(This blog is written to inform parents and others of disturbing trends of teenagers.)
Would you know if your teen was suffering from depression? Occasional bad moods or acting out is normal teenage behavior. There will be many days when your teen will come home in a bad mood and appear unhappy, but depression causes an overwhelming sense of sadness, hopelessness, and anger. Depression strikes teenagers far more often than most people think.
WHY DO TEENAGERS GET DEPRESSED?
- School performance
- Social status with peers
- Sexual orientation
- Family life
- Environmental stress
We all know the teenage years are full of drama and sometimes it is hard to distinguish between depression and normal teenage moodiness. But teenagers rely on their parents to recognize their suffering and to intervene on their behalf.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger or hostility. Anger is often the predominant mood. A depressed teen may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated or prone to angry outbursts.
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family. While teens may keep up some friendships, they may socialize less often, pull away from parents or start hanging with a different crowd.
- Loss of interest in activities
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in eating and sleeping habits, which can include loss of interest in food or compulsive eating that results in rapid weight loss or gain.
- Unexplained aches and pains, such as headaches or stomachaches
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism, rejection or failure. This is especially true for over-achievers.
- Irresponsible behavior, such as forgetting obligations, being late for classes, and skipping school.
- Sudden drop in grades
- Use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity.
Making it more difficult to recognize teen depression is the fact that teens who are depressed do not always appear sad and withdrawn. As parents, we have to be aware of dramatic and long-lasting changes in their personality, mood or behavior.
**UNTREATED DEPRESSION CAN LEAD TO:
- Problems at school - poor attendance, a drop in grades or frustration.
- Substance abuse - Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate their depression, but alcohol and drugs only makes things worse.
- Low self-esteem - feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and worthlessness
- Eating disorders - anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia
- Self-injury - Cutting, burning, and other self mutilation are almost always associated with depression. (Find more information here on Self Mutilation)
- Reckless behavior - Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking or unsafe sex.
- Violence - Some depressed teens (usually boys who are bullied) become violent, as was the case in the many school shootings in the past. 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 attempts at suicide. (Suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken seriously.)
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-old's, and depression plays a key role.
- Talking or joking about committing suicide.
- Saying things like "I'd be better off dead."
- Writing stories or poems about death, dying, and suicide.
- Giving away prized possessions
- Seeking out weapons, pills or other ways to kill themselves.
(Find more information here on Suicide)
*WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?:
- Offer support - Let your teen know you are there for them no matter what.
- Listen without lecturing - Resist the urge to criticize, avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums. (This is so hard for us to do, but fight that urge. Sometimes we only have to listen.)
- Validate their feelings
- Encourage physical activity - Encourage your teen to stay active. Exercise can help relieve symptoms of depression.
- Encourage social activity - Isolation makes depression worse, so encourage your teen to see friends.
- Learn about depression - The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to help your teen.
- Seek professional help
- Stay involved in their treatment, especially if your teen is placed on antidepressants, because their depression could get worse.
If you teen is suffering from depression, recovery can be a rough and slow,ride so be patient. But more importantly, don't blame yourself for your teen's depression.
***Image by: http://www.nwi.com