The teenage years are characterized by rioting hormones, wild mood swings, and a willingness to start an argument with a lamppost. Thankfully most teenagers grow out of this difficult stage and are none the worse for the experience, but whilst black moods and a propensity to sit in one’s bedroom listing to nihilistic music are perfectly normal, some teenagers spiral into depression.
What is Normal?
It can be tough for parents to differentiate between mood swings of a normal teenager and a more serious depressive state of mind. Here are the main symptoms to look out for, but remember that your teen may not exhibit all of them.
- Low mood
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Sleep problems
- Abnormal tiredness and apathy
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Deterioration in school/college attainment
- Irritability or hostility
The Effect of Depression on Teenagers
When a teenager is suffering from depression, they can act out in all kinds of ways. Some teens will shut themselves away in their bedroom and refuse to talk to anyone, but others will turn to drink and drugs in an attempt to deal with their emotional angst. Depression can also lead to low self-esteem as negative thought patterns take control, which may cause promiscuous behavior, violent outbursts against loved ones, and a propensity to seek solace in online chat rooms or forums.
Teenage depression is also associated with eating disorders, self-harming and other mental health problems, but the biggest danger when a teenager is suffering from depression is the risk of suicide. Be very alert to this risk if your teenager is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of depression. Suicidal thoughts can easily lead to suicide attempts, and in many cases, teenagers who make a concerted effort to kill themselves are often successful.
If your teen has talked about suicide, even in a jokey fashion, take them seriously and seek professional help immediately. There are several helplines in the U.S. and U.K., so call one if you are concerned.
Causes of Teenage Depression
Often depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but sometimes particular catalysts such as bullying, family breakdown, sexual or physical abuse, social anxiety, relationship breakups, and even a hereditary predisposition can trigger the downward spiral.
It’s Good to Talk
You might find it hard to broach the subject if you suspect your teenager might be depressed, but it’s important that you handle any discussion you have sensitively. They may not want to admit they are feeling depressed because mental illness still has a lot of stigma attached to it. Do try your best however, as the sooner your teen is able to open up and admit they need help the sooner they can access an appropriate treatment plan.
A Treatment Plan
There are lots of treatments for depression. Counselling can be very effective, but anti-depressants, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and even TMS therapy offered by clinics such as Smart Brain and Health can help. So if you suspect your teen is depressed, try talking to him or her before seeking out a specialist.