Understanding the symptoms of and treatment for teenage depression.
The most common type of mental disorder among adults, depression is also common among teenagers. During a time of life when teens should be carefree, having fun with friends, and exploring life, many teenagers feel sad, hopeless, and alone. Peer pressure, academic stress, and the anxiety that accompanies puberty can contribute to a teenager’s moodiness and irritability, but some teenagers become truly depressed and require professional help to heal.
With that in mind, it’s important for parents and teachers to recognize symptoms of teenage depression, a condition that affects an estimated one in five teens.
Highly treatable, the sooner help is sought, the sooner your teen can enjoy life again.
Symptoms of depression in teenagers may be different than in adults. A teen dealing with depression may cry a lot, seem angry, be extra sensitive to criticism, withdraw from social activities, be tired all the time, have trouble sleeping, or have thoughts of suicide.
The sadness, hopelessness, and despair are often evident in a teenager’s behaviors and attitude. In an attempt to cope with their negative emotions, teenagers may act out in some common ways. Here are a few.
Some teens turn to alcohol or drug abuse to numb their pain. Others may participate in risky behaviors, bullying, or violence.
Depression may cause a lack of energy and problems concentrating, both which lead to problems at school. Grades may suffer, attendance may drop, and a teen may lose all interest in school and social activities.
Often as a cry for help, a teen may run away or make plans to run away.
A depressed teen usually has a low self-esteem. He may feel ugly, ashamed, or unworthy.
Many teens turn to social media, gaming, or excessive phone use as a way to escape their emotions. Unfortunately, these typically only worsen the symptoms.
Depressed kids often complain about physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches that have no apparent cause.
How to Help
Since teenagers don’t know how to cope with their feelings of sadness and depression, they may be waiting for an adult to step in to help. This is why it’s important for adults to know what to watch for.
Keep in mind that no one of any age can just bounce back from depression, try their hardest to overcome it, or wait for it to improve on its own. True depression requires professional help and the support of family and friends.
Talk with your teenager about the symptoms you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned. Ask if there’s anything he wants to talk about. If he opens up, be ready to listen with compassion and patience. Refrain from asking too many questions or lecturing, but acknowledge his feelings and reassure him of your love and support.
As a parent, make quality time with your teen a priority. As you spend time together, work to keep lines of communication open. Encourage your teen to hang out with friends and to stay involved in extra curricular activities.
A healthy lifestyle goes a long way in combatting depression. Make sure your teen gets enough sleep (nine to ten hours a night), gets regular exercise, limits screen time, and eats a healthy diet.
When you’re worried your child may be depressed, but she won’t open up to you and she’s not willing to make any of the changes listed above, trust your intuition and talk with a mental health professional who has experience working with teens. Let your teen help choose a therapist. In many cases, talk therapy is enough to help treat depression, but sometimes medication may be needed in addition to counseling sessions.
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