Parenting with Insight: Facts About Teen Depression and How You Can Help
The teenage years can bring a lot of ups and downs.
In general, many teenagers have a tendency to be moody, unruly, self-centered, and highly emotional. All of which falls under normal adolescent behavior.
But at times, there can be more.
Some teens battle with bouts of depression. They’re unmotivated, indifferent, and listless. And they feel unlovable and worthless. So much so that some may have thoughts of suicide.
According to reports, depression affects about 1 in 20 teens, and the number is on the increase.
Lamentably, one of the biggest problems standing in the way of getting teens the help they need is that many parents misunderstand the disorder.
Thus, if you’ve noticed depressive tendencies in your teen, the first step you should take is gain some much-needed insight.
Consider some facts.
Fact #1: Depression Does Not Have a “One-Size-Fits-All” Stereotype
As much as some would like it, there are no typical categories of teens that are susceptible to depression. Indeed, it affects far more teens than those seen as loners, nerds, or troublemakers.
The only sure tendencies statistics have noted are: 1) twice as many girls than boys seem to suffer from depression (though, that may simple by because more girls than boys seek help for their ailment), and 2) teens seem to express their depression differently than adults do.
If you’re worried about your teen, take a close look at the following two facts to help you identify the symptoms.
Fact #2: Moodiness Does Not Automatically Equal Depression
While teens are at times broody and sullen, depression goes far beyond typical adolescent moodiness or lethargy. It causes a real, observable change in the way a teen functions and behaves.
In fact, depression is not just all about feeling sad and gloomy. On one hand, you may notice a downturn in your teen’s sleeping habits, appetite, concentration, school performance, interest in things they used to love, and social activities. But, on the other hand, you may also see more restlessness, agitation, and irritability.
If you see a consistent pattern, especially one that lasts for several weeks, it’s time to pay attention.
Fact #2: Depression Is Often Part of a Bigger Picture
In general, teens don’t just struggle with depression alone. Its symptoms oftentimes come in a package with a lot of other afflictions—big and small.
Anxiety, for example, is often closely linked with depression. Frequently, that anxiety stems from a combination of stress-related factors—parental divorce, the death of a loved one, bullying, unrealistic expectations, academic pressures, uncertainty about the future, and more.
At times, depression may truly be the main issue, but other physical and mental ailments can exist simultaneously—changing hormone levels, a learning disability, or a chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease. By and large, these existing, long-term ailments can easily intensify the symptoms of depression.
It’s imperative that you’re aware of the bigger picture and understand the stress your teen may be subjected to or the possibility of any current physical or mental disorder.
Teen Depression Can Be Treated!
You may have heard other say that depression is hard to treat. You may even have heard your teen express their suffering and exasperation. Perhaps they’ve described themselves as being stuck in a deep, dark hole with no way out.
While teen depression can’t be taken lightly and is actually on the increase, all hope is not lost. Teen depression is certainly treatable!
Several different approaches have proven successful. For mild to moderate depression, for example, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can provide relief and help your teen to build a toolbox for coping with life. And if the depression is more severe and persistent, certain antidepressant can be very useful.
Creating an effective approach for an individual, of course, depends on getting a diagnosis from an experienced mental-health professional. Therefore, if you suspect your teen is depressed (not just having the blues), seek help from a therapist as soon as possible. Even if your teen is reluctant to undergo therapy, it’s vital to at least make an appointment and talk with an expert.
How Parents Can Help
Using the above-mentioned facts to empower yourself to recognize teen depression and to see to it that your teen receives the professional help they need for their ailment is only part of the whole equation.
As a parent, what else can you do to provide assistance and support?
Communicate – Regularly talk with your teen about their depression, their feelings, their worries. Assure them that you love them, that you’re by their side, that they’re not alone, and that they don’t need to be ashamed or feel worthless.
Empower – Educate your teen and help them deal with the stigma often connected to depression. Find a way to alleviate some of their pain. That may mean, if they’re stressed about academic matters, perhaps it would be reasonable for them to drop one class and then pick it up another time to ease the pressure for a while. Show your teen that there are options for making changes and improving their situation.
Reinforce – Do your best to provide a stable routine within your family for eating, sleeping, chores, and even exercising. It will help your teen to stay balanced and feel as part of a team. Once depression treatment has begun treatment, help your teen to comply with the regimen. And if you don’t see improvement or notice bad side effects, consult with the therapist regularly.
Above all, stay involved, keep a positive outlook, be patient, and allow your teen to see that you’re working toward the same goal—improving their life.