Depression: what does it look like?

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

When we talk about criteria for depression, the truth is that each person who experiences depression is likely to experience it in their own way. Mental health challenges are as nuanced and individualized as the people who experience them. Here are some additional experiences of depression in different populations.


While it is not very common for children under the age of 12 to experience depression, it can still happen. Oftentimes children struggling with depression will have behavioral problems start happening at school or in the home. They may have serious changes to their eating habits and may present with rapid fluctuations in their weight. Children are likely to lose interest in fun activities and may want to avoid social opportunities. Oftentimes, children experience depression in response to life circumstances. If you are seeking help for a child struggling with depression, consider selecting someone who is specialized in working with children.


The teen years are challenging and hallmarked by mood swings and irritability, which can make it hard to tell if your teen is struggling with depression. Mood swings in teens caused by depression last longer than a few weeks and are likely paired with an excessive level of irritability and lashing out, or isolation and avoidance. Additionally, teens may have behavioral problems show up in school or at home that seem out of character. It is also possible that teens dealing with depression may turn to coping mechanism based in self harm as a way of avoiding their feelings. These behaviors could include alcohol use, drug use, or cutting and other self-harm behaviors. While your teen may not be ready to talk about their experience of depression with you, please encourage your teen to talk with a safe adult about what they are going through.

Males and Females

There is no clear-cut way to generalize the experience of depression for different genders, however, there are some symptoms that are reported more frequently in females than males, and vice versa. Males typically report their experience of depression is characterized by anger, self-destructive behavior, high levels of irritability, low impulse control, and the use of vices as a form of numbing. Females often report symptoms of frequent crying, low mood, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, withdrawal from social situations, and changes to weight. This is not to say that all females and all males experience depression in this dichotomy, because that simply is not true. The symptoms and criteria for depression can be experienced by anyone of any gender, these are only the symptoms that are most frequently reported between males and females.

High-Functioning Depression

One more nuance that can be highlighted when we talk about depression is high-functioning depression. This experience of depression is characterized by many of the same symptoms of traditional depression, but the individuals who have high-functioning depression are unlikely to “seem” depressed. These individuals are likely to be able to keep up with the demands of their lives, especially when viewed form the outside, but behind the scenes they are experiencing the crushing weight of depression. These individuals also need and are deserving of help for managing their depression, and if you or someone dear to you experience high-functioning depression, please know there is hope for change.

Remember that each person is experiencing their own mental health journey and that they are allowed to have it be individual to them. They are also allowed to seek help and find healing with people who can support and guide them.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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