Teens have to deal with a lot. Juggling friends, family, work, and budding romantic relationships can cause stress and anxiety that teens aren’t prepared to handle. In some cases, this can lead to mental health conditions like depression. This, in part, is why it’s so important for parents to communicate with their children and be on the lookout for teen depression. While depression is usually not life-threatening, it can make daily life a struggle for your teen, make it more difficult to develop healthy relationships or lead to other mental health disorders.
Here, we’re taking a closer look at this common mental health condition in teens. We begin by defining depression, looking into its causes, and then assessing the differences between adult depression and teen depression. We then offer steps you can take to help fight teen depression and aid your teen in living a healthy and happy life.
What is Depression?
Depression is much more than simply feeling sad or down at times. Depression is a real medical condition that affects people of all ages. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), depression is “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.”
What Causes Depression?
Depression is a complex health condition, and thus, there is no one direct cause. Depression affects everyone differently, depending especially on the severity and levels of support, and no two cases are the exact same.
However, there are some common causes of depression:
Major life events (a move, loss of a job or relationship, divorce, death in the family).
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Gender (doctors are still trying to understand why women are more prone to depression).
- Serious illnesses.
- Substance abuse.
No single risk factor is guaranteed to cause depression; however, any of these events or issues could lead to clinical depression in teens. If you believe your teen is suffering from depression as a result of one of these causes, you should reach out to a trained medical professional for guidance on how to address the depression symptoms.
How is Teen Depression Different?
While there are many common factors between teen depression and adult depression, there are also key differences that parents should be aware of. While most adults with depression tend to withdraw from the people and activities around them, many teens with depression will still continue to spend time with close friends. They may, however, find it more challenging to make new, meaningful relationships.
As they struggle to understand their depression symptoms, teens may also act out in anger and frustration more often than adults with depression. Adults tend to isolate themselves from the world while teens may act out.
How to Fight Teen Depression
Teen depression is a real medical condition that should be taken seriously. In some cases, parents may fail to act simply because they don’t want to admit to the reality of the situation. However, failing to act will most likely lead to more severe consequences and will delay your teen’s ability to heal and understand their condition.
But what can you do to help fight teen depression? If you’re aren’t a doctor or psychiatrist, it may feel like you have nothing to offer your child. How can you help fight a condition you may not even understand yourself?
Even despite any formal medical education, here are some things you can do to help address teen depression:
1. Educate yourself on the condition.
It all begins with education. If you suspect your teen is suffering from depression, take it upon yourself to learn about this mental health condition. In fact, according to a recent report, roughly 20 percent of teens will experience depression before reaching adulthood. As such a common issue, you have a lot to gain by researching and learning more about the signs and symptoms of teen depression.
Open and honest communication is critical if you want to help your teen confront their depression or any other mental health condition. Try to talk about what your teen is going through by coming from a position of love and understanding. Don’t immediately assume they need medical help and attempt to rush them off to treatment that they aren’t ready for. Take time and patience to learn (from their own perspective) what is best for your child.
3. Seek help from a trained professional.
You don’t have to confront teen depression alone. If you and your child agree that outside help could be beneficial, reach out to a trained therapist or medical professional. These experts will have the knowledge and resources to help set your teen on the path toward better understanding and coping with their condition. If you don’t know where to turn, start with your family physician who will be able to refer you to a more specialized expert in the field.
4. Seek help as a family.
While it may seem like you only need to “treat” the person suffering from depression, it’s actually more beneficial for everyone in the family to seek professional help. Whether through group therapy or working on more positive habits and choices, this can be an opportunity to heal the entire family unit.
5. Improve your daily habits.
While some cases of teen depression will benefit from professional intervention (via treatment options like psychotherapy or medication) there are things you can do to help them on your own. Improving your diet, getting enough exercise, and spending time together as a family can all help your teen emerge from their depressive symptoms. These positive lifestyle changes will have a positive effect on everyone.
All teens experience the occasional mood swing and periods of unhappiness. This is all a part of growing up and learning how to function in the world. However, for many teens, moments of anxiety or sadness can develop into a more serious mental health disorder—depression—which can lead to anxiety, difficulties in school, and even substance abuse.
This is why it’s so important for parents and teachers to understand teen depression. By knowing the signs, causes, and symptoms of teen depression, you can better help your teen cope with this common issue and develop healthy habits. With the support and professional assistance at residential treatment centers for teenagers, teen depression is very treatable.