Depression is a mental and emotional health issue that can interfere with a person’s social life, occupation and their livelihood. A person dealing with depression must work through feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, unwarranted guilt and suicidal thoughts.
All together, the struggle that depression presents can seriously disrupt a person’s life. Obviously this is a large problem for adults, but is magnified for teens.
What makes teenage depression different from depression in adults? Teens are still dealing with the chaos of puberty, a tough environment with middle or high school and mainly different symptoms. In most cases, teens are dealing with recurring irritability in place of sadness, making them prone to angry outbursts. A depressed teen may also be dealing with unexplained aches or pains like head or stomachaches. Additionally, they may exhibit some serious sensitivity to criticism as they constantly deal with feelings of worthlessness. Finally, a teen with depression will withdraw from people such as parents and friends, though they will not completely isolate themselves from everyone like their adult counterparts may do.
An irritated teen may have problems socially because their attitude caused by depression pushes others away. Dealing with constant aches or pains may prompt a teen to opt out of social activities and withdraw. Extreme sensitivity in a world of teens that can often be critical and sometimes cruel can be debilitating to a teen who already feels worthless. A teen suffering from depression may be prone to violence and reckless behavior, may run away from home, or may become addicted to drugs, alcohol or the Internet as a means of escape.
One of the biggest things to look out for when working with a depressed adolescent or teen is suicidal ideation or suicidal thinking. When a teen starts to talk about suicide, write about it, romanticize death, give away their belongings or saying goodbye to family and friends as if for the last time, their behavior should be taken very seriously.
For those friends and family of a depressed adolescent or teen, it is important to know the right tactics to help. Some good tips for talking with a teen who is dealing with depression is to offer support first and foremost, consistently be gentle but persistent, listen to their thoughts and feelings without lecturing them and validate their feelings. A teen who opens up already feels vulnerable, and if they are disregarded, it may magnify their issues with low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness. Support and understanding are some of the most important things a family member or friend can offer to show the depressed teen they are not alone in their struggle.
Professional help can be important to helping a teen deal with the struggles depression presents. Psychotherapy and medication can be used to treat depression. Medication should not be the only solution to helping a teen, but can be useful in addition to thorough talk therapy. Therapy allows your adolescent a safe place to discuss what they are feeling without the worries of being judged.