Depressed or Overreacting?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I think I may be depressed but I am having trouble with reaching out to others for help. For almost a year now, I have been worried that I may be depressed.

In June of 2008, I was feeling particularly sad, lonely, and hopeless, emotions I was used to feeling on some regularity. But on that night I remember finally correlating the word “depressed” as a descriptor for the combination of feelings. It was the first time I thought of depression as something that could happen to me.

Then, I didn’t know much about depression, except that to me, it seemed like a serious illness. Something that happened to people with bigger problems than mine. I was absolutely terrified with the prospect of being depressed, and looked up symptoms online that night.

What I found was that many of the depression symptoms were things that I experienced multiple times, some on a regular basis. I then was worried with classifying myself as depressed, again because of the hugely negative and powerful connotation it has with me.

Since then, I have continued on like I did before I considered depression; keeping everything immensely secretive and not telling anyone. I cry only when I am alone and have told no one of my inner turmoil. This, for me, was not only the simpler route, but one that would allow time for these heavy feelings to pass if they were, as I both hoped and feared, nothing.

In these past 10 months, I have been acutely aware of everytime I cry and feel my hopeless thoughts. Most of these spiral from a trigger of my extremely low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness. Another huge trigger, is my acute fear of my own death; possibly thanantophobia. Because of this, I am not in the least suicidal, but the absolute certainty of my death weighs down on me so very heavily. When in perspective on my inevitable death, things seems so very inconsequential; things that other students my age consider to be incredibly important – reports, homework, grades, colleges, careers. This causes me to feel so unmotivated and so hopeless, that I truly wish on some days I could just lay in bed and never have to deal with the world.

The reason I never act on these hopeless desires is that secrecy is of the utmost importance to me. I’m not sure exactly why, but to me, somebody finding out about my inner struggle is just frightening. So I keep a relatively neutral demeanor in front of people, no matter what I’m feeling. I get up everyday, I go to school, I can barely scrape decent grades, and I deal with my family. It is only when I am alone at night, either in the shower or in bed, that sometimes I just let go and cry so hard about what seems to be everything and nothing.

Because of this natural affinity for secrecy, my parents and I have never really had deep conversations just about my feelings. If we talked about my future, it was of my possible success, not how I felt about it. If we talked about my ex-boyfriend, I would lie and act cool and collected, even though I felt absolutely unwanted when he broke-up with me. I have seriously considered walking over to them and just spilling my hearts darkest secrets to them, but when I do, I get so frozen with fear and “what if’s” that I never do.

I am most afraid of them rejecting what I have to say as just being the result of being a weak, over-emotional, typical teenage girl. I am worried that the fact that I am not suicidal will make whatever is wrong with me seem much less substantial to them. I’m not only afraid because of the fact that they might just dismiss me, but I am also worried that they might be right.

All in all, I have two questions. One, from what you can tell, does my emotional distress seem to be caused by depression, or my over-reactions to facts about life?

A. When I was reading your question I felt disheartened by the amount of sadness you’re experiencing. It’s always difficult to read the letters of individuals who are suffering so much. While it is always difficult to offer anyone an “official” diagnosis over the Internet you’ve provided enough information in your letter for me to know that you’re probably experiencing depression. Your sadness seems very genuine.

It’s important that you understand a few things about depression. Depression is not the result of weakness. People become depressed for various reasons none of which are the result of people being too weak to handle their own problems. Depression is not something that people bring on themselves or purposefully cause. Unfortunately there remains a stigma associated with depression.

The second thing that is important to understand about depression is that it’s very treatable. With the right therapist you could absolutely recover from depression. That’s why it is so important that you do not continue to keep this a secret. In your letter you stated that you believe your parents may think badly of you if they learned of your depression. If I were able to work with you in person I would examine what evidence you have to prove that your parents would think these negative things about you. I suspect that you actually have no evidence to prove this and that much of what you’re feeling is related to fear and your own ideas about depression. There is a very good chance that if you told your parents they would be open to getting you help. They would probably not think negatively of you nor would they consider you weak or believe that you’re overreacting. If you show them the letter that you wrote to me they may easily see that you’re not simply “going through a phase.”

I think that you need to be brave, stand up to your fear and tell your parents about how you’re feeling. An easy way to do this would be to show them the letter that you wrote and my response. Your letter probably says everything it needs to say about how you’ve been feeling.

To answer your questions directly I do not think that you’re overreacting. Secondly, I absolutely do not believe that you should continue to withhold this from your parents. As I mentioned earlier, depression is very treatable but it requires that you are open about how you’re feeling so you can begin treatment. The last thing you want to it to keep this a secret. By keeping this to yourself, you risk allowing the depression to become worse. I hope that you will consider telling your parents the truth. Thank you and let me know how you’re doing in the future.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 May 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Depressed or Overreacting?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/04/depressed-or-overreacting/