Getting Familiar With Teen Depression: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression, anxiety, and related mental health conditions are the most common among young people and are regarded as the number one killer of teenagers. Leaving mental health conditions and symptoms untreated in adolescence can have lasting negative consequences into adulthood. For this reason, it may be beneficial for parents and guardians to learn to recognize the symptoms of depression in teens so they can take action if they start to notice them.
How Common Is Depression In Teenagers?
How many teens have depression? According to a report from Mental Health America confirms that about 15% of youth aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2022. This figure represents an increase of 1.24%, or about 300,000 people, compared to 2021. The study indicates that depression can be a common condition experienced by adolescents.
In a world where teenagers are often raised with the pressures of social media and constant connectedness, mental health conditions like depression in teens, anxiety, and mood disorders are increasing in prevalence.
Causes Of Depression In Teenagers
What causes depression? Researchers believe that depression is caused by various factors, including genetics and life experiences. Genetics may play a role, as depression is considered 40-50% hereditary. Stressful life events might also contribute to depression, such as experiencing the loss of a loved one or a parental divorce. Teenagers may also face stressors such as academic responsibility, an overwhelming schedule, bullying, or fears about the future.
Additionally, many teenagers might not receive education about coping with stress or challenging emotions. They may struggle to recognize symptoms of mental health challenges as they arise and not know that support and treatment are available. As a result, some teenagers suppress emotions or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, which can exacerbate mental health issues. Education may be a part of depression prevention in teenagers.
Symptoms Of Depression In Teenagers
Detecting whether your teenager may be showing signs of depression can be difficult. The condition has similar symptoms to adult depression. However, adolescence is often a turbulent time. At this age, a variety of significant changes may happen in a young person’s life, which can lead to behavioral and mood changes that may be average for their age group. For example, starting to sleep regularly and eat more than before may not be uncommon for growing teenagers, even though these can also be symptoms of depression.
To be sure, pay attention to whether your teen experiences multiple potential symptoms of depression for two weeks or more and whether these symptoms start interfering with their day-to-day functioning. In this case, you may want to seek professional support or treatment for them.
Common symptoms of depression in teenagers include:
Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Withdrawing from friends and family
Prolonged feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Poor appetite or excessive eating
Poor sleep or excessive sleeping
Trouble focusing or making decisions
Lethargy or restlessness
Self-harming behaviors like cutting or burning
Suicidal thoughts or frequently talking about death*
*If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. Teens may also call this line.
If your child is displaying either of the last two symptoms on the list, seek help as soon as possible. A mental health professional specializing in adolescents may offer a long-term treatment plan. Seek guidance from a licensed professional on how to treat depression in teenagers.
Seeking Help For A Teenager With Depression
If you’ve noticed signs of depression in teens, consider reaching out for professional help. Even if a mental health professional evaluates them and does not diagnose them with depression, therapy can still be a valuable method for sorting through emotions, organizing responsibilities, and learning healthy adult coping techniques. Therapy can be beneficial for those experiencing a mental health condition and anyone who wants support in developing or maintaining mental health in general.
Note that depression can be a severe mental health condition and may not resolve independently without treatment. Try not to use phrases like “snap out of it” or “think positively” to try to change their situation. Instead, seeking the help of a mental health professional is often recommended.
A qualified mental health provider may be able to evaluate your child and their unique symptoms and decide on the most effective course of action. Often, however, depression is treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be suggested for those experiencing this condition. The therapy modality focuses on challenging negative thoughts and behavioral patterns and can help your teen understand the causes of their behaviors. They can also learn to implement strategies for improving their mood and daily functioning.
Finding A Therapist For Your Teen
Suppose you believe your teenager may have depression or could otherwise benefit from connecting with a mental health professional. In that case, you can search for one in your area who specializes in adolescent care. If you’re having difficulty locating a provider in your town or city, or if your teen would prefer to speak with a therapist virtually, you can also consider online therapy. Research suggests that it offers similar benefits to in-person therapy and that online CBT, in particular, may be more effective than in-person treatment for depression.
With an online therapy platform like TeenCounseling, your child can get matched with a therapist and meet via phone, video call, or online chat sessions. If you need support as a teenager’s parent, you can also seek online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp.
A mental health condition like depression may not resolve on its own. If you notice signs of depression in your teenager, consider meeting with a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
Below are a few commonly asked questions on teen depression.
What Is The Leading Cause Of Teenage Depression?
Anyone can live with a depressive disorder, including teens. However, many factors can increase the likelihood of depression or depressive disorders. Risk factors for depression in teens may include but aren’t limited to:
Personal history of another medical condition
Exposure to trauma
Grief or bereavement
If you feel sad, down, depressed, hopeless, worthless, or guilty, or if you experience any other symptoms that are a cause for concern, consider starting a conversation with your primary care doctor, school counselor, or another adult you trust.
Depression is treatable, and symptoms of depressive disorders can improve. Early detection can help teens get help sooner rather than later, which is why it is vital to talk about teenage mental health and the factors that can impact it.
Is Depression A Part Of Puberty?
Depression is a mental health condition, and while it can occur in people of all ages - including those going through puberty, it is not a part of puberty. According to 2020 statistics published on the National Institute Of Mental Health website, 17% of adolescents experienced a major depressive episode in 2020. The national institute of mental health website also states that the same was true for 8.4% of adults.
Many treatments and interventions can treat depression. A meta-analysis of 81 studies on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), third‐wave CBT, and interpersonal therapy-based interventions meant to prevent depression in children and adolescents found that these preventative measures can have positive effects. Furthermore, talk therapy can be effective in reducing depression symptoms for those who are diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
How Can I Reach Out For Help As A Teen?
Depression in teens can be challenging; it might feel as though family and other kids don’t understand, and it can come with various symptoms, such as isolation from other people (e.g., friends), a loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep, irritability, or becoming easily frustrated. People of all ages with depression might feel hopeless, worthless, or guilty or experience slowed psychomotor activity. Physical symptoms like fatigue may also occur.
If you feel sad and hopeless or experience other symptoms of depression on an ongoing basis, reach out to a trusted adult. Examples of a trusted adult to talk with might include your school counselor, family, or primary care doctor at your next physical exam. Anyone may benefit from working with a professional who provides talk therapy, whether they meet the criteria for a mental health condition or not. Talk therapy can help a person manage other mental health disorders and potentially cope with another health problem, such as a chronic physical illness, stress, grief, or another concern.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Teenage Depression?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists mental health warning signs to look out for in kids and teens. Their list includes symptoms like:
Frequent emotional outbursts
Headaches and stomachaches with no known cause
A recent decline in school performance
If you are experiencing warning signs, or notice them in your child, reach out for help.
What Is The Most Effective Way To Treat Adolescent Depression?
Antidepressants, talk therapy, or a combination of the two are potential treatments for depression. A primary care provider may refer a teen to adolescent psychiatry for medication management purposes. If applicable, they may prescribe medication themselves. A primary care doctor can also refer teens to therapists that work with their age group.
A mental health professional who offers therapy or counseling, such as a social worker, counselor, or therapist, can help an adolescent learn coping skills, improve self-esteem, and meet other goals. Therapy for depression can be conducted online or in person. Group and individual therapy can both support those who live with depression.
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