30 things people don't realize you're doing because of your depression.

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


Most people imagine depression equals “really sad," and unless you've experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it's different for everyone.


To find out how depression shows itself in ways other people can't see, we asked The Mighty mental health community to share one thing people don't realize they're doing because they have depression.

Here's what they had to say:

1. “In social situations, some people don't realize I withdraw or don't speak much because of depression. Instead, they think I'm being rude or purposefully antisocial." — Laura B.

2. “I struggle to get out of bed, sometimes for hours. Then just the thought of taking a shower is exhausting. If I manage to do that, I am ready for a nap. People don't understand, but anxiety and depression is exhausting, much like an actual physical fight with a professional boxer." — Juli J.

3. “Agreeing to social plans but canceling last minute. Using an excuse but really you just chickened out. It makes you think your friends don't actually want to see you, they just feel bad. Obligation." — Brynne L.

4. “Hiding in my phone. Yes, I am addicted to it, but not like other people. I don't socialize, I play games or browse online stores to distract myself from my negative thoughts. It's my safe bubble." — Eveline L.

5. “Going to bed at 9 p.m. and sleeping throughout the night until 10 or 11 a.m." — Karissa D.

6. “Isolating myself, not living up to my potential at work due to lack of interest in anything, making self-deprecating jokes. I've said many times before, 'I laugh, so that I don't cry.' Unfortunately, it's all too true." — Kelly K.

7. “When I reach out when I'm depressed it's 'cause I am wanting to have someone to tell me I'm not alone. Not because I want attention." — Tina B.

8. “I don't like talking on the phone. I prefer to text. Less pressure there. Also being anti-social. Not because I don't like being around people, but because I'm pretty sure everyone can't stand me." — Meghan B.

9. “I overcompensate in my work environment… and I work front line at a Fitness Centre, so I feel the need to portray an 'extra happy, bubbly personality.' As soon as I walk out the doors at the end of the day, I feel myself 'fall.' It's exhausting… I am a professional at hiding it." — Lynda H.

10. “The excessive drinking. Most people assume I'm trying to be the 'life of the party' or just like drinking in general. I often get praised for it. But my issues are much deeper than that." — Teresa A.

11. “Hiding out in my room for hours at a time watching Netflix or Hulu to distract my mind or taking frequent trips to the bathroom or into another room at social gatherings because social situations sometimes get to me." — Kelci F.

12. “Saying I'm tired or don't feel good… they don't realize how much depression can affect you physically as well as emotionally." — Lauren G.

13. “Answering slowly. It makes my brain run slower, and I can't think of the answers to the questions as quickly. Especially when someone is asking what I want to do — I don't really want anything. I isolate myself so I don't have to be forced into a situation where I have to respond because it's exhausting." — Erin W.

14. “Sometimes I'll forget to eat all day. I can feel my stomach growling but don't have the willpower to get up and make something to eat." — Kenzi I.

15. “I don't talk much in large groups of people, especially when I first meet them. I withdraw because of my anxiety and depression. People think I'm 'stuck up.' I'm actually scared out of my mind worrying they don't like me, or that they think I'm 'crazy' by just looking at me…" — Hanni W.

16. “Not keeping in touch with anyone, bad personal hygiene and extremely bad reactions to seemingly trivial things." — Jenny B.

17. “Being angry, mean or rude to people I love without realizing it in the moment. I realize my actions and words later and feel awful I had taken out my anger on people who don't deserve it." — Christie C.

18. “Purposely working on the holidays so I can avoid spending time with family. It's overwhelming to be around them and to talk about the future and life so I avoid it." — Aislinn G.

19. “My house is a huge mess." — Cynthia H.

20. “I volunteer for everything, from going to PTO meetings to babysitting to cleaning someone else's house for them. I surround myself with situations and obligations that force me to get out of bed and get out of the house because if I'm not needed, I won't be wanted." — Carleigh W.

21. “Overthinking everything and over-planning. The need to make everything perfect and everyone happy, even if it's taking all my energy. As if validation from someone else will make it all better. Sometimes I start out on high power, then just crash and don't even enjoy what I've spent weeks/months planning. And no one will see me for months after, as I retreat into my safe bubble." — Vicki G.

22. “I smile all the time even though I don't really want to, but I do it because I don't feel like I'm allowed to be sad when I'm with other people. I also do whatever it takes to make someone else happy because since I don't feel happy most of the time, it just makes me feel a little better seeing someone else happy. I also isolate myself even though sometimes I really just want someone around." — Wendy E.

23. “People don't realize I say sorry before I even think about expressing any opinions because that's how worthless I feel. I'm apologizing for feeling anything about anything because that's how little I feel I matter. They don't just know I feel like apologizing for even breathing in their general direction. I even say I'm sorry before asking to use the bathroom no matter how long I've held it. I feel like a burden for biological needs I have no control over." — Amy Y.

24. “Neglecting to do basic things like laundry, not wanting to cook a meal or eat. They think I'm being lazy." — Rebecca R.

25. “Sometimes I'll go days without speaking to anybody. People tend to believe I'm ignoring them on purpose when really I am just lost within myself. I don't mean to seem like I'm pushing people away. Some days it's hard when my thoughts consume me and when I can't find the motivation to do simple things that others do on a daily basis." — Alyssa A.

26. “People don't realize I can't say no without feeling guilty. I have to have a good enough reason for everything I do. I guess it's customary to try and convince someone to change their answer, but people have no idea how much it takes for me to say no in the first place. I feel worthless so much that I feel guilty for even thinking of putting my needs or wants first. Then I just feel like a doormat when I cave into the pressure. It's a never-ending cycle." — Amy Y.

27. “I push away/cut off everyone who I care about because I can't bear to be hurt by them! Everyone just thinks I'm mean and anti-social." — Tina R.

28. “Going for late night walks by myself. My depression keeps me awake at night and my thoughts can get so overwhelming I feel physically crowded inside. Late night walks help me quiet the screaming in my head." — Lynnie L.

29. “I have often been accused of having 'no sense of humor.' So wrong. Before depression took over my life, I smiled and laughed as much as the next person. Now, having lived with depression for over 15 years, the humor I find in a joke or situation is rarely visible on my face or heard in my laugh. I feel humor, but it's just too much effort to express it. I don't have the energy." — Martha W.

30. “Keeping the house dark is a comfort thing for me. People always point it out, like, 'No wonder you're so depressed. You need to let some light in.' Darkness in my living space makes me feel comfortable, almost like I'm not alone. Good days, I'm all about the sunshine!" — Michelle T.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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