How to Read the Tell-Tale Signs of Teenage Depression and What You Can Do about It

17 November, 2011

teenage depression

teenage depression

Most parents are well aware that their teenage children experience bad moods and occasional bouts of melancholy. Teenage depression is a much more serious problem than that and can lead to a number of issues such as teenage drug abuse, on-going problems at school or in the home, and even suicide.

Fortunately, effective treatments for depression are available. Become proactive in your child’s life so that you can spot the warning signs of teenage depression and can then work to get your adolescent child back on the path to health.

Why Are Teens Susceptible to Depression?

The transition between childhood and adulthood involves a considerable amount of emotional upheaval. Depression is common and affects up to 12% of the teenage population. Many teenagers do not have the emotional tools or support necessary to be able to cope well with the many changes occurring at this time in their lives.

These changes include physical, intellectual, emotional, and social changes, as well as pressures presented at school or at home. This is the period in their life when they begin to establish their own identity and initiate integration into adult society. What a daunting task that can be!

Teenage Depression on the Rise

Recent studies have revealed that teenage depression has been rising steadily over the years. With 1 in 8 teenagers suffering from depression, many health professionals and parents are asking the question, why?

It has been suggested that societal pressures to have more material things, to look better, and to gain other superficial objectives can cause low self-esteem. In addition, teenagers spend less time outdoors these days.

There is a diminishing amount of community and teenagers are spending more time communicating through electronic devices rather than directly with friends and family. Inundated with the Internet, cell phones, MP3 players, and other modern-day technology, teenagers are getting a reduced amount of sleep and are less able to get restful sleep when they do finally get to bed. Of course, each teenager has their own unique problems that must be considered.

Causes and Risk Factors for Teenage Depression

There are a number of cause and risk factors for depression including:

  • Stress associated with maturing
  • Physical changes (sex hormones) associated with puberty
  • Attempts to create a sense of independence
  • Breakup with boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Dealing with sexuality (sexual development and/or sexual orientation)
  • Social pressure at school
  • Death of a relative or friend
  • Academic pressure
  • Learning disabilities
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Harassment or bullying
  • Poor social skills
  • Child abuse (physical or sexual)
  • Instability at home
  • Chronic illness

Your child may be more or less susceptible to depression depending on their level of self-esteem, how they deal with stressful events or changes in life, and their social support system. Statistically, teenage girls are twice as likely to experience depression. If your family has a history of depression, there is a greater chance that your teenager will experience the same. Be aware of the symptoms and you will be able to help your loved one overcome depression.

Signs and Symptoms that Your Teenager is Experiencing Depression

Teenage depression can lead to a host of signs and symptoms including:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Hostility and irritability
  • Hopelessness and sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent crying
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Self-hatred
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Behavioural changes may include:

  • Dropping grades/school performance
  • Acting out by missing curfews or ignoring other rules that you have set
  • Criminal activities
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Spending more time alone (withdrawal)


Recognising and Assessing Teenage Depression

As many parents know, it can be difficult to get teenagers to express themselves verbally. While you may be concerned about their mental health, they may have already become withdrawn and not willing to share their feelings with you. If you have any concern that your child is experiencing depression, it is important to make a visit to your family doctor to rule out any underlying causes. It is crucial to think broadly when assessing depression. Conditions that can cause depression include:

  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Sexual or Physical abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol or drugs

There are countless possibilities for teenage depression. While a physician may be able to rule out serious physical problems, it will be up to you to consider factors at home or in your teenager’s personal life that may be affecting their well-being.

Positive Steps Parents Can Take to Help Their Teenager Cope with Depression

Depression is an overwhelming experience and can be especially difficult for teenagers to deal with. Most will need outside support in order to navigate the emotional upset they are feeling. The good news is that there are many sources to assist parents in caring for the mental wellbeing of teenage children.

If you are seeking outside assistance, you may want to consider one or more of the following:

  • A cognitive-behavioural therapist who can help your child change their thought processes. Depression can quickly spiral into negative, self-deprecating behaviour. A cognitive-behavioural therapist will teach your child to cope with daily challenges in a more positive, self-affirming way.
  • If your family is experiencing turmoil, family therapy may be helpful. Do your best to keep conflict between you and your partner at a minimum when around your children. Talk with your teenager about how they are feeling concerning tension in the home and what changes would make them more comfortable. A family therapist may help your teenager feel more at ease in expressing their feelings openly. Give your Teenager the option of a private therapist as well.

One of the best things you can do for your teenager is to let them know that you are there for them. Listen to them with an open mind and try to remember how you felt as a teenager. Also keep in mind that being a teenager today presents new challenges and that your child may be experiencing unique obstacles that will take a great deal of understanding and support on your part.

