How To Manage Depression Symptoms And Find Support As A Teen
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 264 million people face depression worldwide. Teen statistics through the same source show that 13.3% of those aged 12-17 in the United States have experienced at least one major depressive episode.
Depressive Disorders And Symptoms
Depressive disorders are a group of mental health conditions that anyone may experience. Depression can impact anyone of any age, gender, social status, or background. There are several factors that may contribute to higher risk for this condition, including having family that also experience depression, childhood trauma, family challenges, or drug abuse. However, many experience depression without involvement of any of these factors.
The condition may accompany physical, emotional, social, and psychological symptoms, along with cognitive distortions and distressing behavioral patterns. Common symptoms of depression can include the following:
A low or irritable mood
A loss of interest in activities one would typically enjoy
Isolation from others or social withdrawal
Turning to substance use (drugs or alcohol) to manage symptoms
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or disproportionate guilt
Sleep disturbance in the form of insomnia (sleeping too little) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
Trouble concentrating or focusing
Changes in appetite leading to weight gain or weight loss
Tiredness and fatigue
Slowed motor activity, restlessness, excessive crying, and other symptoms may be present in those experiencing depression. Depression can be situational in some cases. However, most depressive disorders are long-term, lasting two months or more.
There are several depressive disorders, and people experience them in different ways. See a medical or mental health professional qualified to treat mental health conditions to receive a formal diagnosis and start relieving your symptoms.
If you're feeling depressed regularly, discussing your symptoms with a healthcare professional can be crucial in learning how to address them. If you are a teen, ask your parents to reach out to a provider specializing in adolescent care.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Major depressive disorder is a commonly diagnosed depressive disorder. Episodes are marked by symptoms of depression that co-occur and last for two weeks or more. Major depression can be diagnosed in children, teens, and adults.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)
Persistent depressive disorder, also known as PDD or dysthymia, is an example of a disorder characterized by ongoing or persistent low levels of depression. To be diagnosed with this condition, you may need to experience depression for two years or more.
Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
PMDD is a mental health condition where an individual who experiences menstrual periods may face symptoms of depression before their menstrual period.
The symptoms of this condition are more extreme than pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and may occur up to two weeks before your period. Symptoms may alleviate within a couple of days of beginning your menstrual period.
Other Depressive Disorders
Other depressive disorders include:
Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder
Depressive disorder due to another medical condition
Other specified depressive disorder
Unspecified depressive disorder
Situational depressive disorder
Bipolar disorder, which impacts about 2.9% of adolescents aged 13-18, is a mood disorder that can accompany periods of depression. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you must have experienced at least one episode of mania or hypomania.
How To Manage Depressive Disorders As A Teen
For those who are experiencing the symptoms of depression, often the thought that is uppermost on their mind is how to stop being depressed. But the answer is not always simple. Depression is an actual mental health condition. Treating mental illness can require therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Feeling less depressed may not be as simple as telling yourself to "stop feeling sad" or to "think positively." The symptoms of depression can feel out of control at times.
People of all backgrounds and life circumstances can live with depression. A mental health disorder may also increase the risk of other mental health conditions, such as substance use disorder or anxiety. When experiencing multiple diagnoses, individuals with depression may require more significant support.
Although depression can be life-long, it is often treatable or manageable with treatment. Extend compassion to yourself and know that depression is not your fault. There are ways to reduce the intensity of symptoms and care for your mental health.
Therapy is a leading treatment for depression. In addition to therapy, there are lifestyle changes you can implement to make a difference in your ability to cope with depression. For example, according to nutritional psychiatry, what you choose to eat can affect your mood and well-being. Here are some tips that may help you in coping with symptoms of depression.
Eat Healthy And Balanced Meals
Although you might struggle to eat or choose healthy foods, evidence shows that eating a healthy diet may play a role in improving symptoms. Try to increase certain foods in your diet that might boost your mood. These foods may include:
Leafy green vegetables
Fish like tilapia or salmon
These foods may benefit you if you have low folic acid or energy levels. In addition, drink water throughout your day. Although your diet may not cure symptoms of depression, it can elevate your mood overall and make you feel physically well.
If you experience depression, motivating yourself to exercise may feel challenging. However, regular exercise can positively affect mood and physical health. For example, by releasing endorphins that help us feel optimistic, exercise can promote sleep.
A medical journal's systematic review and meta-analysis speculates that depression may be associated with a lack of exercise. Other studies show that exercise increases mental health overall.
You may practice exercise in a variety of ways, including the following:
Going for a walk
Playing at a park
Practicing yoga (proven to reduce symptoms of depression)
Going to the gym
Walking up and down stairs
Participating in your physical education class at school
Ensuring sleep hygiene each night may make a significant difference in your mood. Our bodies depend on sleep to feel well. Studies show that not getting enough sleep can cause physical and social consequences.
If you struggle to sleep due to depression or another issue, consider reaching out to your doctor for support. They may be able to help you create a sleep routine that helps your body to prepare for sleep each night. If the challenge is more due to physical or psychological factors, sleep medications are often available for insomnia. You might also be recommended for a sleep study if you struggle to breathe or often snore during your sleep.
Practice sleep hygiene by trying the following techniques:
Turn off all personal electronic devices one hour before bed
Ensure the climate in your bedroom is comfortable
Remove extra pillows or blankets that make you feel uncomfortable in bed
Turn off the lights 30 minutes before you hope to sleep
Consider utilizing a sleep meditation
Drink non-caffeinated tea or hot milk before bed
Listen to soothing sounds, such as rain or wave sounds
While coping strategies and self-help can be useful, they aren’t always the whole answer. Whether you're facing difficulty with friends and family, symptoms of a mental health condition like depression, or other distressing symptoms, therapy may be valuable. A therapist can help you develop a treatment plan that works best for you.
Parents and teenagers can find teen therapy from mental health and wellness professionals with relevant experience in treating depression. Talk to your primary care physician and ask for a referral to a therapist to get started. You might also contact your insurance company to see who they cover, join a support group, or use a reputable online therapy platform like BetterHelp (18+) or TeenCounseling (13-19).
Peer-reviewed studies show that online therapy can be a valuable service as effective in treating depression as traditional methods. Online therapy can offer a place to talk freely and process your thoughts in a therapeutic environment. It's often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling, as well.
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