Many associate the teen years with bouts of depression at one time or another. However, differentiating between a passing mood and a more serious situation can be difficult. In reality, the exact reasons teenage depression occurs can vary. One might assume it is clearly due to the transitional stressors faced between childhood to adulthood, yet there may be other factors that can lead to this condition as well.
There is research that indicates teen depression may be biological in nature. Brain chemicals, such as hormones and other neurotransmitters, flood the body during this time, causing unpredictable mood swings. The depression may also be hereditary, as those who have a history of depression in their family may be more likely to experience it. The mood disorder may also be rooted in childhood experiences. If the sufferer experienced the loss of a loved one, such as a mother or father, this could prove to be a significant influencer. Severe emotional or physical trauma may also play a role. The teen could carry unresolved grief from this experience and may be unable to completely cope without help.
There are many other factors that may predispose a teen to depression as well. Unsurprisingly, those who smoke, drink or use drugs may be more susceptible to using substances as a coping mechanism. The individual may have a serious health condition that could cause feelings of anxiety. Other conditions, such as an anxiety disorder, may also increase the likelihood of depression. Having few friends or trouble with academic performance could also cause feelings of helplessness. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual (LGBT) adds to the list of adolescent stressors.
The teen may also be suffering from additional serious conditions, in which they may be diagnosed with major depression. If this is the case, the symptoms will occur on a daily basis for at least a couple of weeks and will present as a drastic divergence from normal behavior. The teen will have diminished interest in their usual activities or display persistent sadness and depression. Other symptoms that may occur in major depression include serious fluctuations in weight or overwhelming fatigue. The teen may have constant thoughts of suicide or have difficulty staying focused. Feelings of guilt or persistent insomnia are also symptoms of major depression.
Tests and treatment
If a mental health professional believes that a teen is suffering from depression, he or she will first need to conduct a series of tests. This will include a physical exam to determine if the depression is due to a physical health problem. The doctor will also have the patient undergo a psychological evaluation, in which feelings, thoughts and behaviors will be examined. Blood tests can reveal overall thyroid health.
Two of the more common medications that are used to treat teen depression are Lexapro and Prozac. In addition, psychotherapy may also prove useful in treating symptoms. This will encourage adolescents to find better coping skills for their depression. They will learn how to adapt their behaviors more effectively and pick up problem solving skills. Another focus will be learning how to create manageable goals. In more serious cases, a hospital stay may be required. This may be necessary if the patient is a danger to themselves or others.
Parents can help by offering their teen a number of different solutions to alleviate depression. Coping strategies include hanging out with friends who maintain a positive, healthy attitude or getting into a sport. Engaging in exercise is a natural means of boosting one’s mood or state of mind. Loved ones can encourage the teen to keep a private journal to give them an outlet for expressing private thoughts. Getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy foods regularly can also improve overall wellness.
To combat early signs of depression, friends and family should make sure the teen gets help before symptoms escalate. Be sure that the teen is not taking on too many responsibilities at one time as this may push stress levels too far. Parents should be sure to allow treatment to continue, even after symptoms seem to improve. This may prove valuable in preventing a relapse in the future should warning signs reappear. Reach out to support groups and other organizations as needed to remind the teen that they are not alone in the struggle.
For teens experiencing depression, concerned friends and family can help initiate treatment by contacting Sovereign today. Our team offers therapeutic treatments that get to the root of the problem. Along with one-on-one cognitive therapy, we also offer group therapy sessions and family therapy sessions to get loved ones involved in the healing process. Please get in touch with our admissions team at (866) 512-1981 to start on the path of emotional and mental well-being.
Contributed by Sovereign Health Writer, Ryan McMaster