Teen depression is a serious mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities.
It affects how teenagers think, feel and behave, and it can cause emotional, functional and physical problems.
Teenagers with depression often see the world in a negative light. They can be overly critical to themselves, feel worthless and unloved.
They may feel overwhelmed by small problems and feel like giving up. They pull away from people and drop out of activities that isolate them and make them feel worse.
Teen depression isn’t a weakness or something that can be overcome with willpower, it can have serious consequences and requires long-term treatment. For most teens, depression symptoms ease with treatment such as medication and psychological counseling.
While depression and other mood disorders may occur at any time in life, the symptoms of depression experienced by teens may be different from those experienced by adults.
Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to get them the help they need. But that isn’t always easy.
For one, teens with depression don’t necessarily appear sad. Instead, irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms. After noticing the signs of depression, it is important to get the help and treatment you need and to understand the root of your depression.
However, having depression as an adolescent or teen isn’t a sign of weakness or something that can be overcome by toughing it out, teenage depression can lead to severe consequences and complications that may need serious attention.
Types Of Teen Depression
All of the types of teen depression are dangerous and should be addressed as soon as the adolescent shows signs of depression. Here are the four major teens depression to look out for.
Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood
Also known as Reactive Depression, this is the least severe of the recognised types of teen depression. In fact, these short-lived dips in mood aren’t even recognized as forms of mental disorder. Reactive Depression normally occurs as a response to an event that the sufferer regards as negative; an insult, rejection, loss, or life change, and can last from a few hours to a few months.
More severe than Reactive Depression, Dysthymia is a low-grade chronic depression that often presents itself as irritability.
Instances of Dysthymia commonly last for a year or more, and are characterized by periods of low energy, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Dysthymia isn’t as severe as major depression, but its prolonged duration can have negative developmental effects on the sufferer.
Major Depression can be extremely frightening because the symptoms are more severe or intense than other forms of depression. Fortunately, major depression doesn’t usually last as long as Dysthymia. It can still have harmful long-term effects, however, and should be treated as soon as symptoms are recognized.
Bipolar Disorder is characterized by severe mood changes — periods of depression and periods of manic or hypomanic behavior. During manic periods, the sufferer will experience extreme highs, difficulty focusing, reduced need for sleep, and a short temper. One of the dangers during these manic periods is an increased willingness to participate in risky behavior, such as sexual behavior and experimentation with drugs and alcohol.
The first step in treating any of these disorders is to sit down and talk to your child. Try to find out if they know the source of their depression. Once you have talked to your child, you can determine whether further treatment will be necessary.
Symptoms Of Teen Depression
- Anger or hostility
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Poor school performance
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Loss of interest in activities
- Unexplained aches or pains
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feeling of emptiness
- Loss of Memory
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- No longer caring about things you used to enjoy
- Changes in weight – losing weight when you are not dieting or gaining weight from eating too much
- Changes in sleep – having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping much more than usual
- Thoughts of death or suicide (with or without a plan)
Suicide Warning Signs
- Talking or joking about committing suicide
- Writing poems or stories about suicide or death
- Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There is no way out”
- Giving away prized possessions
- Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves
- Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
- Romanticizing death (“If I died, people might love me more”)
- Saying goodbye to friends and family members (in person, in notes, or on social media)
- Cryptic social media updates that reference death or the end
The first step is to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.
Causes Of Teen Depression
Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. With all this turmoil and uncertainty, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between normal teenage growing pains and depression. Many factors may play a role in depression, including
Divorced Or Separated Parents
Divorced or separated parents might be more common today than it was in generations past, but that doesn’t mean that the situation has no effect on emotional well being of your wards/children. The dissolution of the family unit or even the divorce of a parent and step-parent can be very upsetting for teens, often leading to depression.
The death of a loved one, instances of abuse or other traumatic events can have a very real impact on teenagers, causing them to become depressed or overly anxious. Some depressed teens usually girls who are the victims of sexual abuse can become aggressive and violent. In the aftermath of a trauma, it is wise to keep an eye out for any changes in your behavior or signs of depression.
Bullying is one of the major causes of teen depression. Being perceived as different from the majority peer group is one of the main reasons for depression in teens, and bullies tend to target teens who are different from them in some way. It is important for parents and school officials to look out for the warning signs that a teen is being bullied based on his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion.
Depression tends to run in families. Teens who have a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, who has depression are more likely than their peers to develop this disorder. However, there are a number of adolescents who develop depression without a family history.
Physical or Emotional Neglect
Physical and emotional neglect is also one of the factors that caused teens depression. Lack of parental attention on their wards can be frustrating and can triggers the feelings of depression, emotional and psychological abuse is another causes of depression among teenagers. Parent should take it upon themselves to look into this area and make their teens happier and healthier
Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness. Also, teen depression can be fueled by a general lack of self-worth. Some teens may experience such low self-worth that they develop dysmorphic disorders. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) occurs when a person literally sees his or her physical appearance as hideous, even when appearing normal or attractive to others.
