For generations, parents have been troubled by the moodiness of their teens. Today adolescence is an even more stressful and confusing time due to changing family patterns and too many expectations. Adolescents go through a period of uncertainty and confusion as they try to find their ground and establish their independence. Everything seems in a state of flux–their moods, their bodies, and their relationships with family and friends. Most teenagers emerge unscarred or maybe with just a few nicks and bruises. But there are others who just cannot cope with the tumult of emotions and they fall into the trap of depression.
Depression affects at least one in fifty adolescents under twelve and at least one in twenty teenagers; about half of all cases of teen depression are unrecognized and untreated.
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
Teens may show their pervasive sadness by wearing black clothes, writing poetry with morbid themes, or having a preoccupation with music that has nihilistic themes. They may cry for no apparent reason. Teens may feel that life is not worth living or worth the effort to even maintain their appearance or hygiene. They may believe that a negative situation will never change and be pessimistic about their future.
- Decreased interest in activities or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
Teens may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports, and other activities they once enjoyed. Not much seems fun anymore to the depressed teen. Lack of motivation and lowered energy level is also reflected in missed classes or not going to school. A drop in grade averages can be equated with loss of concentration and slowed thinking.
- Social isolation, poor communication
There is a lack of connection with friends and family. Teens may avoid family gatherings and events and may be seen spending most of their time alone and without interests. They may not share their feelings with others, believing that they are alone in the world and no one is listening to them or even cares about them.
- Low self-esteem and guilt
Teens may assume blame for negative events or circumstances. They may feel like a failure and have negative views about their competence and self-worth. They feel as if they are not “good enough.”
- Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
Depressed teens are often irritable, taking out most of their anger on their family. They may attack others by being critical, sarcastic, or abusive. They may feel they must reject their family before their family rejects them.
- Frequent complaints of physical illnesses, such as headaches
Teens may complain about lightheadedness or dizziness, being nauseous, and back pain. Other common complaints include headaches, stomachaches, and vomiting. There may also be a major change in eating and sleeping behaviors.
- Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior
Teens who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed children and teens are at increased risk for engaging in self-destructive behavior.
Your teens are going through an intense change and are confused. But depression can prevent them from enjoying and benefiting from these years altogether. If you feel that your child is suffering from depression, seek professional help in the form of a mental health professional. In addition to individual and group therapy, mental health professionals may also recommend the use of depression drugs to help treat teen depression.
One of the best things you as parents can do to help your teens is communicate with them.
Let them know that you care and love them. Let them feel accepted and understood and give them the strength to fight this dreadful disease, be happy and smile again!