Up to 15% of children and adolescents have symptoms of depression at any given time, and 5% meet the criteria for major depressive disorder. Adolescent depression can be caused by hormonal changes or a chemical imbalance in the brain. It may have a genetic component, running in families for generations. It commonly occurs when triggered by stressful life events, such as a major loss or change. Losing someone to death or separation, changing homes or schools, divorce, physical or emotional abuse, teasing, bullying, rejection, and physical illness are common triggers to adolescent depression and its symptoms.
A common sign of adolescent depression is sadness. When this sadness lingers for an extended period of time it is cause for concern. If not properly addressed this sadness will affect relationships and the general life of the teenager. This includes poor school attendance, low grades, running away from home and resorting to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to eliminate the sadness. This sadness contributes to the teenager having difficulty sleeping, concentrating and becoming isolated.
Anger is another sign of adolescent depression. Depressed teenagers resort to anger, especially when they feel as if there is no one around to whom they can relate. The expression of this anger comes in more than one form. They may physically harm themselves or others, destroy property which may include kicking or punching objects. Anger in depressed teenagers may also take the form of verbal abuse, sarcasm or antisocial behavior.
Adolescent depression is treatable. Adolescent depression therapy has been found to be effective in helping children and adolescents overcome the symptoms of depression. With counseling, children and teens soon learn that their feelings can change. There is hope for their future. Life can and will get better. They discover that there are some things they can do to better cope with the problems they encounter. The can talk about their frustration, fears, pain, and anger. Getting help at an early onset of depression or while young can help prevent future problems and foster healthy growth and development that will carry on for a lifetime.
Some guidelines for adolescent depression:
Respond with kindness, support and encouragement.
Let the teen know you are there when they are ready to talk.
Check in with the teen often.
Do not criticize or pass judgment once the teen begins to talk.
Encourage, don’t force, participation in groups/activities.
Help the teen recognize their own triggers to depression.
Teach coping skills to use when triggers of adolescent depression occur.
Do not lecture.
Do not try to talk them out of their feelings.
Be alert for signs of suicidal ideation. Always take any signs seriously.
Make sure the teen gets adequate exercise, sleep and a healthy diet.