Teens are under enormous amount of pressure to succeed academically, especially as the costs of higher education rise and more families are reliant upon scholarships to help offset the expense. Many teenagers get depressed when they start getting poor grades in class, lack of assimilation, frustration from home on their poor performance, not getting as much as expected and so on. Most especially, when the effort put in to your academics are not yielding positive result.
During adolescence, you are learning how to navigate the complex and unsettling world of social interaction in new and complicated ways. Popularity is important to most teens, and a lack of it can be very upsetting. The appearance of peer pressure to try illicit drugs, drinking or other experimental behavior can also be traumatic for teens that aren’t eager to give in, but are afraid of damaging their reputation through refusal.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
In many cases, teen depression is caused or worsened by drug and alcohol abuse. The pressure to drink and experiment with drugs can be overwhelming, and even the most well-behaved teens may eventually give in to that pressure. Drinking and drug use creates a loop in which teens become depressed because of the substance abuse.
Romantic entanglements become a much more prominent and influential part of adolescent life. From breakups to unrequited affection down to budding love lives can cause a teenager to become depressed
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body or responsible for many actions and are likely to play a role in depression. When these chemicals are abnormal or impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems changes, leading to depressive symptoms.
Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. That is when a teenagers start having some changes in their body during their puberty stag like pimples, acne, menstruation, in fact over all body changes can trigger depression in teenage days.
Feelings of Helplessness
Knowing that you are going to be affected on a personal level by things you have no control over can easily throw anyone into the downward spiral of depression. Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness often go hand in hand with the struggle with depression, and can make the existing condition even more severe.
Surprisingly, many teenagers learned patterns of negative thinking while growing up. Therefore, teen depression may be linked to learning to feel helpless rather than learning to feel capable of finding solutions for life’s challenges.
Problems At School
Teens depression may start from their school itself. Teenage child may be facing different problems in the school. He may be facing difficulties with his teachers or friends. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.
Teen depression is also associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders and self-injury. While depression can cause tremendous pain for your teen and disrupt everyday family life there are plenty of things you can do to help your child start to feel better.
Effects Of Teen Depression
Untreated depression can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems that affect every area of your teenager’s life. If you or your teen is struggling with depression, it is vital to seek treatment. The long-term effects of untreated teenage depression include:
- Alcoholism and substance abuse
- Academic problems and failure
- Difficulties with family conflicts and other relationships
- Social isolation
- Involvement in the legal system
- Self-harming behaviors
Treatments For Teen Depression
Depending on the severity of your teen’s depression and its causes, the therapist may suggest either talk therapy, medication, or both.
Usually, a combination of both will get the best results. An antidepressant helps correct the chemical imbalance within the brain, so the child begins to feel better.
Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, is a treatment therapy that can help you understand and manage your moods and feelings. It involves going to see a therapist, such as a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, or counselor.
You can talk out your emotions to someone who understands and supports you. You can also learn how to stop thinking negatively and start to look at the positives in life. This will help you build confidence and feel better about yourself.
There are many different types of talk therapy. Certain types have been shown to help teens deal with depression, including
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps teens to identify and change negative and unhelpful thoughts. It also helps them build coping skills and change behavioral patterns.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which focuses on improving your relationships. It helps you understand and work through troubled relationships that may contribute to your depression. IPT may help you change behaviors that are causing problems. You also explore major issues that may add to your depression, such as grief or life changes.
In some cases, your doctor will suggest medicines along with talk therapy. There are a few antidepressants that have been widely studied and proven to help teens. If you are taking medicine for depression, it is important to see your doctor regularly.
It is important to carefully follow your doctor’s directions for taking your medicine. The medication could take up to six weeks to work and you should not stop taking it without the help of a doctor. You should also avoid using alcohol or drugs that have not been prescribed to you so that your medications can work.
For Severe Depression
Some teens who have severe depression or are at risk of hurting themselves may need more intensive treatment. They may go into a psychiatric hospital or do a day program. Both offer counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients. Day programs may be full-day or half-day, and they often last for several weeks.
What else can I do to help manage my depression?
- Stay active and exercise, even if it’s just going for a walk.
- Try to keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Spend time with friends and family.
- Break down school or work tasks into smaller ones and organize them in order of what needs to get done first. Then, do what you can.
How To Communicate With A Depressed Teenager
Focus On Listening, Not Lecturing
Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. You will do the most good by simply letting your teen know that you are there for them, fully and unconditionally.
Be Gentle But Persistent
Don’t give up if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Even if they want to, they may have a hard time expressing what they are feeling. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
Don’t try to talk your teen out of depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Well-meaning attempts to explain why “things aren’t that bad” will just come across as if you don’t take their emotions seriously. Simply acknowledging the pain and sadness they are experiencing can go a long way in making them feel understood and supported.
Trust Your Gut
If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. If your teen won’t open up to you, consider turning to a trusted third party: a school counselor, favorite teacher, or a mental health professional. The important thing is to get them talking to someone.