Teenage is a period of extreme highs and lows when it comes to emotions, realization of individuality, hormonal and bodily changes. It’s like a rollercoaster ride that is exciting as well as seems scary to them at the same time.
But have you ever wondered whether your irritable or unhappy adolescent might actually be experiencing teen depression? Of course, most teens feel unhappy at times. And when you add hormone havoc to the many other changes happening in a teen’s life, it’s easy to see why their moods swing like a pendulum. Yet findings show that one out of every eight adolescents has teen depression.
But why teens get depression?
Not one, there are multiple reasons why a teenager might become depressed. For example, teens can develop feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy over their grades. School performance, social status with peers, sexual orientation, or family life can each have a major effect on how a teen feels. Sometimes, teen depression may result from environmental stress that is inevitable.
Symptoms of teen depression:
You will experience a noticeable change in their behavior and thinking patterns, the following are the most prominent ones:
- Complaints of pains, including headaches, stomachaches, low back pain, or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Irresponsible behavior-for example, forgetting obligations, being late for classes, skipping school
- Loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
- Memory loss
- Preoccupation with death and dying
- Rebellious behavior
- Sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness
- Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
- The sudden drop in grades
- Use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity
- Withdrawal from friends
Diagnosis of teen depression:
There aren’t any specific medical tests that can detect depression. But usually, the persistency and consistency of the symptoms are considered to diagnose depression. Health care professionals determine if a teen has depression by conducting interviews and psychological tests with the teen and his or her family members, teachers, and peers.
The severity of the teen depression and the risk of suicide are determined based on the assessment of these interviews. Treatment recommendations are also made based on the data collected from the interviews.
The physician/psychologist will also look for signs of potentially co-existing psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or substance abuse or screen for complex forms of depression such as bipolar disorder (manic depressive illness) or psychosis. The physician/psychologist will also assess the teen for risks of suicidal or homicidal features. Incidences of attempted suicide and self-mutilation are higher in females than males while completed suicide is higher in males. One of the most vulnerable groups for completed suicide is the 18-24 age group.
There are a variety of methods used to treat depression, including medications and psychotherapy. Family therapy may be helpful if family conflict is contributing to a teen’s depression. The teen will also need support from family or teachers to help with any school or peer problems. Occasionally, hospitalization in a psychiatric unit may be required for teenagers with severe depression.
Your mental health care provider will determine the best course of treatment for your teen.
According to research, it has been determined that antidepressant medications can, rarely, increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. Use of antidepressants in younger patients,therefore, requires especially close monitoring and follow-up by the treating doctor.
- Warning signs to spot before things get worse!
- Expressing hopelessness for the future
- Giving up on one’s self, talking as if no one else cares
- Preparing for death, giving away favorite possessions, writing goodbye letters, or making a will
- Starting to use or abuse drugs or alcohol to aid sleep or for relief from their mental anguish
- Threatening to kill one’s self.
Parental strategies to help teens cope up with depression:
Parenting is not an easy cheesy job. It requires a balance of everything as well as good communication techniques that can be helpful for your teen to reduce stress and alleviate depression.
- When disciplining your teen, replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behavior. Shame and punishment can make an adolescent feel worthless and insufficient.
- Allow your teenager to make mistakes. Overprotecting or making decisions for teens can be perceived as a lack of faith in their capabilities and mistrust. This can make them feel less confident as well as lower self-esteem.
- Give your teen breathing room (personal space). Don’t expect teens to do exactly as you say all of the time.
- Do not force your teen down a road you wanted to follow. Avoid trying to relive your youth through your teen’s activities and experiences. Keep in mind that you as a teen was raised in a different era and as they are living a different one.
- If you suspect that your teen is depressed, take the time to listen to his or her concerns. Even if you don’t think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to someone who is growing up.The communication gap between child and parent can be a really big cause behind teen depression.
- Keep the lines of communication open, even if your teen seems to want to withdraw.
- Try to avoid telling your teen what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may discover more about the issues causing the problems.
- If there is a close friend or family member your teen is close to and comfortable with, you might suggest your teen talk with this person about his or her concerns.
- Last but not the least, make sure you are emotionally present for them!
If you feel that your strategies and efforts are not helping enough, do not hesitate to consult a counselor who can provide you with the required help. Depression carries a high risk of suicide. If your child expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very seriously!