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What does it feel like to have depression? Learn how to help your child and yourself during down times.

Most of us are familiar with depression. You probably know someone who suffers from the condition. Unfortunately, none of us can escape feeling sadness from time to time. Depression is more than just sadness. Typically, the sadness lifts after a day or two. Depression lingers on.
This is what depression looks like in adults–
Sleep difficulties–sleeping too much or not at all
Appetite disturbances– overeating or no appetite
increased irritability
poor concentration– i.e., trouble reading a book or focusing at work
vague physical problems–stomach aches, headaches
Lack of desire to do anything enjoyable–this includes sex, hobbies, spending time with friends or family.
feeling guilty
a sense of hopeless–feeling that things will never change

This is what depression looks like in children and teens
increase in anger or irritability
isolating–spending time alone
poor concentration– may manifest in bad grades
acting out behavior–more defiant
Outbursts that can include crying spells
use of illegal substances
spending time with the wrong crowd
Children or teens may not display these symptoms in obvious ways. For example, they may seem to be perfectly fine at school, and when they come home, parents notice significant changes in their mood or behaviors.

Please note that any one of these signs does not suggest depression. However, a cluster of them can indicate the need for further evaluation by a mental health professional.

Here’s how you can help yourself and yes, you should help yourself first.
1. Accept that you have depression. Often people go into denial about how badly they feel. Accept it.
2. Having depression doesn’t make you weak. It is frequently a medical condition, much like diabetes or high blood pressure.
3. Tell someone you trust what you’re going through.
4. Get up and do something. Depression can rob you of your energy and make getting up challenging. Force yourself to get active. Even if it means simply going outside for a few minutes. Small efforts can lead to significant changes.
5. Forgive yourself if you need to. Having depression can cause people to blame themselves. It’s not your fault.
6. Get treated. Depression is responsive to therapy that might include medication. Suffering is optional when there are choices available to you.
In most cases, insurance will cover your therapy and medication. Depending on your plan, you might be responsible for a co-pay or deductible. It’s always wise to call your insurance company to see what they will pay. People who have Medicaid, will not have out of pocket expenses.

If you’re concerned about your child or teen having depression, here’s what you can do.
1. Talk openly to them. Your child might act like they don’t want you to ask questions about how they’re feeling, but deep down, they want to know you care.
2. Ask directly if your child has thoughts or feelings of self-harm–Have you ever thought about hurting or killing yourself? Yes, you must be prepared to hear the response. Withhold judgment and criticism if they are honest about their feelings. Be supportive but assure them it’s your job to protect them. Let them know that you would be devastated if they were to hurt themselves and tell them you’re going to get them help.
3. Gently encourage your child to get active. Suggest that you all take a walk together. Walking outdoors can help significantly with depression and anxiety.
4. Keep your child encouraged. Let them know that you’re going to get them help and that they can feel better.
5. Check in with your child often. This requires a bit of balance because you don’t want to be annoying, yet it’s vital to keep your finger on the pulse so to speak.
6. Get your kid in counseling and then allow the counselor to do their job. You should be involved in the counseling process, but the counselor will guide you to how that will look.

Depression can be paralyzing. It is often accompanied by anxiety, which only exacerbates the experience. However, both conditions are highly treatable in a variety of things.

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