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Teen Depression

Teen Depression Overview

Teenage depression isn’t just bad moods and occasional melancholy. Depression is a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Left untreated, teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing - even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide. Fortunately, teenage depression can be treated, and as a concerned parent, teacher, or friend, there are many things you can do to help.

Understanding Teen Depression
There are as many misconceptions about teen depression as there are about teenagers in general. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self. Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger. Whether the incidence of teen depression is actually increasing, or we’re just becoming more aware of it, the fact is that depression strikes teenagers far more often than most people think. And although depression is highly treatable, experts say only 20% of depressed teens ever receive help. Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers usually must rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. So if you have an adolescent in your life, it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.

Signs & Symptoms of Teen Depression << back to top
Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. The natural transition from child to adult can also bring parental conflict as teens start to assert their independence. With all this drama, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage moodiness. Making things even more complicated, teens with depression do not necessarily appear sad, nor do they always withdraw from others. For some depressed teens, symptoms of irritability, aggression, and rage are more prominent.

Some of the Signs & Symptoms of Teen Depression May Include:
Sadness or hopelessness
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Restlessness and agitation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Fatigue or lack of energy
Difficulty concentrating
Thoughts of death or suicide


If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some “growing pains” are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.

Effects of Teen Depression << back to top
The negative effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression. See the table below for some of the ways in which teens “act out” or “act in” in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain:

Untreated Depression Can Lead to…
Problems at School - Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

Running Away
- Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.

Substance Abuse - Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.

Low Self Esteem
- Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure
and unworthiness.

Eating Disorders
- Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and yo-yo dieting are often signs of unrecognized depression.

Internet Addiction - Teens may go online to escape from their problems. But excessive computer use only increases their isolation and makes them more depressed.

Self-injury - Cutting, burning, and other kinds of self-mutilation are almost always associated with depression.

Reckless Behavior - Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex. Violence Some depressed teens (usually boys who are the victims of bullying) become violent. As in the case of the Columbine school massacre, self-hatred and a wish to die can erupt into violence and homicidal rage.

Suicide - Teens who are seriously depressed often think, speak, or make "attention-getting" attempts at suicide. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken very seriously.

Suicide Warning Signs in Teenagers << back to top
An alarming and increasing number of teenagers attempt and succeed at suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. For the overwhelming majority of suicidal teens, depression or another psychological disorder plays a primary role. In depressed teens who also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater.

Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior.

The Warning Signs Include:

Talking or joking about committing suicide.
Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”
Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”).
Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide.
Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury.
Giving away prized possessions.
Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for good.
Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves.

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Helping a Depressed Teenager << back to top
If you suspect that a teenager in your life is suffering from depression, take action right away. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your teenager are signs of a problem. Whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed - the sooner the better.

Talk to your teen
The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your teen about it. In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your teenager. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.

Tips for Talking to a Depressed Teen << back to top
Offer Support - Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

Be Gentle But Persistent - Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Listen Without Lecturing
- Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

Validate Feelings - Don’t try to talk teens out of their depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling. If you don’t, they will feel like you don’t take their emotions seriously.

If your teen claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.


Finding Help for Your Depressed Teen << back to top
Seek out a specialist for you Depressed Teen
If there are no health problems that are causing your teenager’s depression, ask your doctor to refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in children and adolescents. Depression in teens can be tricky, particularly when it comes to treatment options such as medication. A mental health professional with advanced training and a strong background treating adolescents is the best bet for your teenager’s best care.

When choosing a specialist, always get your child’s input. Teenagers are dependent on you for making many of their health decisions, so listen to what they’re telling you. No one therapist is a miracle worker and no one treatment works for everyone. If your child feels uncomfortable or is just not ’connecting’ with the psychologist or psychiatrist, ask for a referral to another provider that may be better suited to your teenager.

Explore the Treatment Options for Your Depressed Teen << back to top
Expect a discussion with the specialist you’ve chosen about treatment possibilities for your son or daughter. There are a number of treatment options for depression in teenagers, including one-on-one talk therapy, group or family therapy, and medication.

Talk therapy is often a good initial treatment for mild to moderate cases of depression. Over the course of therapy, your teen’s depression may resolve. If it doesn’t, medication may be warranted. However, antidepressants should only be used as part of a broader treatment plan.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
When medication is used, it should not be the only strategy. There are other services that you may want to investigate for your child. Family support services, educational classes, behavior management techniques, as well as family therapy and other approaches should be considered. If medication is prescribed, it should be monitored and evaluated regularly.

Unfortunately, some parents feel pushed into choosing antidepressant medication over other treatments that may be cost-prohibitive or time-intensive. However, unless your child is considered to be high risk for suicide (in which case medication and/or constant observation may be necessary), you have time to carefully weigh your options before committing to any one treatment.

If you Teen is experiencing depression along with substance abuse, look for and adolescent addiction treatment center that will treat depression, addiction and other underlying illnesses. It's important to ensure that the program is specifically for teens due to their developmental needs. Some adolescent treatment facilities provide along side therapy and addiction treatment an educational program which will help your child in keeping their school credits while away from home in a treatment center.

Some specialized treatment facilities for teens, offer extra-curricular activities such as sports and special outings. These types of activities will help teens complete the treatment and will positively influence teen’s social behavior like team play skills, trust in others, sense of responsibility and self confidence.

So talk to a counselor or therapist and ask questions about the staff, the facility and the addiction treatment programs offered before sending your loved one to the treatment center.

Choosing the right treatment facility is the most important step in choosing the right treatment.

Most parents recognize when their child needs help. Prevent a tragic outcome. Don't let your child become a statistic.

Teen Drug Rehab Centers can guide you in the right direction in choosing an adolescent rehabilitation center that will provide the treatment and therapies specifically related to your child’s needs. If your doctor has recommended that your teen stay in an inpatient/residential addiction treatment program, we can help you get admitted. Give us a call at 1-888-610-2046 and we will help identify the most suitable treatment program for your child.

Content compiled above is intended for informational use only and it does not endorse or recommend services available in this site.

Information throughout this site is courtesy of:
www.drugabuse.gov
www.samhsa.gov
www.nimh.nih.gov
www.nida.nih.gov
www.cdc.gov
www.teens.drugabuse.gov
www.justice.gov

Teen Depression Overview
Understanding Teen Depression
Signs & Symptoms of Teen Depression
Effects of Teen Depression
Suicide Warning Signs in Teens
Helping a Depressed Teen
Tips for Talking to a Depressed Teen
Finding Help for Your Depressed Teen
Explore the Treatment Options for Your Depressed Teen
Teen Depression News
Teen Depression Treatment
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