Teen Depression or Depression in general is a complicated condition, not least when dealing with the challenges of adolescence.
Many studies have highlighted the risks of rising teen depression in America, although many people remain in the dark on the subject.
Here are some of the findings on teen depression, with advice on what to do if you suspect your child or friend may be at risk.
What is Depression?
According to Psych Central, a teen takes their life every 100 minutes, and around 20% of teens experience depression at some stage.
Depression has a variety of causes. Often, it’s a result of a negative life event, like a death or break-up. Sometimes it has no concrete cause, and an otherwise healthy individual with a good home and social life can sometimes become depressed. Clinical depression is an often misunderstood term, and refers to more severe cases.
One-time or occasional bouts of milder depression are not generally considered clinical depression.
Whether clinical or more moderate, depression is classified as feelings of sadness, often coupled with a sensation of emptiness (e.g. a “what’s the point?” attitude) and anxiety.
Lack of interest in daily life, such as school and spending time with friends, as well as significant weight loss without dieting, and insomnia, fatigue and difficulty in concentrating are other symptoms.
In serious cases, thoughts of death or suicide can occur.
It’s possible for an individual of any age to feel some of these things without actually being depressed, for example after the death of a loved one. It is however important to seek professional guidance in cases of doubt.
Causes and Effects in Teens
Life can be challenging for anyone. It can be easy to forget that before work, children and the other aspects of adult life kick in, things can still be difficult. Hormonal shifts can affect mood, and many teens struggle to accept their changing bodies. This is particularly true if they feel inferior to their peers in some way.
Anecdotally, many people believe that depression was less of a problem several decades ago. This may well be to the emergence of the internet and social media in particular, as well as advertising tactics such as showing thin women and muscular men to promote products.
Many people, not least teens, compare themselves to celebrities and other people they see on social networks. Unfortunately, many don’t consider that a lot of these images are digitally edited or are the result of grueling exercise regimes.
All people look different and some are naturally thinner or more muscular than others.
This can sometimes be difficult for teens to accept.
Effects include self-harm, which can have a variety of causes but often stem from feelings of worthlessness or emptiness.
Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia can be the result of wanting to accelerate a change in the body. These are often associated with feelings of shame.
Identifying a Depressed Teen and Taking Action
Because teenagers can sometimes behave erratically, it can be difficult to identify depression. Parents, friends and teachers can pay attention to sudden and unexpected changes in behavior that do not quickly pass. Everyone has bad days, but depression can linger.
The aforementioned symptoms, as well as a general down and uncommunicative attitude may be signs of depression. By encouraging teenagers to talk, trusted loved ones can potentially identify long-term issues.
Direct questioning can be difficult with teens. A subtle approach and reminding them that you’re there to talk about anything at any time makes it more likely that they’ll open up.
Be warm and non-judgmental so they feel confident in opening up about problems. Spending time together, for example with regular family meals and activities, helps strengthen bonds.
This makes teens feel more prepared to open up.
If you do identify depression, be open about treatment options. Forcing a particular kind of therapy or counseling may have a negative effect or even be traumatic. Giving them a choice between two options, both of which allow them to open up and begin to work on their depression, will help them feel in control.
Depression is far from simple. Although it can strike at any stage of life, research increasingly backs up the theory that more teens are depressed than ever before. Creating an open and friendly atmosphere in which a teen can express themselves is an important part of identifying depression. By detecting the symptoms of the condition, those close to teens can hopefully recognize and work towards helping one suffering from the condition.
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