18 Hidden Ways Depression Affects You at School
With all the pressure of getting good grades, participating in extracurriculars and having a social life, school can be a stressful time for anyone. But for students with depression –who may have trouble finding the motivation to get out of bed, let alone finish their assignments — it can be especially difficult, and sometimes teachers and family don’t understand.
But it’s not always obvious when a student has depression — so we asked people in our mental health community to share hidden ways depression affects their experience at school.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Far too often, I end up procrastinating because either I’m too emotionally exhausted to do my work, or I want to distract myself from the depressive thoughts. So I spend time watching TV or browsing through the internet. In classes, I’ll try to focus but end up zoning out or just ignoring what’s happening around me. Somehow, I still manage to get decent grades, but it baffles me.” — Alaura F.
2. “When you have one of your ‘episodes’ so to speak, you just sit in class and can’t take anything in or concentrate. Then you don’t learn, and when it happens often you find yourself having no idea what’s been going on for months.” — Eliyah R.
3. “I used to stay in the library doing assignments for as many hours as possible to avoid people and focus on something other than how bad I felt. Before I used to be passionate about what I wrote, but during that period there was zero passion in my writing, it was purely mundane. Plus, I knew if I didn’t fight procrastination and get assignments done then I would also have my anxiety to contend with when they were due.” — Kashmere N
4. “I think the hardest part for me is knowing I need to study or do homework but completely lacking the motivation to do so. And knowing how important keeping my daily routine is but so quickly falling behind.” — Jamie W.
5. “A lot of the time you get labeled the ‘lazy teenager’ or other such cliches. Yes, it may have taken me five hours to get out of bed, and yes, my assignments weren’t met. But there are hidden reasons. Often I am late for classes not because I cannot be bothered but because it is completely impossible to get out of the house in less than five hours some days. The lack of motivation is hard to deal with.” — Lucy M.
6. “Sometimes I didn’t do my homework because: ‘I’m a failure so why do I even try?’”— Noella K.
7. “Fear of failure definitely. Self-doubt. It just gets to a point when I give up and miss out on some opportunities my ‘normal’ brain would jump sky high for. I get this clouded vision that I’m not capable or worthy of anything and that there’s no point in trying, I’m useless anyway. It affects my grades and my social life. I lose friends and respect from my teachers, and it hurts worse in the long run. Now that I’m slowly recovering, every day I’m realizing how much self-doubt gets in the way of the person I want to be and my future.” — Hannah F.
8. “Oftentimes, I go to college on very little sleep. Some days it will be none, and other days it will be two to four hours. That’s just the norm to me. In episodes, I am in a constant fog and my body feels super heavy. I feel even worse and can’t concentrate on top of my other depressive and borderline personality syndrome (BPD) symptoms.” — Kellyann N.
9. “When I was a student, my depression would get the best of me, I wouldn’t study or write my papers. Not because I didn’t want to — oh, I thought and worried about it constantly. I couldn’t do it because my depression keep telling me what I wrote was garbage, what I studied didn’t matter, and it all piles up. I would get so overwhelmed I would blank out in class, staring off and couldn’t focus. Then class would be over and I would be so upset with myself because I didn’t pay attention. That only fed the depression, telling me I would never make it so why should I bother. I was trapped in my own mind.” — Carolyn A.
10. “I distracted myself by obsessing with my notes. Color-coordinated, perfect writing, prefect lines, thorough essays. I had all straight As. No one knew I had a war in my head because I was the perfect student. But when my work was done… my thoughts would flood back to me and I’d become overwhelmed. Repeat the process until I would go home and cry for an hour.” — Jessica S.
11. “Not being able to attend classes and having to make up reasons for why you’re not there. To both your teachers and your family. And when living in dorms, the humiliation of bringing your trash or dishes out from your bedroom when you haven’t had the energy or motivation to clean your room for like a week. People just think you’re gross or lazy. But I genuinely couldn’t face going into the kitchen if anyone was there. Also, weight gain. I’m a comfort eater and rarely had the energy to cook, so I would mostly get take out or order something in. I tried to convince myself that my flatmates didn’t notice or care, till one day I came through to cook, and some of my flatmates were in the kitchen. And I know they were trying to be friendly and supportive, but they made a fuss over the fact I was actually in the kitchen cooking. And all I wanted to do was flee back to my bedroom and not show my face now that I knew they were observing my eating habits. I was humiliated.” — Rebecca B.
12. “When you want to sit by yourself in class, but teachers keep coming up asking, ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Do you want someone to come sit here?’ They mean well, but it serves as a constant reminder that today I’m not strong enough to interact with my peers.” — Katriana F.
13. “It’s a snowball effect. Depression affects my ability to get things done efficiently, so then I have two options: 1) I stay up late and avoid social events so no one knows I’m struggling or 2) I avoid the issue with all sorts of procrastination until I force myself to do just the bare minimum. Either way I feel guilt and shame about it and stay stuck in the downward spiral.” — Emily C.
14. “When an episode hits, it really does feel like my mind is broken. I try to study but can’t, and it soon turns into this spiral of very harsh self-criticism and zoning out while my brain tries so desperately to recover. When this happens, I try to use music to relate to. Music really helps me sort my thoughts out, but unfortunately, a day of studying was just ruined because of my inability to pay attention.” — Morgan M.
15. “At university I used to spend pretty much every free day I had in the library working – I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed or do anything productive. I didn’t always get much done, but the fact that I had got out of bed and done something made the negative thoughts a little less intrusive and kept them at bay to a certain extent” — Rebecca D.
16. “As much as you want to succeed, you feel like you’re dragging around too much to be able to function. You let school work fall behind. You care deep down, but depression pulls you in deeper. You watch the teacher speak, but nothing is comprehended.” — Meaghan T.
17. “It’s having no motivation to do work while at school but then getting home and feeling so exhausted it seems impossible to attempt any of the work I didn’t do. It’s sitting silently and being constantly scrutinized for it — ‘Are you OK?’ ‘You seem quiet.’ ‘Someone’s in a mood.’ ‘Stop PMS-ing/sulking.’ Not once was I ever asked, ‘Is your mental health affecting your studies?’ That would have made an enormous difference.” — Rosie B.
18. “A positive note: School is what pulls me through. If I didn’t have my study I don’t know how I would’ve handled life. School is something I have to do, it’s my number one priority. Yes, it’s sometimes very difficult because of the episodes which I had randomly in class, but my best friend (who is in the same class) knows about my depression so knows how to handle it. I had days where I just couldn’t get out of bed because of it, but then I think about how important school is for me and I always end up happy for going to school. It’s a distraction and a motivation to keep on going for me. ” — Noella K.