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22 Signs You Grew Up With Anxiety and Depression

Growing up, we often aren’t taught to look for the signs of anxiety and depression. So if you’re struggling with both, especially as a child or adolescent, it can be all too easy to believe you are alone in the way you feel — especially when the adult figures in your life seem to think it’s just a “phase.”

But there’s nothing wrong with having depression or anxiety — and no one is “too young” to experience mental health struggles. The reality is, many kids and teens do experience mental illness, and we need to talk about it, know the signs and acknowledge their experiences. 

To find out more, we asked our mental health community to share how mental illness affected their childhoods — for better and for worse. No two people are alike, so it’s important to remember that no matter what your experience growing up was, you are not alone in your struggle.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I was always afraid of gaining attention, even for something as little as asking to go to the bathroom when in class. When I was in the first grade, I had a lot of ‘accidents’ because of that, and I kept telling everybody it was the juice in my bag that spilled. Disgusting, I know. But I was so [debilitated] by fear of what would happen if I did actually raise my hand to ask to go to the bathroom. I felt like something bad was gonna happen and I got overly nervous. I felt like I was inadequate and unworthy of people’s time. “ — Sandra V.

2. I remember experiencing anxiety and depression as early as 11 years old, and I think that has shaped my entire life because it’s all I’ve ever known how to feel. I surrounded myself with people who treated me like crap, who pushed me to do things that made me uncomfortable and in the end, [I] became untrusting, withdrawn and isolated. I don’t tell people things, even when I am really suffering. And the worst part? I thought all of this was normal.” — Mikayla H.

3. Reckless self-destructive behavior that has led to guilt and further anxiety and depression. I cannot function with normal day-to-day adult duties like checking the mail, paying bills, keeping track of finances and most of the time, healthy communication is out the door. Jobs last an average of three to five years before I start getting forgetful and restless. I just don’t function the way I should most of the time.” — Summer L.

4. “I am always doubting myself, everything I say, do, make, feel. I never felt really confident. I don’t know how to respond to compliments. I just don’t believe it enough. I am always comparing myself to others. I am always scared of what others think about me. I try not to be. I try to be positive, accept myself and be confident. I am 28 years old and have been depressed for most of my life.” — Inge V.

5. “I’ve always had trouble in school because of my anxiety.” — Haylee M.

6. “As a child, I learned quickly how to hide and pretend my depression didn’t exist. While it always consumed me, there wasn’t a reason for a child to ‘feel sad.’ So I existed under this heavy wet blanket, but the world saw a smiling, friendly and happy me. I became a pro at disguising my true feelings, no one ever saw my sadness. But under that blanket, I was screaming, confused, worthless. I wanted to be like everyone else. I was so great at pretending, no one ever knew that nothing was joyful. Nothing in my life was happy. I never understood why I was born. Why was I here when I was so miserable inside? What had I done to deserve this constant, awful feeling? I’m close to retirement age now, and I still struggle with depression. I swallow pills, drag around my wet blanket and I manage to exist. No one would ever know.” — Breezee H.

7. “[I] refused to ask people for help and felt I needed to solve all problems on my own because I was afraid of being judged for needing help. I was in a a horribly verbally and emotionally abusive relationship because I felt it was all I deserved. And even when I knew I needed help getting out, I couldn’t ask for it. It still haunts me and finally I have been able to reach out to people and moved on to something healthy.” — Jennifer N.

8. “I made really bad choices that will stay with me for a while. I didn’t care about what happened to me and was very reckless.” — Megan T.

9. “I lashed out with anger. The anxieties and numbness that had built up throughout the day, I didn’t know how to handle. One, because I didn’t know it was anxiety and depression and two, because I was so young. I would get home where I could be a little more comfortable and I’d lash out on my family, swearing and shouting, tantrums and hitting. I was so overwhelmed by the feelings from the day that I had no idea how to deal with them other than through anger.” — Emma J.

10. “Never sleeping over at friends’ or family members’ houses, throwing up at every school dance, getting shaky whenever there were confrontations. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember.” — Aleah M.

11. “I could never be apart from one of my parents. Even my mom and dad leaving me with my grandmother for a few hours made me so upset. I’m better now, in my teen years, but I’m still a little anxious when I’m not around them.” — Aery P.

12. “I used to go sit on the curb in front of my house pretending someone was coming to get me and take me out of that hell any second. The funny thing is today I run to the things that scared me the most back then.” — Chris C.

13. “I became so focused on just trying to get through the day, I failed all my classes because I couldn’t focus. I had to stay focused on the door — on the ‘escape route’ [I] planned in my head day after day, hour after hour.” — Kathryn C.

14. “After seeking help and being told I was looking for attention, I became very withdrawn and isolated myself in many ways. I also organically took on a nurturing role, caring for others who were in a bad place, befriending those who were bullied and lived many years believing my depression and anxiety were perceived as ‘attention-seeking.’” — Charlotte E.

15. “I became codependent on people who I thought were ‘worse off’ than me. I convinced myself the only reason I needed to stay alive was because they needed me, and I allowed us to fall into very unhealthy relationships, where I essentially tried to meet all of their emotional needs and wants, while ignoring my own.” — Skylar T.

16. “My anxiety was so bad from a young ago I refused to leave my house to go to school. That caused me to eventually drop out and never go back. A decision I will regret for the rest of my life. I got a handle on my anxiety for the most part as a young adult, but now that I’m older, it’s coming back and with a vengeance.” — Cynthia F.

17. “I buried myself in my studies. I took 24-plus course [units] a semester. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Summa Cum Laude, three years after starting. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t go to parties. I didn’t have a long-term plan, or goals, but I graduated.” — Karey N.

18. “I lost my voice — who I was. It was buried under years and years of triggers and tragedy. When you can’t figure out where your depression/anxiety ends and the real you begins, you not only attract but hold onto people who exploit that fact. You triple guess everything you do or say and convince yourself they are right — you are damaged goods and no one else will want you. I spent my whole childhood till my early 20s chasing these people and their validation. It has landed me in some awful situations. The symptoms got so bad I started blacking out which led to the healing and medication process.” — Brittany H.

19. “My mother controlled every decision about my extracurricular activities and made them more of a chore than actual fun. I went along with it because I was too [debilitated] by anxiety to confront her and too depressed to really care. Little did I know, this caused more severe depression and anxiety because I was being pushed to live the life my mom wished she had instead of following my own path.” — Samantha J.

20. “Always cancelled plans with friends. It was easy to make the plans but when the day came, it felt impossible to go and I always made excuse for why I couldn’t when in reality I was still in bed at 3 p.m. crying and nauseous at the thought of getting up.” — Amy W.

21. “I cried almost every day after school because I was convinced my friends didn’t really like me and that they saw me as a charity case.” — Alicia N.

22. “[I] became really good at doing makeup! It was my escape. I’d stay up until morning doing my make up over and over as a teen. It’s still something I find calming, I can express my inner self through it.” — Melissa F.

Can you relate?

 Thinkstock photo via Archv

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