There is no doubt that being a teenager is hard! Adolescence is a quirky, unsettling, and topsy-turvy time, with many emotional, physical, social, and psychological changes. They are at a crossroad, attempting to discover who they are and where they fit in. It comes as no surprise that this stage of being somewhere between a child and an adult brings along feelings of anxiety and fear. Unfortunately, depression is not an uncommon result. As a matter of fact, recent surveys indicate that as many as one in five teenagers suffer from actual clinical depression. This number is increasing at an alarming rate. Considering that teens are expected to act moody, with many peaks and valleys, it is not surprising that depression may be difficult to diagnose. This can be frustrating and frightening for parents, leaving them unsure of how to handle things for their child.
Signs and symptoms of teenage depression include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Loss of interest in school
- Withdrawal from friends
- Poor self-esteem
- Sleeping disturbances and/or bouts of excessive sleeping
- Difficulty concentration
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Teens may look to escape these feelings by experimenting with alcohol or drugs, or even becoming sexually promiscuous. Their feelings may come across as aggressive actions or taking unnecessary risks. Sadly, these practices often create more problems, spiraling the teen into deeper levels of depression and anxiety.
If you notice these behaviors on an ongoing basis with your teen, it is imperative to take action. The many forms of clinical depression are often serious and, if left untreated, can eventually become life-altering or even life-threatening. It is vital to speak with your child’s doctor and possibly a mental- health specialist to stem the tide of these overwhelming emotions. Therapy will help your teenager understand what is leading to their situation and how to cope. Treatment could consist of individual and family counseling. Psychotherapy gives the teenager the opportunity to explore painful feelings and situations and how to move past these disturbing emotions. Interpersonal therapy focuses on healthy relationships, both at home and in the classroom. Cognitive behavior therapies gently move the teen from negative patterns to more positive changes. Sometimes medication is needed to relieve the symptoms of depression and may be prescribed in addition to therapy.
These moments are incredibly frightening for a parent! We want to jump in and fix the problem. Unfortunately, depression is not as simple as dealing with a bully on the playground. We have to focus on listening more and talking less. Our teens do not need lectures at this point. They need us to acknowledge their feelings gently. Your teenager may try to push you away. There is a fine line between respecting their need for solitude and not allowing them to pull away from the family. Be gentle and understanding, but also persistent.
As a mother, I feel lost and adrift when I cannot make things better for my child. Some situations are simply out of our control, and the best way we can help is to reach out to medical professionals who are better equipped to assist us in these situations. There are many positive steps that can be taken to return your teens to themselves—healthy and happy, able to cope with the many changes facing them currently and in the future.