Diagnosing Teens with Depression
Adolescence is a very trying and unsettling time- with lots of emotional, physical, psychological, and social changes taking place, so it’s not unusual for teens to feel down in the dumps or “the blues” every now and then. Unrealistic academic, family, or social expectations can potentially lead to them feeling rejected, which can end up leading to significant disappointment.
When something bad happens in any aspect of their lives, teens often end up overreacting, feeling that things are never fair for them and things never go the way they want them to. They feel confused and stressed out. In addition, the messages they are getting from their parents, their friends, and even society are often conflicting.
Teens today are more aware of the good and the bad things that life has to offer- on the internet, on TV, in magazines, and at school. They are being forced to learn about the threat of AIDS & other STDs, even if they are not using drugs or sexually active.
These days, teens need more adult guidance than ever to navigate the emotional and physical changes that they are going through. When their moods disrupt their ability to function on a daily basis, it could indicate that there is a serious disorder that needs some attention: adolescent depression. If your teen is experiencing depression, you must speak with your physician about a depression test for teens.
How Can Teens Deal with Pressures: Diagnosing Teens with Depression
If your teen is feeling down, there are some things that he or she can do to avoid these feelings turning into serious depression. The following suggestions will help your teen develop a sense of belonging/acceptance that is so critical for teens:
- Make new friends: creating healthy relationships with other teens is critical to their self-esteem and offers them an important social outlet.
- Stay busy: teens can keep themselves busy with things like hobbies, school activities, a job, or even sports so that they can focus on the positive instead of the negative things they’re feeling.
- Join groups geared to teens: special programs/groups that are geared towards the needs of teens can help them develop other interests.
- Ask adults for help: if a teen is having a hard time dealing with something in their lives, they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Unfortunately, in some cases, despite everyone trying to help, teens end up becoming depressed. There are many factors that can contribute to depression. In fact, some studies have revealed that in some cases, depressed individuals have too much/not enough of specific brain chemicals. Additionally, it has been discovered that a family history of depression can increase the risk of the teen developing depression. Other factors may contribute to this as well, such as divorce or death of a loved one, negative thought patterns, and side effects from certain medications.
Recognizing Depression in Teens
Sadly, more and more teens are becoming depressed. In fact, recent surveys reveal that as many as 1 in 5 teens is suffering from clinical depression. This is a very serious problem that requires immediate treatment. Depression can take on a variety of forms, including bipolar- which alternates between depression and euphoria.
Since many adults expect teens to be “moody”, depression in teens can be difficult to diagnose. In addition, teens don’t typically understand their emotions or express them very well- and they may not be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and therefore do not seek help.
Following are the signs and symptoms that could indicate that your teen is depressed, especially when they last for 2 weeks or more:
- Poor academic performance
- Poor self-esteem
- Withdrawal from friends/activities
- Issues with authority figures
- Overreaction to criticism
- Substance abuse
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Indecisiveness/inability to concentrate or remember things
- Suicidal thoughts/actions
In order to avoid feelings of depression, teens may begin to experiment with drugs and/or alcohol and become sexually promiscuous. In addition, they may express their feelings through aggressive, risk-taking, hostile behaviors- which end up leading to new levels of depression and broken relationships with friends and loved ones as well as issues with school officials and law enforcement.
Treating Depression in Teens
It is critical that you obtain prompt, professional treatment if your teen is experiencing feelings of depression. Depression is a very serious condition and if not treated, it can become life-threatening. If teens who are depressed refuse treatment, it’s necessary for family members or other adults to seek advice from a professional.
Therapy can help the teen understand why they are experiencing depression and how they can cope with situations that are stressful. Depending upon the situation at hand, treatment may consist of family, group, or individual counseling. In order to help the process, a psychiatrist may need to prescribe medications for the teen.
Following are some of the common, effective ways for treating depression in teens:
- Interpersonal therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Medication (used in conjunction with therapy)
When a teen recognizes that they are depressed and need help, this is a major step in the recovery process. However, you must keep in mind that there are very few adolescents who are willing to seek help on their own. They are going to need encouragement and support from their friends and loved ones to seek help and follow the treatment plan.
Danger of Teen Suicide
In some cases, teens feel so depressed that they consider killing themselves. Every year, nearly 5,000 young people between the ages of 15-24 end their lives. Since 1960, the suicide rate of this age group has almost tripled, making it the third leading cause of death in teens and the second leading cause of death in college-age individuals.
Studies have revealed that suicide attempts among young people could be based on long term problems triggered by specific events. Teens who are suicidal could view their depression as a permanent condition and see no way out besides suicide. Feelings of resentment and anger in combination with guilt could lead to impulsive and self-destructive acts.
Recognize the Warning Signs
Four out of 5 teens that attempt suicide give clear warnings- pay close attention if your teen has these warning signs:
- Giving away their things
- Direct & indirect suicide threats
- Dramatic changes in appearance and personality
- Overwhelming sense of shame, rejection, and guilt
- Obsession with death
- Bizarre, irrational behavior
- Poems, drawings, essays referring to death
- Changes in eating/sleeping patterns
- Decrease in academic performance
How to Help Suicidal Teens
Following are some ways that you can help a teen who is suicidal:
- Offer help/listen- encourage them to share their feelings and don’t lecture them
- Trust your own instincts- if the situation seems serious, seek help and if necessary, break a confidence to save their life
- Pay attention to suicidal talk
- Seek professional help
If a teen is displaying signs and symptoms of depression, they often have difficulty believing that things can improve. However, professional treatment and a depression test for teens can have a significant impact and get them back on track, giving them hope for the future.