Parent Guide: Understanding Depression (SAMHSA)

Depression is a mental disorder that is marked by a sad, empty, hopeless, or helpless mood that is present almost every day and lasts most of the day for at least two weeks. Everyone feels sad or anxious from time to time; however, the feelings associated with depression are far more intense and long lasting than the “ups and downs” of everyday life. The feelings interfere with day-to-day activities in families, school, at work, or in other social situations. Sometimes depression involves irritability. Depression may also involve physical symptoms such as fatigue, sleep difficulties, and weight changes. It can also be the cause of hopelessness, guilt, and suicidal thoughts.

Hearing a health care professional say your youth or young adult has depression can be confusing. The good news is that the emotions and behaviors you have been concerned about are actually symptoms of a treatable disorder. By engaging in treatment and entering recovery, people with depression can feel better and lead full, meaningful lives. Recovery does not necessarily mean a cure. It does mean that people are actively moving toward wellness.

A publication from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


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