How to Help Teen Depression

5 min read

How to help teen depression is a serious question. It can be difficult to tell the difference between typical adolescent growing pains and depression. But here’s how to spot the warning signs and symptoms so you can best assist a child.

Understanding The Causes Of Teen Depression

The teenage years can be difficult, and depression affects teenagers far more frequently than many realize. In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every five adolescents from all walks of life will experience depression during their adolescence. Depression is very treatable, but many teenagers who are depressed don’t get help.

Moodiness isn’t the only sign of adolescent depression. It’s a serious health issue that significantly impacts a teen’s life. It is, however, treatable, and parents or friends can assist. Your love, guidance, and support can go a long way toward helping a teen in overcoming depression and regain control of their life.

How do I Know If A Teen is Depressed?

Whilst occasional bad moods or acting out are normal during adolescence, depression is a different story. The negative consequences of adolescent depression extend far beyond a sad mood. People who have depression can lose their personalities and feel a sense of sadness, hopelessness or rage all the time.

Teenagers’ rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes can be signs of depression. The following are some examples of how teenagers “act out” in order to cope with their emotional distress:

The Warning Signs

Persistent negative mood. Frequent crying due to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness is a common sign of depression. However, teens with depression may not necessarily appear sad. Instead, irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms.

Problems at school. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. This may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

Loss of interest in activities. You might notice that a teen shows less enthusiasm for their favorite hobbies outside of school. They may quit a sports team, for example, or withdraw from family and friends.

Running away. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.

Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

Smartphone addiction. Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive smartphone and Internet 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.

Violence. Some depressed teens—usually boys who are the victims of bullying—can become aggressive and violent.

Sudden changes in sleep and diet. Depressed teens may spend more time sleeping in bed than usual, or conversely, experience insomnia. You may also notice that a teen is eating more or less than normal.

While depression can cause tremendous pain for a teen—and disrupt everyday life—there are plenty of things you can do to help. The first step is to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.

The Causes Of Teen Depression

There are many causes of depression and the issue is complex. Biological factors, such as genes, can increase a teen’s risk of developing depression. Environmental and social conditions also have a role to play. For example, the following factors may trigger or exacerbate symptoms of depression in a teen:

Bullying. Being bullied by peers can add stress to a teen’s life and affect their self-esteem. This can, in turn, trigger feelings of intense helplessness and hopelessness.

Other mental and physical health conditions. Teen depression is associated with several other mental health problems, including eating disorders, self-injury, anxiety, ADHD, or a learning disorder. The struggles that accompany these conditions may lead a teen to feel unconfident and frustrated regarding academics and socializing. Similarly, physical disabilities or chronic illness can also play a role.

Past and present stressful experiences. Past trauma from violent or abusive situations can put teens at risk of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recent events, such as losing a loved one, can also trigger a depressed mood.

Lack of social support. Teens who feel unsupported by family or peers are at risk of depression. 

How To Help Teen Depression

Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope those worrisome symptoms disappear. If you suspect that a teen is depressed, bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing are signs of a problem that should be addressed.

How To Communicate With A Depressed Teen

Focus on listening, not lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once a teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that a child is communicating. You’ll do the most good by simply letting a teen know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally.

Be gentle but persistent. Don’t give up if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Even if they want to, they may have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling. Be respectful of a child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t try to talk a teen out of depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Well-meaning attempts to explain why “things aren’t that bad” will just come across as if you don’t take their emotions seriously. Simply acknowledging the pain and sadness they are experiencing can go a long way in making them feel understood and supported.

Trust your gut. If a teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. If a teen won’t open up to you, consider turning to a trusted third party: a school counselor, favorite teacher, or a mental health professional. The important thing is to get them talking to someone.

How to help teen depression will probably lead to you asking for help.  These are just suggestions and anyone struggling with this should consult healthcare professionals either your family doctor or GP. Health professionals train specifically to help people with depression, so talk to them as a first point of contact.

Photo by Massimiliano Morosinotto on Unsplash

Photo by JP Fichman on Unsplash

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