While teen depression has been a concern in the western world for a long time, this phenomenon is taking over the developing countries as well. A WHO study revealed that 1 in every 4 teens in the age group of 13 to 15 years experiences depression in India. The increasing rate of suicides and attempted suicides is also alarming.
What is Teen Depression?
The blues or feeling low and sad is a common manifestation that teenagers exhibit. Mood swings and behavioral showdowns have been attributed to raging hormones and turbulent physical and mental changes in teens. Because we expect mood swings and anger outbursts in teens, depression is often missed. It is also foolhardy to assume that teenagers will be able to overcome their depression with sheer willpower and positive mental attitude on their own.
Symptoms of Teen Depression
While depression can affect anyone at any age, teen depression has a different angle to it because of the complexity of their stage in life. Peer pressure, academic performance expectations, bodily changes, chaotic home environment, awkwardness in sexuality and other such issues can cause a series of symptoms that need to be identified. These symptoms can be emotional or behavioral. Emotional changes that occur during teen depression include irritability, low self-esteem, feeling hopeless, loneliness, issues with concentration, and extreme sensitivity.Behavioral and physical symptoms of teen depression include extreme fatigue, slow body movements, withdrawal from friends, substance abuse, anger outbursts, self-harm, and suicide plans. Some cases may also include slowed mental capabilities like trouble in comprehension and lowered cognitive abilities.
Reasons for Teen Depression
The reasons why many teens are depressed differs across the world. This indicates that the triggers are largely external in nature and related to the kind of society that we live in. Most adults find reasons for teen suicide ridiculous and trivial. For a parent, it is important to understand that these seemingly trivial things are extremely important for your teen and if ignored, can lead to a lot of harm.Some of the common issues that lead to teen depression include the following:
- High expectations from parents and loved ones with regards to academic performance
- Pressure about the future course of life and transitioning into adulthood
- Rejection from the university or college of choice
- Issues or rejection in old or new relationships
- Low self-esteem due to changing physical characteristics
- Peer pressure to fit in
- Constant comparison with those who have ‘more’ or ‘are better’
- Coming to terms with sexuality that may not be easily accepted in their society
Identifying Signs of Depression and Follow Through
A change from normal behavior should work as a warning sign for a parent to investigate further. While some teens may suddenly start to have temper tantrums, others may withdraw to their rooms more often and refuse to interact with the people they used to. Changes in academic performance is also a sign that your child is undergoing some issues in concentrating that may be related to depression. Since hormones are raging during this time, parents tend to ignore such changes and often teen depression gets missed. It is true that some of these changes can occur due to the metamorphosis that they are going through. But it is not advisable to stay alert and address the issues as they come.The first thing to do as a parent is to always be there to listen. If you have a good friendly relationship with your child, it will be easy to do so. In other cases, you can share your concern with another adult that your teen is close to or confides in. This could be an uncle, older sibling or a teacher too. As a parent, you should always stay positive and supportive. Criticizing your teen at this stage can only lead to lowering their self-esteem. Try and increase one-on-one interactions with your teen and edge them to interact with other human beings rather than limiting themselves to social media. Plan for a movie night or a picnic on weekends to keep the zest for life alive. Provide proper nutrition since it helps the body in fighting back the hormones that increase chances of depression and suicidal thoughts.If you note that the depression is interfering with your teens’ life and they are not able to perform the tasks that they are supposed to, it is time to seek the help of a doctor. While talking helps, a case of depression needs proper professional attention. The depression just won’t go away on its own and even if it does in some cases, the harm that it would have done in the years gone by will be too great to undo.
Teen Depression Treatment Options
The most common way in which teen depression is treated is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy sessions with a psychotherapist include psychoanalysis that could include talk therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), group therapy or aid in self-suggestions. Medication becomes necessary in severe cases that do not respond to psychotherapy. Antidepressants like SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) have been known to help teen depression cases to a large extent.