Ask An Expert / Depression

I’m 16 and I’m feeling like there is something wrong with me. I may be depressed but I’m not sure.

Know that you aren’t alone and there is help out there if you need it.

Stephanie Dowd, PsyD
Stephanie Dowd, PsyD

Clinical Psychologist, Mood Disorders Center

Child Mind Institute

Hello. I'm 16 years old and I feel like there is something wrong with me. I may be depressed, but I'm not sure. Please help.

First of all, good for you for reaching out. It’s good to acknowledge when you need help and especially to then ask for it.

If you think you might be depressed, know that you aren’t the only one. Adolescent depression is more common than some people think. More than 12% of teens in your age group, 15-16, have depression. For teens 17-18 it jumps to more than 15%.

Take a look at these signs of depression, and see how many fit you:

  • Persistent sadness or irritability that can last most of the day, for days in a row.
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • Changes in how you eat or sleep.
  • Having very little energy and motivation.
  • Feeling worthless, or hopeless about your future, or helpless about being able to get better.
  • Feeling guilty about things that aren’t your fault.
  • Difficulty concentrating, so your grades and/or school performance are getting worse.
  • Thinking about suicide or death.

If you have thoughts of suicide, it’s important to tell a trusted adult. There are also helpful anonymous 24/7 suicide hotlines, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Having one or two of these signs doesn’t mean that you have depression. However, if you have most of these signs over a period of at least two weeks, then you may have depression.

If you think that you do have depression, talk to your parents or a school counselor about how you’ve been feeling. Try to be specific and note how long you’ve felt this way. Mention any of the above signs of depression that you are experiencing.

It can be really difficult to ask for help or even admit to someone that you think you have depression. But it’s very important that you do, and it will get easier to talk once you start. If you feel like you need support, consider having a friend or even a pet sit with you while you talk to your parents. Sometimes having someone who comforts us nearby can make things like this a bit easier.

There is a lot of help that’s been shown to be effective for kids with depression, including different kinds of therapy—cognitive behavior therapy, behavioral activation, interpersonal psychotherapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy. Through these types of therapies you learn ways to help yourself feel better and manage your mood, so you’re in control of your life, not the depression. Some teens also benefit from medication, such as antidepressants.

If you do have depression, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. This is really important. The way we describe ourselves can have a big effect on how we feel, so instead of thinking, “There is something wrong with me,” try thinking, “Right now I’m struggling with a depressed mood.” It can make a difference.

Finally, don’t wait to get help. It’s best to be proactive and reach out for help as soon as possible, if you think you need it. Remember, things can get better. There are people out there who can help.