Teen Gets Depressed

Our expert advises a teenager who has been experiencing periods of sadness.
I am 16 years old and I sometimes feel sad and depressed. I don't know why. It's just a feeling that I get for no reason. Is this normal?
Many adults and teenagers have periods of time when they feel sad or depressed. There's usually some event or episode that triggers these sad feelings. We often feel sad when we read about or see unfortunate things that have happened in our communities or in the news. We feel depressed when we experience a great disappointment: not getting a job we were hoping for or not getting into the school we wanted to attend, for example. With normal sadness, however, the feeling is relatively short-lived. Participation in activities that you have always enjoyed should continue to give you pleasure and a feeling of well-being.

Getting sad for "no reason" is a less common occurrence. It may be that there really is a reason that's just buried deep inside. It may be a reaction to events and experiences that happened long ago, or it may be because of a loss of hope in the future. These types of issues usually need to be discussed openly and honestly in order to help get beyond these unpleasant feelings.

If you seem to get sad very often, and if there doesn't seem to be any particular stimulus for it, then I'd be concerned that you may have a more serious depression. If you don't have experiences that make you happy, that's also worrisome. If you've been so depressed that you have thought about hurting yourself, then that isn't normal and you need to seek help at once.

Talk with your parents or another adult that you trust about the periods of sadness you've been having. You should also see your physician and discuss this issue with him. He can help to sort things out if your sadness needs further evaluation.

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

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