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Things Teens Ask: ‘What is wrong with me? I’m never happy and I hate school’

Things Teens Ask: ‘What is wrong with me? I’m never happy and I hate school’

In our Things Teens Ask series, experts from The Conversation answers kids’ everyday questions, and today it’s talking to a teen who says ‘I’m never happy’.

Hi, I was just wondering if something’s wrong with me because I’m never happy and never want to do anything and I’m getting really lazy and I really hate school. Thanks – Anonymous

Everyone experiences down days at times. Feeling flat is a normal reaction to something upsetting happening, tiredness or just being stuck in a rut. Usually our low mood is short-lived and improves fairly quickly as we resolve a problem, catch up on sleep or move on to something else.

There’s a difference between temporarily feeling a bit down and what you’re describing as “I’m never happy”. The fact you’re “never” happy and “never” want to do anything, suggests this is probably more than just a “rough patch”. Constantly feeling sad, struggling with motivation and lacking interest or pleasure in anything, are all symptoms often associated with depression.

Are you also struggling with sleep, eating more or less than usual, feeling exhausted or irritable or finding it hard to concentrate? These are other common features of depression.

I'm never happy is actually not a normal way to describe teen life

I feel low… all the time

Depression is much more far reaching than regular sadness. Symptoms are persistent and interfere significantly with daily life. Depression affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. People with depression tend to have negative thoughts about themselves, the world and the future.

They often feel helpless:

Nothing I do will improve the situation.

And hopeless:

Things will never get better.

There are things YOU can do to help

While everything feels like a struggle now with your low energy levels and not liking school, why not try some of these things to help you move forward:

  • Identify and challenge any unhelpful thinking which may be contributing to how you’re feeling. When we’re down, we tend to interpret situations in a biased, negative way. Work on developing more realistic, balanced thinking – this is a helpful sheet to aid you in doing just that
  • Take action to to solve the problems affecting you. For example, if you’re hating school, identify specifically what you hate about it, brainstorm and evaluate possible solutions and implement the best ones
  • Plan daily activities, no matter how small, that make you feel you’ve achieved something. Maybe start an assignment you’ve been putting of or simply have a bath

Try some of these: 17 projects for older kids that will help them find their passion

  • Practice daily gratitude by thinking of three things you were thankful for, and writing them down. Balance out life’s negatives, by identifying the things that went well and the reasons why

Practical strategies like these are used in the cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) approach to managing depression. CBT focuses on developing more helpful ways of thinking and behaving. Moodgym is a great place to learn CBT techniques.

There is ALWAYS someone to talk to

During challenging times when you feel like you’re never happy it’s important to speak up and reach out for support. Talk to a trusted adult, maybe a parent or teacher, about what’s happening. Consider contacting an online or telephone support service such as Kidshelpline or e-headspace. An open chat with your school counsellor may also be a good starting point.

A GP can help guide you too. You can find a doctor who bulk bills (so you don’t have to pay). ReachOut has a great web-page with some simple tips for finding the right doctor to talk to about this – you can find it here.

If you are experiencing depression, the doctor may help you develop a mental health care plan which can give you up to ten Medicare-subsidised sessions with a private psychologist or clinical psychologist per year.

Depression in teens needs support

When you use a mental health care plan you, or your parents, will be charged the full amount for the psychology session, then the rebate will be refunded back into the bank account. It’s a good idea to ask what the appointment fees are before booking. Private psychologist rates can vary significantly, from bulk billing to A$300 an hour.

Depending on what is available in your area, a GP might recommend other support options such as:

  • a group therapy program, which again might attract a different Medicare rebate level
  • counselling at a community health service which is usually free of charge

Have a read of this ReachOut page to understand more, including how to find a psychologist who “gets” you.

For more ideas, check out Reachout and Youth Beyondblue.

If you’d like to learn more, here are some helpful links

If you or anyone you know needs help or is having suicidal thoughts, contact Lifeline on 131 114 or beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36.

Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, The Kidman Centre UTS, University of Technology Sydney. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Feature image by Pavel Danilyuk; red shirt by Sofia Alejandra