Teenage depression is a serious mental health problem that leads to a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects how the teenager thinks, feels, and behaves. It can also cause emotional, functional, and physical problems. Although depression can occur at any time in life, symptoms may be different for different age groups. Issues such as peer pressure, academic expectations, and changing bodies can bring a lot of ups and downs for teens. But for some teens, the lows are more than just temporary feelings, these are symptoms of depression.
What is teenage depression?
Teenage depression is a mental and emotional disorder. It is associated with high levels of stress, anxiety, and in most serious conditions suicide. Depression is very common in teens and is not a weakness or something which can be overcome with willpower. It can have serious complications and requires long-term treatment.
Why do teenagers get depressed?
- Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body. When these chemicals are abnormal or impaired then the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems changes, causing depression.
- Changes in body’s balance of hormones may be involved in leading to depression.
- Depression is more common in teens having history of depression in blood relatives like parent or grandparent.
- Traumatic events during childhood like physical or emotional abuse or loss of a parent may cause changes in the brain that makes a teen more susceptible to depression.
- It may be linked to learning to feel helpless rather than learning to feel capable of finding solutions for life’s challenges.
- Facing issues that negatively impact self-esteem for example obesity, peer problems, long term bullying or academic problems in school
- Having been the victim or witness of violence like physical or sexual abuse
- Suffering from other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, anorexia, or bulimia
- Having ongoing pain or a chronic physical illness like cancer, diabetes, or asthma
- Having certain personality traits like low self esteem or being overly dependent, self-critical or pessimistic
- Abusing alcohol, nicotine or other drugs
- Being bisexual or transgender, gay, lesbian in an unsupportive environment
Signs of depression in teens
- Feelings of sadness which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
- Frustration or feelings of anger even over small matters
- Feeling hopeless or empty
- Irritable or annoyed mood
- Loss of interest in or having conflict with family and friends
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Holding on to past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
- Extreme sensitivity to failure or rejection and the need for excessive reassurance
- Trough thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
Symptoms of depression in teens
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite such as decreased appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Agitation or restlessness such as pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches which may include frequent visits to the clinic in the school
- Social isolation
- Poor school performance or frequent absent from school
- Less attention to personal hygiene or appearance
- Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behavior or other acting-out behaviors
- Self harm like cutting, burning or excessive piercing or tattooing
- Making a suicide plan or an attempt
Effects of teen depression
Teen depression may result in emotional, behavioral, and health problems that affect every area of a teenager’s life. Some common effects are –
- Alcohol and drug misuse
- Academic problems
- Family conflicts and relationship difficulties
- Involvement with the juvenile justice system
- Suicide attempts or suicide
How to help a teen with depression?
- Take small steps to control stress, increase resilience and boost self-esteem to help handle issues
- Reach out for friendship and family, social support, especially in times of crisis
- Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from further worsening the condition
- Maintain ongoing treatment, if recommended, even after symptoms let up, to help prevent a recurrence or relapse of depression symptoms
- Having a healthy and balanced diet and doing regular exercise
- Medications like antidepressant
- Psychotherapy also called psychological counseling or talk therapy. It is a general term for treating depression by talking about depression and related issues with a mental health professional.
- In some teens, depression is so severe that a hospitalisation is needed.
When to see a doctor?
If depression signs and symptoms continue and begin to interfere in the teen’s life or cause to have concerns about suicide or teen’s safety, talk to the doctor or a mental health professional trained to work with teens. Depression symptoms likely won’t get better on their own and may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated. Depressed teens can be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don’t appear to be severe. If someone is depressed, don’t wait to help, instead contact them and ask about the problem then get the treatment.
Depression is a common problem nowadays and having a healthy support system of family and friends is important to cope with it. In most teens, depression symptoms ease with treatment such as medication and psychological counseling. Always reach out and help someone with depression.