What Is Teen Depression?
Teenage depression isn’t just bad moods and the occasional melancholy—it’s a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Teen depression can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, self–loathing and self–mutilation, pregnancy, violence, and even suicide. But as a concerned parent, teacher, or friend, there are many ways you can help. Talking about the problem and offering support can go a long way toward getting your teenager back on track.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Teen Depression?
It’s hard to put into words how depression feels, and people experience it differently. There are, however, some common problems and symptoms that teens with depression experience.
What Are The Difference Between Teenage And Adult Depression?
Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:
- Irritable or angry mood – As noted above, irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
- Unexplained aches and pains – Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”
- Withdrawing from some, but not all people – While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.
What Are The Effects Of Teen Depression?
The negative effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression. The following are some the ways in which teens “act out” or “act in” in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain:
- Problems at school. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.
- Running away. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.
- Drug and alcohol abuse. Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.
- Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.
- Internet addiction. Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive computer use only increases their isolation, making them more depressed.
- Reckless behavior. Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex.
- Violence. Some depressed teens—usually boys who are the victims of bullying—become violent. As in the case of the Columbine and Newtown school massacres, self-hatred and a wish to die can erupt into violence and homicidal rage.
Teen depression is also associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders and self-injury.
How To Cope With Suicidal Thoughts?
In the meantime, the following suggestions can help get you through until you feel ready to talk to someone:
- There is ALWAYS another solution, even if you can’t see it right now. Many kids who have attempted suicide (and survived) say that they did it because they mistakenly felt there was no other solution to a problem they were experiencing. At the time, they could not see another way out, but in truth, they didn’t really want to die. Remember that no matter how horribly you feel, these emotions will pass.
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself or others does not make you a bad person. Depression can make you think and feel things that are out of character. No one should judge you or condemn you for these feelings if you are brave enough to talk about them.
- If your feelings are uncontrollable, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before you take any action. This can give you time to really think things through and give yourself some distance from the strong emotions that are plaguing you. During this 24-hour period, try to talk to someone—anyone—as long as they are not another suicidal or depressed person. Call a hotline or talk to a friend. What do you have to lose?
- If you’re afraid you can’t control yourself, make sure you are never alone. Even if you can’t verbalize your feelings, just stay in public places, hang out with friends or family members, or go to a movie—anything to keep from being by yourself and in danger.
Above all, do not do anything that could result in permanent damage or death to yourself or others. Remember, suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Help is available. All you need to do is take that first step and reach out.