Depression can plague people of all ages, and adolescents are no exception. By the end of their teen years, 20 percent of young people will have had depression, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. When they receive help, more than 70 percent will respond positively to treatment and improve with therapy and/or medication, according to a Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS). Unfortunately, 80 percent of depressed teens never receive help regarding this serious issue, according to a NIMH President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health Report.
In order to help your teen, you must first be aware of the common symptoms and signs of depression in teens. There are many parallels in the way depression manifests in both teens and adults, but here are a list of signs that are often more prevalent in teenage depression:
Complaints of Physical Aches and Pains
While many adults attribute emotional pain to their depression, your teen may complain of chronic headaches or stomachaches with no apparent origin. They know they don’t feel well, and are trying to express it.
Excessively Irritable Behavior
If your teen exhibits irritable behavior that’s growing in severity, they may be struggling with depression.
A Sudden Change in Friends
Many adults withdraw almost completely from their current social groups, seeking the solitude of their own homes for privacy. While teens may also exhibit this behavior, many may keep a small group of friends or change peer groups entirely as their mindset shifts.
Extreme Sensitivity to Criticism
When teens become depressed their self-esteem suffers. They may begin to feel worthless and especially vulnerable to all degrees of external criticism.
While depressed adults may not mind some degree of idle time, many depressed teens will complain of consistent boredom in various settings.
Poor Performance in School
A sudden drop in grades, or flat out refusal to attend classes or other school functions can be an early sign of teen depression.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a depressed teen will also often display symptoms common to all ages, including: profound feelings of unhappiness, constant fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, weight loss or gain, loss of interest in activities once thought fun, as well as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. However, all symptoms mentioned above—both unique to teens and more common—can be difficult to separate clinical depression from normal teenage angst. The thing to remember is that while healthy teens may have periods of unhappiness, those are balanced with contented times with friends and productivity in school and extracurriculars. In contrast, depression in teens will lead to long-term, more severe emotional and behavioral issues.
Addressing Adolescent Depression
In many cases, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy techniques are the most effective out of all the options for teen depression treatment. This approach helps the teen examine his or her depression with a hands-on approach tailored to their developmental level. Psychotherapy requires significant self-reflection and critical thinking, so the path to recovery must fit the teen’s abilities. Other basic treatment models are also common in both adolescents and young adults, including medication combined with therapy, a strong support system and a lifestyle focused on a healthy diet and fitness.
If you’re looking for additional resources on teen depression, please visit Pacific Quest’s Facebook page. And if you’re looking for options for teen depression treatment, please call our admissions team directly at 808-937-5806.