as antidepressants are prescribed for depression. Other kinds of medications,
called mood stabilizers, are effective at controlling bipolar illness. These prescribed
drugs do not make you artificially happy, nor do they “space you out.” Instead, they act
to restore a person to normal moods and behaviors.
Don’t Let Depression Control Your Life–Get Help!
Talk to parents, a teacher, school counselor, social worker, clergyman or doctor. Show
them this brochure.
Read more about depression. There are many good books and articles with facts about
the different kinds of depression and treatment options. Some book titles available
through the National DMDA Bookstore include:
Adolescence and Depression. Discusses adolescent development, depression
basics, symptoms in adolescents and depression’s role in suicide. Produced by the
National Institute of Mental Health. Revised and reprinted by Wisconsin Clearing
House, University of Wisconsin. 29 p., booklet, rev. 1988. $1.00
Overcoming Depression. Demitri F. Papolos, MD and Janice Papolos. Compendium
of current knowledge about causes and treatments of affective disorders for those who
suffer with manic depression and their families. This revised edition includes information
on Prozac and other drugs, expanded discussion of treatments, instruction on charting
mood disorders and summaries of latest research on causes of depression. 393 p.,
paper, 1992, Harper Collins. ISBN 0060965940. (List price: $13.00) NDMDA price:
How to Cope With Depression: A Complete Guide for You and Your Family. J.
Raymond DePaulo, Jr., MD, and Keith R. Ablow, MD. Views depression from four
perspectives: disease, personality, behavior and life stories; unique. 216 p. ISBN
0-449-21930-5 (List price: $4.95) NDMDA price: $4.45
Suicide and Depressive Illness. This brochure was prepared in consultation with the
following members of the National DMDA Scientific Advisory Board: Robert M.A.
Hirschfeld, MD, Jan Fawcett, MD, and Martin B. Keller, MD; and with David Clark, PhD,
Margaret Duthie, and Nancy Scheff. 10 p., booklet, 1992, rev. 1996, National DMDA.
Check your school or local library as well.
The Just a Mood . . . Or Real Depression? brochure was prepared with the assistance
of Robert M.A. Hirschfeld, MD, Marcus Kruesi, MD, Arlene Hegg, MD, Marsha A.
Stevens, Lorraine Richter, and Ray and Shirley Hibbeln.
1993, rev. 1996 NDMDA