Are my bad grades in high school related to depression?


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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

In this article we will discuss whether your bad grades are a sign of depression and how depression impacts a student’s life. 

We will also discuss some steps that you as a student or you as a parent can take to help cope.

Are my bad grades in high school related to depression?

If you are struggling with handling your high school-related responsibilities due to low moods, lack of motivation, and severe stress- it is possible that you are dealing with depression. 

Here are a few steps you can take to help yourself:

  • Seek professional help
  • Work with your school
  • Seek out one key teacher
  • Ask for modifications
  • Organise your daily routine
  • Socialize in healthy ways with your loved ones

Depression in students

Depression or Major depressive disorder as it is known clinically is a major mental disorder that is considered to be one of the leading causes of disability. 

It has affected approximately 300 million people worldwide and in that population the CDC estimates that 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. 

The impact depression has on a teenager is extensive- it can impact their ability to socialise, maintain relationships. It can affect their physical health, sleep, and diet. Depression is also known to impact a person cognitively- affecting their ability to focus and concentrate which can make it difficult for a student to study and complete assignments. 

Another challenge of depression is the deep sense of worthlessness due to low self-esteem. A student who is also struggling with peer pressure and competition can also struggle with feeling like they are not good enough.

The extreme pressures of change in their lives and the constant need to do better can make them feel hopeless about their situation, especially when they feel like they lack positive support. 

Students who are depressed are also at high risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts which make them highly at risk. There is also a risk of dangers such as substance use, non-suicidal self injury, pregnancy, and bullying- all of which teens usually lack healthy coping skills which can add to their risks of depression and anxiety. 

Are my bad grades in high school related to depression?

Depression and school performance

Let us take a look at how depression impacts school performance.

In a study conducted to understand the 83 adolescents with depressive symptoms and their academic performances in school, it was found that increasing depressive symptoms are associated with many measures of impaired school performance. 

The study found that there is a significant relationship between depressive symptoms and perceptions of impairment in functioning- in the sense that participants with greater depressive symptoms were more likely to report that feeling down or sad affected their ability to do well in school.

Other problems reported included the inability to concentrate on or complete homework, to concentrate in class, attend class, and deal with other students. Additionally, taking a look at the self reports of the students helped to understand the nature of depressive symptoms on school performance. 

It seemed that the depressive symptoms and negative thoughts led to poor school performance, which in turn led to more negative thoughts and poor performance, generating a cycle.

The study also highlighted the importance of intervention and developing stronger support for students as the long-term impact of these struggles may negatively impact performance whether in high school or college and also their prospects in their careers. 

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Steps you can take to cope

If you as a student are able to identify that you are struggling with depression or you as a parent is noticing some changes in your school going child in terms of their behaviour and grades- here are some action steps you can take

Seek Professional Treatment

Getting professional help is the first thing you need to do to help the person who is affected with depression. You can try all your personal methods to motivate the student but if it has something to do with their biology- in most cases it is- it is not going to help. 

So start with going to a physician who can help you get the help you need. If you are a student who is a part of a non supportive family- seeing your school counsellor is the first step you can take for yourself. 

Your school counsellor should be equipped to help you deal with stressors however, if you are dealing with clinical depression they will be able to identify with and refer you to treatment. Remember, your school counsellor is your advocate to get you the help you need and this might require them to rope your parents in even if you don’t want them to.

If you see a doctor you might be required to take medication and therapy. Being consistent with your treatment is the best way to ensure successful treatment and management of your symptoms. 

Work With Your School

Seeing the school counsellor will often lead to a collaborative effort between you, your teacher, and your parents. If you think you need additional support, your teacher and counsellor will help you along the way. 

If you are a parent, starting an opinion dialogue between all the parties involved with your child is the best way to tackle this problem that your child is facing. 

Seek Out One Key Teacher

If you know that you need help to cope up with your grades, find a teacher that you trust will help you. The teacher has to be someone you are comfortable with and someone you know will help you figure things out. 

If you are a parent, find a teacher who is interested in helping your child out- someone who the child trusts and someone who is willing to be a regular point of contact for you and other teachers involved. 


Having one teacher who is the point of contact for school communication will keep the school teachers communicating with each other instead of trying separate strategies that can overwhelm you. 

Ask for Modifications

If You or your child has fallen far behind, catching up may be downright impossible. If you or your child believe that, a private time to talk with the concerned teacher is the right way to go about it. 

Be sure to include all parties  in this conversation. Understand that you have a say as a student to be able to do better- be your own advocate. Let them know what is going on with you and collaborate to come up with a solution for you.

If you are a parent be an advocate for them and with your child’s permission— let your child’s teacher know that your child is struggling with depression and that you believe that they are not ready to catch up

Organization and Daily Routines

Fluctuating energy levels and mood can make studying difficult. Take effort to notice when you are beginning to feel overwhelmed so that you can take breaks and cope with relaxation methods when needed. 

If you are a parent, helping your child to organise and plan their tasks can be a good way to prevent them from getting too stressed out. Breaking tasks into smaller sizes can be one way to go about it. 

Rather than working continuously for one full hour on homework, perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes right after arriving home from school, followed by a long break, and then working on homework again after dinner can be another strategy.

Encourage Social Interaction

If you are depressed you might be withdrawing from your friends and classmates due to whatever negative perspectives you might have about yourself and the world around you. 

Even if you do not want to, understand that healthy and positive relationships are very important for your mental health so take the effort of talking to someone you trust and opening up about your struggles. 

If you don’t want to do that, spend a fun day in or out and do some things you enjoy with them. The intent here is to interact and scialie with other people. 

Another way you can deal with bad grades is through peer study- taking time to study with other people and learn from and with them is a good strategy to help yourself do better.

If you are a parent, help your child find an extracurricular activity that interests them and will help them learn positive social skills. This could be a team sport or a club where your child will discuss with their peers.

Roping in the teachers can also be helpful as they can help you or your child socialize better.

The teacher can help you find more compatible workgroup partners or intervene if they see your child is having a difficult time relating to other students


In this guide we have discussed how depression impacts teenagers and their academic development. We have also discussed what you as the teen affected by depression and as a parent can do to cope and manage academic life through depression.


What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently asked questions related to “Bad grades in high school: depression?”

Is it OK to get bad grades?

Up until middle school, your grades will not be a problem for your future prospects. However, if you are in highschool, you will probably need to keep up your GPA if you want to get into colleges of your choice. 

How does depression affect the academic performance of students?


Depression impacts the working memory, making it difficult to remember new knowledge and recall past experiences, it can also impact a students stamina and focus which can make it difficult for students to study more and concentrate. 


These symptoms of depression along with stressors around them can negatively impact their ability to meet the demands of their academics. 


Can academic stress cause depression?


As academic stress increases, students become more susceptible to depression symptoms. 


If students cannot identify depression early, they may not be able to get the help they need, making it tough to focus on classes or other everyday activities that they would normally enjoy.


Why do students get bad grades?

Many students struggle with poor grades on tests because they simply didn’t take the time to properly prepare.

At the same time their preparation and performance is based on their mental health, the stress and workload, and also the support system within their families and the school. 

Student who lack proper skills to handle all of these factors in healthy and effective ways tend to perform poorer. 

Do grades affect your future?

Your grades can help you plan for your future. In fact, your GPA usually impacts your chances of getting into elite colleges. 

However, your grades are not everything in life- in fact, jobs usually hire based on skill and knowledge and not just your academic track record. So in addition to maintaining a good GPA, building skills through workshops, courses, additional programs and experience can help you build a good future.