7 Early Signs of Depression in Young People

by op-ed contributor

Any slight mood swing is termed depression in this part of the world. It can be sad when you do not know you are depressed or your friend is, only to find out your friend is dead – too late – and you were their best pal. So, how do you identify the early signs of depression in young adults?

“The young shall grow,” they say, but growing can be challenging because of what you face as young adults, escalating into bigger problems for you. You cannot cope or handle the situation, and because you do not know the warning signs of depression in youth, you gradually sink into the ocean of depression bit by bit, and it worsens.

Depression is a common word used for every abnormal behavior noticed in young adults these days, so it’s not a new word to you. However, it does not just start in a day; it’s a lonely journey with sadness and hopelessness. In this article, you will be enlightened on what depression is and the signs of depression.

Disclaimer: This content was prepared based on research conducted by the writer from personal experience and several online resources. If you are experiencing any of the discussed signs of depression, you should visit a doctor for proper examination.

What is Depression?

Depression is a severe mental health disorder that affects a person’s mood, making them feel sad at all times, and this condition has a prevalence rate of 21% and 16.8% between the age group of 18-29 and 30-44, respectively.

Although in Nigeria, young people are less depressed than older people, they still need help and a way out. My experience with young Nigerians has made me realize that there are many signs of depression. However, depression is more common in ladies than in guys.

In Nigeria, mental illness is widely believed to be spiritual warfare rather than a physical and mental issue that requires urgent attention and immediate medication. You hear people give names and labels to a person with a mental health condition. That alone aggravates this individual’s situation that leads to stories that touch later: the stigmatization, discrimination, and social injustice. You do not want to know their pain, so to stay sane, some become drug addicts.

A mental illness could come in different forms, either triggered by external factors or caused by trauma in most cases. It’s awesome to have you come to read and learn about how depression affects a young person.

Types of Depression in Young People

Depression affects a young person in different types, which could be;

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Psychotic Depression
  • Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  • Situational Depression

Chronic or long-term stress contributes to depression because it can harm an individual’s health, leading to a mental illness, but stress generally is not the cause of depression. Depression has different forms, as stated above, and it has diverse triggers, which is why we must learn how to manage stress as a young person.

7 Early Signs of Depression in Young People

One of the leading signs of depression in Nigerian youth is life events but note that medically, the cause of depression is not well understood, so identifying a depressed fellow can be exhausting.

Imagine your friend just got his breakfast after 1-3 years of relationship – my guy don collect wotowoto- he becomes sober, angry, annoyed, and hurt. All these actions do not mean that your friend is depressed; however, he is only expressing his feelings which is better than pretending everything is fine. You should be worried when you notice the following signs of depression in your friend.

  1. Missing school, problem with grades or academic achievement

You will discover that he hardly remembers things in detail, he is unable to make decisions, and he never concentrates in the classroom, lecture room, workplace, or at home. It could be challenging to focus, but little things like watching TV, deciding what to eat or wear, and reading a book or newspaper will be hard for him to do. Don’t be surprised to see him dress shabbily to school, untidy, unable to give a clear answer to questions, and always avoiding duties. He needs help.

  1. Loss of interest in hobbies, socializing, and sex

This is one of the obvious signs of depression you will notice in a person, but you need to observe their behaviors and ask them to talk about their feelings. Sometimes you might feel less interested in the activities around you, which does not mean you are depressed. For example, you might be hungry, tired, or experiencing hormonal changes like in females. You must observe your friend well if you want to help them. Do something together as a family to lift their mood, go out for fun activities, and encourage them to talk.

  1. Sad, Fatigue, and Empty feeling

You are sad always, not always smiling, even to a joke, and you keep to yourselves instead of talking. Persistent feelings of sadness will continue over time without getting better. You feel tired of doing work or attending to your daily routines and tasks, and completing tasks becomes a problem. It would be best if you had urgent medical attention. It could be sickness, but it’s a sign of depression. Watch it.

  1. Weight gain or loss

You either overeat or eat less or no changes. This sign needs to be studied well because there could be another reason for the change besides depression, like illness or stress from schoolwork. Let them know you are concerned; this can help figure out what is going on before jumping to conclusions about their health.

  1. Unexplained aches and pain

While depression can be hard to identify in yourself or others, there are common signs like back pains, headaches, stomach aches, cramps, digestive problems, chest pain, and all sorts of pains in your body that is unexplainable. This can happen physically and mentally, so paying attention to any pain that seems out of place is important. For example, if you feel numbness or tingling in your limbs, it could be a sign of something more serious than stress at work or school, and if a loved one is complaining about similar sensations but cannot explain it or tell you what’s wrong, then you should suspect something.

  1. Problem sleeping

Sleep deprivation has been linked to poor school performance and mood disorders, including anxiety. As a result, you find yourself awake at midnight, can’t go to sleep, or even suffer from insomnia. Struggling to sleep is often attributed to changes in hormone levels that occur during puberty, but it becomes severe, causing insomnia, and you need medical attention.

  1. Suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, or Feeling Worthless

Depression can make you feel guilty, hopeless, and worthless, you are pessimistic about yourself, and you don’t believe you could be somebody. A depressed person will talk about suicidal attempts jokingly or deliberately because it’s been running in their head for a long time—thoughts like this need to be checked with the strict and prompt attention with optimum care.

