Detailed information on teen depression - signs, causes, treatment of teenage depression and how to help a depressed teen.
- Overview of Depression in Teens
- Signs and symptoms
- Effects of teen depression
- Suicide warning signs
- What to do if you're worried
- Antidepressant risks
- Helping a depressed teen
- Taking care of the family
Many parents miss the symptoms of teen depression in their own children. Teens who are depressed may seem irritable more than down, which can cause parents to simply write off the symptoms as "normal" adolescent growing pains.
What parents should know is that teenage depression isn't just about being in a bad mood or occasionally feeling sad. Depression is a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen's life and if left untreated, teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing—even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide.
As a concerned parent, there are many things you can do to help a depressed teen.
There are as many misconceptions about teen depression as there are about teenagers in general. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self. Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager's personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger.
Whether the incidence of teen depression is actually increasing, or we're just becoming more aware of it, the fact is that depression strikes teenagers far more often than most people think. And although depression is highly treatable, experts say only 20% of depressed teens ever receive help.
Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers usually must rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. So if you have an adolescent in your life, it's important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.
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Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. The natural transition from child to adult can also bring parental conflict as teens start to assert their independence. With all this drama, it isn't always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage moodiness.
Making things even more complicated, teens with depression do not necessarily appear sad and weepy. As the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes, "Though depression is more often associated with withdrawal than aggression, its symptoms can include irritability and rage."
If you're unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just "being a teenager," consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some "growing pains" are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION IN TEENS
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger, or hostility
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:
- Irritable or angry mood - As noted above, irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
- Unexplained aches and pains - Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism - Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for "over-achievers."
- Withdrawing from some, but not all people - While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.
- Created: 28 December 2008
- Last Updated: 24 July 2014