Sleep Deprivation Causes More Problems than Just Dozing Off in Class

Numerous studies have revealed that sleep deprivation and teenage depression go hand in hand. Nine hours of sleep per night is the average recommendation for teenagers. However, the average teenager is only getting about 6 hours of sleep on school nights and 8 hours on the weekends. For many teenagers who are already experiencing the challenges that adolescence presents, sleep deprivation compounds the problem often leading to a host of mood disorders. Anxiety and depression are far more common among teenagers who experience insomnia or who regularly skip a full night’s rest for any number of reasons.

How Can You Help Your Teenager Get the Recommended Dose of Zzz’s?

While it is true that teenagers are one of the most sleep-deprived age groups, you may be able to help change their irregular sleep schedule over time. Regular and adequate sleep can do wonders for their state of mind and in fighting depression.

If your teenager approaches you regularly to say, “I can’t sleep” or appears tired all of the time, it is important that you take healthy steps in finding natural sleep remedies.

Left without guidance in dealing with sleep insomnia, many teenagers will turn to synthetic sleeping pills. Unnatural sleep aids can cause numerous side effects and may become addictive over time.

They typically include sedatives, which are chemicals that force your body into an unhealthy slumber that is not nearly as restful as natural sleep. Instead of a relaxed sleep, your teenager’s body will have to fight off these unnatural chemicals while missing the most important stages of deep sleep.

Natural Remedies for Sleep Provide the Most Effective and Safe Solution

One of the primary causes of teen sleep deprivation is lack of natural light. Children spend the majority of their time indoors, whether in school or inside under artificial light sources. The result is a severe lack of melatonin production.

Melatonin is a chemical that is produced naturally within everyone’s body. It’s a natural sleep aid that is produced at night. Humans are diurnal creatures. As such, our bodies do best when we are outdoors during the day and in bed at night.

Another chemical called serotonin is produced within our bodies in the presence of natural sunlight. High serotonin levels help people to stay positive and to have a calm focused mental outlook. Serotonin also helps to produce melatonin.

Outdoor Exercise and Natural Sleep Aides as Insomnia Remedies

If your child has zero interest in joining a school athletic team, you can help to boost their mood, fight off depression, and assist them in getting better sleep by encouraging some form of alternative exercise.

Take a walk with your teenager. While not all teenagers will be open to hanging out with their parents in this way, any time spent with your teenager will give you a greater chance for creating open conversation.

Ask about their interests. If they prefer biking, skateboarding, or any physical activity, encourage it. Regular exercise will not only get them outdoors, it will increase their energy level, mental clarity, serotonin and melatonin levels, and decrease their risk for depression. Regular exercise will also help your teenager to get enough restful sleep at night.

There are effective natural sleep aids that work without any side effects. Opt for a natural sleep remedy that does not include addictive or harmful chemicals.

Read the fine print so that you are aware of all the ingredients included.  You’ll want to find a sleep aid that provides natural sleep without causing addictive tendencies. When you successfully find a natural remedy for insomnia, you may begin to notice that your teenager is in a better mood more often, is able to concentrate better, and has reduced feelings of depression or anxiety.

Maintaining Good Mental Health Involves Lifestyle Changes

While any parent will want to provide the quickest fix to help their teenager feel better, the truth is that it takes time to provide lasting solutions. Prescription medication may be necessary for some teenagers dealing with severe depression, but, in the majority of cases, such meds are unnecessary and should be avoided. Unfortunately, antidepressant meds are readily prescribed at the drop of a hat as a quick solution to teenage depression or anxiety. This type of solution often results in avoidance of underlying issues that teenagers may be having. These core problems will have to be dealt with in order to produce real results.

There is no such thing as a magic pill that will make the causes of depression disappear. However, if your child is suffering a medical condition, a doctor will be the best person to refer to for appropriate diagnosis and solutions. If your teenager is dealing with the social and psychological factors that many adolescents deal with, there are other remedies that they will need to integrate into their life.

In addition to restful sleep and regular exercise, your teenager’s lifestyle should include:

  • Social interaction. Loneliness is likely to cause depression over time. Teenagers who feel “unpopular” and who lack friends at school, who are alone at home often, and lack a sense of community tend to integrate a lot of negative feelings about themselves. Encourage your child to join social groups with like-minded people while being sensitive to feelings they may have including social anxiety. Spend more time with your teenager as a family.
  • A healthy diet. A poor diet that includes a lot of processed, pre-packaged foods can lead to low energy, depression, and anxiety. Provide plenty of fresh, whole foods in your home.

Remain Positive and Supportive in Helping Your Teenager Cope with Adolescence

Your child’s adolescent years may prove to be an incredible challenge with many obstacles along the way. The key to helping your teenager maintain a healthy outlook on life is to provide a supportive environment and to remain open to their individual challenges. Take a well-rounded, comprehensive approach so that your teenage child will learn how to think and reason in a more positive, healthy manner.

Such skills will serve them throughout their life and will help prevent relapses into depression. With time, support, and guidance, your teenager can overcome depression and live a more fulfilling, rewarding life.

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