Irrespective of the gender, these signs of depression are early to identify in a depressed fellow. It may not be noticeable initially because it can come on gradually over time. As a concerned friend or family member, you must be smart when observing these signs because some young folks can try to form hard guys or babes. Don’t be fooled by their appearance; study them; they need help if those signs are experienced for two weeks! After that, you need to see your doctor!!

Causes of Depression

Professionals have not been able to discover the actual cause of depression but believe that depression could be a combination of the following:

  1. Gene

A study by scientists suggests that specific genes can make an individual likely to be depressed; however, having such a gene does not guarantee its occurrence in you. Whether depression runs in the family doesn’t mean you are likely to develop it because some people still have the condition without the genetic makeup.

  1. Brain Structure

Scientists have discovered that the parts of the brain involved in thinking, mood, appetite, sleep, and behavior looks different when you are depressed, but they don’t know the reason behind it.

  1. Life Events

We all have our share of circumstances, tragic moments, challenges, and terrible and pleasant situations. Negative occurrences can trigger depression, such as the loss of loved ones, a problematic relationship resulting in divorce breakfasts, and a stressful workplace. Still, you will agree that some occurrences happen without an apparent cause. It’s just life.

  1. Childhood Problem/Background

Being born with a disability and raised in a broken home or toxic neighborhood are more likely to cause depression due to the changes in the brain caused by trauma but can be managed.

Judging from the tragic stories of young people who die by suicide after months or years of persistent depression, the leading cause of depression in youth in Nigeria is Life Events ranging from heartbreaks here and there financial instability to loss of loved ones. Young people with emotional imbalances are likely to be depressed because they can’t cope emotionally, which can significantly and permanently impact their future. Therefore, it is expedient to see a doctor on time to manage and treat yourself.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

You have to meet with your doctor to diagnose your condition. Those signs discussed earlier are the apparent behavior a depressed person will develop at an early stage; hence, the diagnosis must be made by a professional, a psychiatrist. Your doctor would use several means of identifying mental illness, such as:

  1. Physical Exam

Your doctor will conduct a thorough health check to ensure it’s not another condition. You must follow your doctor’s instructions; questions will also be asked, and you should answer them honestly.

  1. Laboratory Test(s)

Your doctor could ask you to take a few tests to ascertain some hypotheses. This test is to check your hormone levels and body physiology.

  1. Psychiatric Evaluation

This is a thorough mental health check to study your behavioral patterns, thoughts, and feelings. You might even be asked to fill out a questionnaire.

When young people are referred to see a psychiatrist, subconsciously, they conclude that they are depressed even when they have not been diagnosed. Psychiatric Evaluations are critical in determining the mental illness, the severity of the condition, and how to manage those conditions.

You can reach out to Asido Campus Network, a network of trained peer counselors capable of helping you overcome mental illness. They are mental health ambassadors on campuses across Nigeria, spreading mental health awareness and helping young people get better. However, please do not take for granted these early signs of depression but identify them and get help.

Treatment of Depression

Depending on the symptoms and severity of the condition, the doctor recommends the type of treatment to undergo, which could be:

  1. Medication

The use of anti-depressant drugs is effective for young people with depression. You may have to try several anti-depressants before finding a suitable one for yourself. Your doctor might prescribe another drug to help your anti-depressant work best but in all, let your doctor do justice to that. Never should you self-medicate; it’s very dangerous as it can worsen your condition.

  1. Residential Treatment

When you cannot take care of yourself but harm yourself and others, psychiatric hospitalization in a hospital facility is considered with immediate effect.

  1. Psychotherapy

Your healing process is enhanced when you regularly talk to a psychiatrist, a peer counselor, or mental health professional concerning your depression condition and possible illness that needs urgent medical attention. Talking helps relieve pain, anxiety, and sad mood. It can be challenging to find whom to talk to, but you need to find someone you can if you truly want to get over it. Some good people would not judge you but listen to you talk.

  1. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

If the anti-depressants are not working, or you cannot take them anymore for health reasons, ECT is carried out. This therapy involves brain stimulation through electric currents passed to the brain to improve neurotransmitters’ functionality.

  1. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

This treatment is your doctor’s suggestion only after anti-depressants haven’t worked. It requires stimulating the brain nerve cells through magnetic pulses to regulate mood.

Hey, do you want to know more about how to care for yourself? Then, let’s connect on WhatsApp.


Spotting the signs of depression can help you and your loved ones learn to manage it better. There are many things you can do to help someone who is experiencing depression or yourself. Most young people will try to hide it because of societal discrimination and stigmatization that comes with it, but you are slowly killing yourself and losing your loved ones gradually. If you think that a loved one or friend is showing signs of depression, the above listed solution can help them in controlling it early.

The above-provided tips are helpful. They provide an opportunity to spot depression early and avert mental issues and suicide. You can get more helpful health posts by subscribing to our newsletter.

Early detection of the signs of depression can help reduce mental illness associated with young people. Check out how to know if you are depressed here.

About the Author

Oluwatomiwa is a content writer, budding UX writer, mental health advocate, and veterinary medical student interested in inspiring young minds to live healthy physically and mentally. When he’s not writing, he’s busy executing projects as a serial volunteer, reading books (mostly financial and self-development), and seeing a movie.

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Op-Ed are articles published by guest authors. We no longer accept guest posts. However, we are still open to adding long-term content contributors to our team of insightful writers. To write for us, please check out inisght.ng/guest-post.

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