For many parents, depression in adolescents is the furthest thing from their minds when their teenagers turn moody and cranky. We know that the teenage years are fraught with perils of their own: hormonal instability, emotional turmoil,moodiness, heightened sensitivity,teen angst.
This is the time when our sunny and cooperative 12 year old turns into a rebellious, mouthy critic. Yes, she wants a nose ring and thinks nothing of staying out till 4 in the morning.Her favorite motto--"Everyone does it!"-- justifies all.
But can we attribute such behavior changes to hormones alone?
When do these changes indicate something more serious like Depression?
What is the difference between Teen Angst and Teen Depression?
Warning signs of Depression in Adolescents are similar to those of adults even though their presentation might be different. The key is to be aware of warning signs, especially if they seem prolonged. If the signs listed below last longer than 2 weeks, it would be a good idea to take your teen to your family doctor.
1) Pervasive sadness that can present as frequent bouts of tearfulness or crying
Sometimes,teen depression presents as an unusual and obsessive preoccupation with death and nihilism: wearing black clothes, adopting Gothic mannerism, listening to nihilistic music, writing about death, talking about death.
2) A Change in Sleeping Patterns
This is often manifested as insomnia. It is not uncommon for teens in depression to stay up all night watching TV or listening to music.Often they miss school and sleep all day. The cycle is repeated.
3) A Change in Eating Patterns
This is often manifested as anorexia(not wanting to eat, excessive worry about getting fat) or overeating with bulimia. Any unusual or obsessive preoccupation with body image is a causefor concern.
4) Substance or Alcohol Abuse
Excessive experimentation with drugs and alcohol is often used by depressed teens to mask their unhappiness and pain.
5) Withdrawal from Family/Hanging Out with a "Bad" or "Risky " Crowd
A Change in friends can also be a sign of depression, especially when the teen begins seeking the company of delinquent, hostile or risky groups.
6) Frequent complaints of physical aches in the body, headaches or stomachaches.
7) Poor academic performance and behavior problems in school.
8) Obsessive thoughts and talk of death and suicide
9) Change in Energy Patterns
teen exhibits either decreased energy and enthusiasm or increased,
frenzied hyperactivity ( which canbe due to substance abuse).
Depression in Adolescents Can Lead to Suicide
The path from teen depression to suicide is a real one. Consider this fact: the suicide rate for adolescents has increased more than 200% over the last decade in both US and Canada.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for the 15-24 year old group. In fact, teen suicide accounts for more deaths in adolescents between 15 and 19 than heart disease or cancer.
Statistics also show that suicide rates are higher is males than in females.
Significant stress from life events is usually the cause of suicide. Warning signs of possible suicide in an adolescent include the following:
a) significant stress from events such as breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend, failure in a personal goal or dream, trauma at home or at school;
b) unusual personality change from a sociable teen to acute social withdrawal;
c) giving away personal possessions and treasures or saying goodbyes to family and friends;
d)obsessive talking, writing about death. The teen may say things like"I'm better off dead" or "There's peace after death.'
What are the causes of Depression
Causes of depression
are varied. Brain chemistry is one possible cause. A chemical imbalance
in the brain can trigger episodes of melancholia. Other triggers include
personal life situations and events such as loss of a job,loss of
But even something as ordinary as body changes can also trigger depression. Depression in adolescents is prevalent because teens are going through hormonal and physical changes and,therefore, quite susceptible to mood changes.
What Parents Can Do about Depression in Adolescents
1) To find out what is bothering your teen, make sure you listen to your teen without lecturing. While his or her problems might seem trivial to you, they are real burdens to the child.
2) Validate his or her feelings. Do not belittle or denigrate what they feel. Acknowledge the validity of his or her pain. Only by doing so can you both move to the next level--which is dissolving the emotional blockage.
3) If symptoms persist, arrange for a physical and emotional evaluation with the Family Doctor.
4) Understand that your teen is not being overly dramatic or immature when he or she becomes emotionally overwrought. Depression in Adolescents can strike even the best of kids.
5) If possible, get your teen
involved in some form of exercise. Extensive research is available that
shows how exercise can alleviate depression. Check out the following
Martindale, Gayla. "Suicide and Suicidal Behavior Among College Students." StateUniversity.Com.
"Reflections on Youth Suicides." CMHA Pamphlet Series
"Suicide Statistics." Canadian Mental Health Statistics, 2006.
Not sure if your teen is depressed? These 2 articles will help.