Know the Triggers and Signs of Teen Depression

Know the Triggers and Signs of Teen Depression - Large

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The teen years can be a scary, stressful time. As young people grapple with forming their own identities apart from their parents and making independent decisions, their struggles and stresses can sometimes overwhelm them and lead to depression.

If feelings of sadness, irritability or apathy persist in your teen for more than a couple of weeks and she doesn’t seem to be functioning normally, your child may have depression. About 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at some point in time, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. By age 15, girls are twice as likely as boys to have experienced a major depressive episode.

Knowing the causes and signs of teen depression can help you intervene early and work with your child to rediscover the energy and opportunities of these teen-age years.

Contributing Factors

Many factors contribute to depression in a teen’s life. Some of the most common include:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Experience of loss, whether through death, divorce or some other change
  • Attentional, learning or behavioral disorders
  • Family history of depression
  • Inability to meet unrealistic academic, social and family expectations
  • Side effects from some medications
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Gender and sexuality issues
  • Bullying, especially cyber bullying (the relationship between bullying and depression works both ways, as teens with mental health issues are three times more likely than other teens to be the bully)

Recognizing Teen Depression

To some extent, parents expect their teens to be moody. So, when is it time to take notice and take action?

Most experts says that if certain behaviors last beyond two weeks, it’s time to talk to your teen and even seek outside help from a counselor, primary physician or mental health professional. Many young people are not sufficiently aware of their own feelings to identify that there’s a problem, so you may need to intervene on your child’s behalf.

When evaluating a teen-ager’s behavior, look for these common signs of depression:Know the Triggers and Signs of Teen Depression - In Content

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness or crying
  • Poor performance in school or frequent absences
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Anger, hostility and increased irritability
  • Decreased interest in activities, especially previously favorite activities
  • Boredom, lack of enthusiasm and low energy
  • Social isolation, poor communication
  • Low self-esteem and guilt
  • Over-sensitivity to criticism or rejection
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Poor concentration, forgetfulness, indecision
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of running away from home
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Feeling incapable of achieving ideals

Teen-agers may turn to drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. They may exhibit aggressive, risk-taking behavior or seem hostile.

Solutions for Teen Depression

If you think your child is showing early signs of depression, try encouraging him to make a new friend, pursue a sport, get a job or engage in an enjoyable hobby or activity. Volunteer work or a social organization that offers teen activities also are good ways to channel energy in positive ways. Build rapport with your teen so he will feel comfortable approaching you for help.

Many young people are not sufficiently aware of their own feelings to identify that there’s a problem.

When you see signs of a more serious depression, seek out professional help. Individual, group and family counseling all offer teens the chance to understand why they are depressed and to learn how to cope with stressful situations. If a doctor believes that chemical imbalances in the brain are contributing to depression, the doctor may prescribe medication to elevate mood and make a teen-ager feel better.

Therapy options to treat teen depression (with or without medication) include:

  • Psychotherapy to explore events and feelings that are painful or troubling and to develop coping skills.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy to change negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
  • Interpersonal therapy to develop healthier relationships at home and at school.

A clinical trial of 439 adolescents with major depression, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, found that a combination of medication and psychotherapy was the most effective treatment for teen depression.

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