How Do I Know If It’s Depression?

By Lauren Krouse

It can be hard to realize you’re living with depression or recognize depression in someone you care about, since not everyone experiences it in the same way. When you’re in high school or college and you have a lot of stress—plus the emotional ups and downs of this time of your life—it can be hard to know whether what you’re feeling is depression or something else.

What Depression Can Feel Like

We usually think of depression as feeling sad or down for a long period of time, but there are lots of other symptoms of depression, including:

  • Frequently or constantly feeling sad, empty, hopeless, frustrated, irritable, or pessimistic.
  • Unintentional changes in appetite, such as eating too little or too much.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, such as not being able to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia).
  • Feeling tired or low on energy.
  • Being less interested in activities you usually like or enjoying them less than you used to.
  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things.
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or like you are not enough.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to tackle new challenges or seek help.
  • Not taking care of yourself, including skipping showers, not brushing your teeth, or avoiding other personal-hygiene tasks.
  • Using alcohol or drugs to deal with difficult feelings or situations.
  • Preferring not to socialize with family and friends.
  • Frequently having thoughts of death or suicide. Suicidal thoughts can range from, “I wish I wasn’t around” or “I wish I were dead,” to making plans about how to end your life.

Learn more about suicidal thoughts and how to get help for them.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide and you need help now:

  • Text HOME to 741-741 for a confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day. 
  • Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org
  • If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 and say you need support for a mental health crisis.

What Depression Can Look Like

Signs of depression can look different depending on your age, gender, and cultural background. They may include:

  • Crying spells or angry outbursts.
  • Moving or talking more slowly than usual.
  • Pacing, fidgeting, or being unable to sit still.
  • Falling behind on homework, chores, or other obligations.
  • Not enjoying things like you used to.
  • Fighting with family or friends.
  • Avoiding social interactions, such as not answering texts or skipping class or social events.
  • Comments expressing guilt such as, “I don’t deserve to be with other people” or “I’m bringing you down.”
  • Changes in sleep, such as staying up later, waking up earlier, struggling to get up, or napping more often.
  • Having a hard time making decisions, answering questions, or thinking clearly.
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with difficult feelings or circumstances.
  • Self-harm.

Sometimes depression symptoms show up in your body as physical feelings, such as unexplained frequent headaches, stomachaches, or back pain. Other times, medical issues look like or overlap with—or worsen—symptoms of depression. Chronic pain, migraines, and thyroid disorders can feel like—or cause—depressive symptoms.

How Do I Know If I Need Help for Depression?

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks or they are making it hard for you to enjoy life or get through the day, it’s time to get some support. Tell an adult you trust, such as a parent, guardian, mentor, coach, or school counselor, how you feel.  

Find out how to pick a person and tell them how you feel. 

If you can’t think of someone you are comfortable with, find out about other ways you can get affordable mental health care on your own. 

With the right support, you can feel so much better than you do today—and sooner than you may think. 

Learn more about how depression is diagnosed and treated.

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.