By Amanda Shaw (New York, NY)
Depression among adolescents is not uncommon. The emergence of teenage depression is typically due to significant personal changes that accompany the transition from childhood to young adulthood. Many teens struggle with questions of sexuality, gender, and identity as they begin to develop as individuals outside the parental sphere of influence.
Teenage depression often remains unnoticed and can bring about other issues, such as substance abuse, anxiety, cutting, and eating or sleep disorders. Many depressed teens attempt to hide their depression, opting to suffer in silence rather than drawing attention to their emotional pain.
Teenage depression has a myriad of sources, some of which may include bullying, peer pressure, divorce, death, and academic pressures. Studies have also found higher rates of depression in teen girls. In fact, major depressive episodes (MDE) in adolescent girls increased from 13.1% in 2005 to 19.9% percent in 2017. Similarly, the number of girls aged 10- to 14-years-old were admitted to the emergency room due to self-inflicted injuries tripled between 2010 and 2015, and the suicide rate among teenage girls has doubled since 2007.
This increase can partially be accounted for by the rise of social media and the effects of harmful beauty and body standards young women see reflected back to themselves by the phone screen. In fact, studies show that even after only one hour of screen time daily, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability, and a greater inability to finish tasks.
Common Signs of Depression
There is a marked distinction between sadness and depression; sadness is typically short-lived, while depression is a long-term mental health problem. Depression often affects school, work, health, and overall quality of life for an extended period of time. It is important to identify the differences between depression and sadness in order to properly assess when to seek professional treatment in cases of depression.
Teens suffering from depression often struggle to function normally, enjoy hobbies, and focus on important tasks. Due to serious decreases in energy and motivation, even the simplest, everyday tasks—getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, preparing a meal, cleaning your room, taking a shower, responding to a text message, etc.—can feel insurmountable.
It’s important to remember that depression in a teenager may look different than depression in an adult, yet its consequences are still very real. A depressed teenager coping with issues with their identity, friendships, family relationships, grades, or bullying may feel deeply misunderstood and may react by sulking or acting out—at home or at school. Many depressed teens attempt to fly under the radar and as a result, do not receive the treatment they need.
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and when watching for the signs of depression in a loved one, bear in mind that every individual experiences depression differently. Although someone may not display all of the traditional symptoms, he or she may still be struggling with clinical depression. That being said, common signs of depression include, but are not limited to, the following:
- • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- • Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
- • Sleep irregularities, including insomnia or excessive sleeping
- • Difficult completing small tasks due to fatigue and/or lack of energy
- • Slowed thinking, speaking, or movement
- • Overeating and weight gain or loss of appetite and weight loss
- • Frequent or recurrent suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
- • Trouble focusing, making decisions, and remembering things
- • Digestive problems, cramps, headaches, and/or other unexplained aches/pains
Depression can be paralyzing, and symptoms in teens often affect eating, working, sleeping, studying, and enjoying time with their peers or once-pleasurable hobbies and activities. Teenage difficulty focusing, low self-esteem, irritability, feelings of isolation, and/or reckless behavior are often dismissed as expected by-products of teenage development when in reality they may be indicative of a larger problem with depression.
It is not uncommon for unknowing parents to blame a depressed teen for being lazy or difficult, especially when the child may be forcing a smile to appear mentally stable and to avoid unwanted intervention. Patience with your child and attention to detail are most conducive to successfully identifying depression as more serious than a temporary phase of adolescent angst and rebellion.
Prevalence of Depression Among Teens
Even in the past year, the number of teens suffering from depression has increased, with 9.7%, or 2.3 million, of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 suffering from depression in 2021, an increase of 126,000 from 2020. These numbers do not take into account the likely millions of undiagnosed teens who are coping on their own.
While these statistics may seem discouraging, hope does lie in an increase in treatment. In 2021, only 27.3% of youth with severe depression received consistent treatment. Although many adolescents suffer from depression, many remain undiagnosed and untreated until their depression has escalated to detrimental levels.
Depression, which often begins at around age 14, affects nearly 21 percent of college students globally. Identifying depression as young as possible is vital in order to prevent depression that lasts for years, possibly decades. Because the brain is still developing until the early twenties, antidepressant medications can have adverse effects, including an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, therapeutic treatment is often recommended for teens as the first step before any medication is prescribed.
Effective and early intervention in cases of depressions are more likely to reduce the severity of the symptoms. Simultaneously, identifying and treating depression is the number one way to prevent teen suicide. Through a combination of support, possibly medication, and psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is typically focused on improving emotional stability, strengthening coping strategies, and transforming negative thought patterns, recovery is possible. In some cases, solace is found in religion or spirituality. In nearly all cases, the earlier treatment begins, the smoother the recovery process will be.
It is paramount for a depressed teen to develop problem-solving skills, learn healthy mechanisms for coping with stress, rebuild self-esteem, and work on relationship issues. Ultimately, it is important to remind depressed teens that they are never alone, that they are cared for and loved, and that depression is treatable.
Residential treatment centers can provide the necessary support and treatment for depressed teens. These treatment centers are professionally equipped to help teens suffering from behavioral problems, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues. Do not delay in reaching out to connect your teen with the right treatment.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
NEED TO FIND RESIDENTIAL THERAPY FOR A TROUBLED TEEN? CALL 888-940-6278 FOR FREE INFORMATION
The expert team at Best Choice provides easy and confidential information about the best therapeutic services and programs to help troubled teenagers, all from one point of contact. They will provide options according to your financial ability and get you in touch privately with the best therapeutic school or program for troubled teenagers in your price range. They will protect your child’s and your privacy while helping you without cost nor obligation. They understand what your family is going through and can help you as they have helped many thousands of families, without cost or obligation. Call 888-940-6278 toll-free now. They answer this phone number days and evenings, seven days a week.
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