Good morning. Welcome to JA.
I'm genuinely sorry to hear that you're going through a difficult time right now - and appreciate that you turned to JA as your "first step" toward getting better.
First and foremost, please understand that it is inappropriate and unethical to diagnose over the internet. That being said, based on your question, I will respond about what is known about depression IN GENERAL.
Depression, you should know, is generally considered the "common cold" of the mental health field. That is, it is estimated that nearly everyone may suffer from a bout of depression (not related to normal life circumstances like stress or grief) at least once in their lifetimes. Also, just like a cold, it is relatively easily treated. And, also like a cold, research also demonstrates that (for many people) depression will lift on its own without any intervention in 6-8 months. (Most mental health professionals don't like to admit this... but the research shows that "spontaneous recovery" is far more common than many believe.) If you feel your depression is impacting your functioning and/or you're concerned about your own safety - it's time to get into treatment!
As a disease, it carries no stigma with it. While I understand your hesitation to seek help, you wouldn't hesitate to call the doctor if you had a cold, would you? You wouldn't feel embarrassed if you were told you had developed diabetes? I realize that this probably sounds like a "pat answer" - but my purpose in writing this is merely to just let you know - THIS IS NORMAL. Don't compound your depression by feeling bad about having it!
Your first step is to meet with your doctor to confirm the diagnosis you report. S/he may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist as well. Once the diagnosis has been clarified, a treatment plan can be developed.
Years of research have indicated that the most effective form of treatment for depression is a combination of medication and a specific form of therapy. The medication would be handled by a physician. Many general practitioners (GPs) report that the most common medication they prescribe for their patients is an anti-depressant! But, if you feel more comfortable talking with a physician with specific training in mental health, your best bet would be to find a Psychiatrist. Most physicians begin medical treatment of depression with the most common (and effective) form on treatment for depression - a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). This may or may not be the appropriate choice in your particular case. (That's where the diagnostic workup (previous paragraph) comes in.)
In terms of psychological treatment, research has consistently demonstrated that the most effective form of psychological therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT involves learning about and correcting thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs as well as specific behaviors (such as isolating, oversleeping/eating, poor exercise) that lead to depression. Someone who works in a CBT fashion will form a specific treatment plan that will get you moving to improve your thoughts and behaviors. Expect some homework - but always homework aimed at helping you. Please be certain that the therapist you find (whether a psychologist or social worker) actually employs CBT techniques. Some research has indicated that traditional "talk therapy" can actually exacerbate symptoms of depression. While some talk therapy is certainly a part of the growing and learning process, and is also used by most CBT therapists, talk *alone* isn't going to resolve the depression. Taregetted, research-based CBT interventions will help! Once your depression has lifted somewhat (or even completely), if you want to engage in talk therapy to discover more about yourself - GREAT! But, don't spend this critical time when you need to improve your thoughts, behavior, and mood on a "discovery mission." That can come when you're in a better place to enjoy the discoveries!
Although things seem bleak right now, please understand that depression is ABSOLUTELY treatable. While I understand and appreciate your feelings of embarrassment and feeling alone, you don't have to be! As a practitioner, I've found that appropriate treatment can help not only to lift the depression - but can also teach a person new skills that extend beyond the treatment - and acts as a sort of "prevention measure" against future bouts of depression! As a former sufferer of depression (see, I told you everybody gets it!), I can tell you that the treatment(s) work!
Finally, you should know and understand that if you feel you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, DO NOT DELAY... get yourself to an emergency room to be evaluated. Ask a trusted friend or family to go with you for support. I'm not suggesting that you are suicidal (and many suicides are not the result of depression at all), but in the event that the depression is severe - you need to seek help immediately.
I hope this brief response was helpful - and that you find relief soon. Please understand and believe that you're worth taking this time and effort to feel better. Nobody deserves to feel lousy all the time... you included. Take the time to get yourself feeling good again!
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i can't know for sure that depression is the problem, would the fact that it's lasted longer than that 6-8 month period suggest that it could be another issue?
It *could* be another issue. At 18, there are a number of other issues that begin to emerge that should be explored by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) through a diagnostic work-up. That kind of work simply cannot be completed over the computer - and can only be correctly (and legally and ethically) done in a face-to-face interview.
Another question to consider is, if it has been longer than 6-8 months, have you undergone any treatment during this time? You may have a form of depression that doesn't "spontaneously recover" and you might actually need some of the treatment outlined. Again, not everybody suddenly "feels better" and you might be just that guy. (Lucky you, eh?)
I believe you'll find that your first meeting with an LMHP will be a positive experience. You'll come to a better understanding of yourself and your needs - and they'll move quickly to propose a treatment plan that makes sense for you. I urge you to check it out!
Best of luck to you! Thanks!
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