Does this sound familiar? You have a teenager at home…one minute they’re on top of the world, the next they’re down in the dumps. One minute you’re the best dad or mom there ever was. The next you’re the world’s worst, and they can’t wait to leave home.
Teenagers are on an emotional seesaw as their lives, bodies and hormones change. The ride can vary from teen to teen, while some are even-tempered, others are always up, always down or somewhere in between. This fluctuation makes it difficult to know what’s developmentally appropriate. How can you tell whether an adolescent is just momentarily unhappy or if they are genuinely depressed and in need of professional help? These are questions that struggling teenagers and every parent of a child from 10 to 18, should seriously consider.
There is no one reason why kids become depressed, which makes things more complicated. Common factors include: parents’ divorce, family financial strain, being subjected to physical or sexual abuse or witnessing it, or having a parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Additionally, kids may become depressed because they aren’t achieving their academic or extracurricular goals; or because they have trouble making friends, or are relentlessly ridiculed or rejected by peers. Sometimes, the cause isn’t external but an underlying feeling of inadequacy or unattractiveness or confusion about sexual identity.
With so many influences, it’s not surprising that teenage depression in on the rise. Researchers predict that about one in 10 kids will develop a depressive disorder by age 16. Additionally, and more concerning is the increase in suicide. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people 15 to 24, behind accidents and homicides. In 2017 the National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that 17.2 percent of students, or one in five high school age students, seriously considered attempting suicide.
Recognizing the Signs
It is easy to dismiss the signs of teenage depression as merely a phase or the mood swings of adolescence. And teenagers may be reluctant to admit they’re depressed, sometimes claiming, they don’t want to worry their parents or make things worse; even their closest friends may fail to notice the subtle or masked signs of severe depression, or, if they do notice, they find other explanations, like getting a bad grade or losing a boyfriend. So here is what you can look for: Depression can cause fatigue or interfere with the ability to concentrate. Teenagers may become irritable, angry, bored, excessively guilty or anxious. There may be frequent outbursts of shouting, complaining or crying. In some depressed adolescents, emotional stress shows up in physical complaints like chronic or recurrent headaches, muscle pains, tiredness or stomachaches. There are other signs like changes in eating habits, appetite, or sleep disturbances such as difficulty sleeping or oversleeping. Often, there is a loss of energy and withdrawal from friends and activities. Remember there is no one recipe or symptom to define depression, which is why it is important to consult with a professional.
There are many methods in which to treat teenage depression. Psychotherapy, either traditional talk therapy or more focused skills based therapy, may be all that a moderately depressed teenager needs to recover fully. When depression is more severe, chronic, or recurrent, medication may be necessary. When a young person is struggling with depression, the emotional volatility can be exhausting for a parent. At this time, it is critical to remain open and engaged while exploring treatment options for your child. Often this means getting professional support for the parents and other family members as they navigate the effects of depression. If any of this sounds familiar, or you have any questions regarding your child or teen’s behavior please call Haven 847-251-6630.