There are many books that have been written on depression, but we are now just learning how to identify and treat this illness in teenagers. Misinformation often causes parents to think that their child is depressed when many symptoms of depression masquerade as typical teenage surliness or drug use. This can be a scary reality for parents as boredom and depression often have similar symptoms.
Teenage depression doesn’t manifest itself as clearly as adult depression.
What is depression? Depression is a medical condition that can cause dysfunction in every aspect of one’s life. Some of the various types of depression include:
• Major depression
• Bipolar Disorder
There are many factors that can cause depression in teenagers. These include biochemistry (a chemical imbalance of mood regulation in the brain), genetics, family history, substance abuse, and an illness or difficult life changing situation. Some people have mild depression, while others suffer much more severely.
Childhood depression is a serious impairment, which is often missed because adolescents suffering from it do not verbalize their feelings. Often the depression gradually becomes more severe and the teenager can no longer cope with life. Today, we realize that depression sometimes begins in early childhood, and that approximately two percent of pre-teens and five percent of adolescents suffer from this disorder. We are also learning that depression in teenagers presents itself differently than in adults and that treatment modes also differ for teens.
Depression in children does not always manifest itself as it does in adults, which is characterized by a loss of interest in life. Instead of being sad and debilitated, the teenager may exhibit agitation and irritable behaviors. They may also have physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. Teenagers often express their emotions through their body, and unfortunately these complaints are usually treated with medicine rather than therapy (Group Therapy).
Parents should not try to diagnose their child. They should communicate their concerns to a professional and then make the decision as to whether the teenager needs help.
The first step for the parents of a depressed teenager is to acknowledge that their child might have a problem. Denial and guilt are common problems when it comes to teenagers with mental health issues. Some parents feel guilty or blame outside forces for the problem, or just think that the teen needs a swift kick in the pants to pull them out of their funk.
Depression is a serious, legitimate illness. If left untreated, depression has serious long-term implications (even the risk of suicide), and deserves the same compassion and attention as any other illness. A depressed teenager is not lazy, willful, or just trying to get out of work; they are ill and need treatment.
Start by researching treatment the same way as when looking for a reputable medical doctor. Find out if they are members of the A.P.A. and if they graduated from an accredited university. Sometimes the most effective treatment is one that takes place outside the home. By placing the adolescent in a nurturing environment, they are given the opportunity to focus on their illness and rediscover themselves. Teens placed in therapeutic boarding schools continue their education while learning life skills, under the supervision of qualified therapists.
Psychotherapy may utilize a cognitive or interpersonal approach to exploring events and feelings that the teenager is unable to cope with and help develop new coping skills. Cognitive therapy recognizes that emotional health is related to thought patterns and beliefs about the world and the way the teenager relates to their environment. The depressed teen is often pessimistic and dominated by negativity and anticipation of harmful outcomes.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the practicalities of developing healthy relationships at home and at school. It measures mechanisms for loss and rejection, two major adolescent social issues, how to get along with parents and siblings, and how to reduce and cope with stress. Unfortunately, most teens, however depressed, do not come to therapy voluntarily. Unlike their adult counterparts, they have not identified an area in which their depression is compromising their quality of life. This is why group sessions are often less threatening and can teach social skills in a more relaxed atmosphere (Statistics on Adolescent Depression).
Treating adolescents for depression has come a long way in the past decade. As we learn more about the physical and emotional causes of this disorder, the future looks brighter for teenagers that suffer from depression (Group Therapy).
“Your Child is Depressed or Has Difficulties with Anger Management” EBSCOhost. 2005. 12 Apr. 2005 http://web1.epnet.com.proxy.li.suu.edu
“Group Therapy” Current Trends in Treating Adolescent Depression. 2002. 13 Apr. 2005 http://www.about-teen-depression.com/trends-treatment.html
“Statistics on Adolescent Depression” Depression in Teenagers. 2004. 13 Apr. 2005