Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recognizing Depression in Your Teen

Teenagers can be moody, can't they? It seems like a Sylvia Plath/Catcher in the Rye phase is a rite of passage. How do you know when the typical teenage angst is something more? According to researchers at John's Hopkins University, depression affect approximately 5 percent of teenagers, and of those, only about 30 percent receive any treatment. Those same researchers note that suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24 in the United States. Learning how to recognize the signs of depression in your teen can help you to provide the right treatment. Here's what you need know about recognizing depression in your teen and how to treat it:

Causes of Depression
There are many reasons why your teen might develop feelings of depression, outside of any problems that your family might be experiencing. They may feel pressure to perform at school, have trouble fitting in with their peers, struggle with their sexual identity, or feel anxiety over their future plans. And all that is in addition to the hormones that are starting to rage through their body. Often, depression can be the result of chemical imbalances in the body or genetic predisposition.
Signs and Symptoms
There are many common signs and symptoms of depression, some of which are general to all groups suffering from depression and some of which are particular to teens. Here are some of the things you might notice:
  • ·         Withdrawal from friends and family 
  •       Difficulty concentrating or making decisions 
  •       Excessive sleeping 
  •       Insomnia 
  •       Changes in appetite 
  •       Forgetfulness 
  •       Reckless or irresponsible behavior 
  •       Use of alcohol or drugs 
  •       Promiscuity 
  •       Poor performance in school 
  •       Preoccupation with death 
  •       Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or excessive guilt 
  •       Suicidal thoughts or behavior 
  •       Restlessness 
  •       Lack of interest in activities
  •       Low self-esteem
  •       Extreme sensitivity to criticism 
  •       Physical ailments such as headaches and stomach pains
Teens can develop some of these symptoms, or many of them. There is no checklist that can tell you if your teen is suffering from depression. However, these are some warning signs that can let you know that there might be a problem and that you need to talk to your teen. The best way to know if there is a problem is to trust your own intuition. No one knows your child better than you do. If something seems different or just "not right," trust that feeling and talk to your teen.


The best way that you can help your teen is to start by talking about the problem. Ask him how he is feeling. Ask her to tell you about her friends or her life at school. Get a real understanding of the pressures that your children face and talk to them about solutions. Offer your advice and encouragement.

Start with encouraging changes at home that may  your teen, such as reaching out to new friends, participating in sports or other team activities, or developing enjoyable hobbies. Often, having a network of support or feeling like part of a group is enough to help.

Next, take your teen to talk with a professional counselor. Teens do not need to be diagnosed as clinically depressed or to have a mental illness to talk with a counselor. Often, talking with a professional can help sort through depressed feelings and to change negative patterns of thinking. If necessary, medications such as anti-depressants can be prescribed to treat the chemical sources of depression. It may also be helpful for parents to talk with a counselor about ways that they are contributing to their teen's depression or, at least, how they can help to assuage it.
Though it may seem that a moody teen is just experiencing a normal, hormonal rite of passage, it may be something more serious, such as depression. Learning to recognize these signs and symptoms in your teen can help you to get the needed help to get him or her back on track, and feeling like a happy and connected teen once again.

Heather Green is a freelance writer for several regional magazines in North Carolina as well as a resident blogger for Her writing experience includes fashion, business, health, agriculture and a wide range of other topics. Heather has just completed research ondifferent types of nurses and clinical nurse specialist degrees.

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