In Nashville Season 5, one of the main characters learned that his teenage stepdaughter was suffering from teenage depression. It’s a story line that is very rarely covered in TV shows, but an important one. Teenage depression is a very real mental condition and can cause many problems with development and in adulthood.
Teenagers face many problems, fears, worries, and more. Their hormones are continually out of sync and they must deal with the new mood swings and issues they face. Many teenagers are also facing important questions about their future, such as what they want to do with their life and what college degree they want to do. It’s a lot of pressure to put on them.
It’s not surprising that teenage depression happens, but too many parents wrongly and mistakenly believe that it’s not a major issue. After all, every teenager goes through the same pressure and issues, right? We’ve all gone through the hormonal changes. Teenage mood swings are continually joked about.
Before you jump to the conclusion that you just have a “moody teenager,” make sure there isn’t something more seriously wrong and happening. Your teen may be suffering from depression and you need to get help now.
Teens Get Depressed for Many of the Same Reasons as Adults
Depression is a serious mental condition. Most people tend to link depression to grief or traumatic events. It could be the loss of a career, the death of a child or parent, or even pressures at work. It shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that teenagers can suffer from depression for many of the same reasons. There is no wrong or right reason to feel depressed.
The teenage years are extremely hard. We tend to forget about all the pressures we faced, viewing adult life as much harder. After all, we’d love to have the carefree years of school compared to the constant issues of keeping food on the table and a roof over our heads, right? But at the time, the hormonal changes and pressures from home and school can be extremely hard to deal with.
And then there are some teenagers that go through the loss of parents and siblings. They can struggle with the loss of a family pet or the pressures of the future. Bullying in school and even online or abuse from a family member will also have a negative effect on the mental health.
Around one in five teenagers are depressed, and they come from all walks of life. Some of these teens will remain depressed into adulthood because they don’t get the help they need. Others find ways of coping.
Unfortunately, some teens will cope in negative ways. They can’t understand why they’re struggling with energy levels, interest in things they used to like, and more. Teenagers with depression are more likely to have problems at school, run away, turn to drugs and alcohol, and have low self-esteem. They can be violent and reckless and even suffer from other mental health problems. Depressed teenagers can turn to self-harming and eating disorders to release the pain or gain some control over their lives.
This is something that will disrupt the family life. Teenagers with depression can lock themselves in their room. They can become obsessed with the things being said about them online. They turn to the internet for help, but not always in a positive way. If you try to talk to your teenager, you may find that they bite back or act out frustrated that they either can’t explain how they feel, don’t understand what’s going on, or don’t feel like they can trust you.
While teens and adults can be depressed for similar reasons, the symptoms and signs of depression can manifest in different ways.
While adults tend to be sadder and withdrawn when they suffer from depression, teenagers can end up being angry or irritable. They can be extremely sensitive to any criticism thrown their way, even if the criticism is constructive and a way to help them. Not all teens will become withdrawn, with many keeping their friendships. Others can change who they hang out with and you may find that the teens suddenly have a new group of friends that are viewed as “undesirable” or “a bad influence.”
Teenage Depression Symptoms
Knowing if your child is suffering from depression is important. The sooner you know, the more you can do to help to avoid it getting worse. Teenage depression can continue into adulthood and make it extremely hard to become a positive member of society.
This means looking out for symptoms of teenage depressions. There are some common ones, but there are others that you can overlook or attribute to something else.
Sadness, hopelessness, and an irritable mood are extremely common in teenagers with depression. When at home, they can shut themselves in their room but that doesn’t mean they’re unsociable. Many will chat online, or they will talk to their friends while at school. Teens can withdraw from the people who could likely help them, turning to the people who will help them lash out and get rid of their anger.
Teenagers are also more likely not to have any motivation or enthusiasm when they’re depressed. Those events that they used to love going to can seem childish and pointless now. Teenagers that get depressed can turn away from the extra-curricular activities they used to do and may even lose interest in school.
Of course, this leads to problems in school. Their grades start slipping, which leads to disappointment and anger from teachers and parents. The more teenagers see their grades slipping, the more they feel like they aren’t good at what they do. They lose more motivation and interest in the things they used to enjoy.
Some teenagers can also suffer physical signs of depression. They can have pains and aches in their heads or bodies that nobody can explain. Often these pains are considered “growing pains,” but they continue to get worse. Sure, they certainly can be growing pains, but it’s worth considering just how long the pains have gone on for. Growing pains shouldn’t be consistent for months or years.
The whole body is affected by the stress hormones. Teenagers are more likely to struggle to concentrate on their school work and tasks at hand. This leads to grades slipping and makes depression worse. Teenagers can also suffer from lack of energy, as the negative hormones continue to get worse.
Yet, despite fatigue, a teenager can find it hard to sleep. The stress hormones make it hard for the body to fully shut down on a night, meaning that even if teens do sleep they can end up on a restless night. The sleep does nothing to re-energize the body. And as the sleeping habits change, the eating habits will also change.
The symptoms can develop and grow. Teenager depression allowed to continue can lead to other mental illnesses. Teens are more likely to turn to self-harming or thoughts of suicide. They believe that the best option for everyone around them is for them not to be in the world. They’re not trying to be selfish but be selfless by taking themselves out of the equation.
Lashing out is also perfectly normal in teenage depression. This isn’t meant to hurt you but a cry for help. They want you to know that something is wrong, but can’t find a way to tell you or worry that you may judge them for their feelings.
Looking Out for Suicidal Warnings
Most teenagers will have some warnings if they are becoming suicidal due to their teenage depressions. A lot of the time they will joke about killing themselves or say something like “I’d be better off dead.” This isn’t something you should take in jest. Their statements are made to get your attention. They desperately want you to realize that something is wrong.
Not all teenagers will tell you directly. They will leave signs that they’re thinking about suicide. Some teenagers will use stories or poems to get their feelings out. Others can romanticize the idea of dying or may use artwork that incorporates death. Their characters do the talking for them, as they try to work through their feelings.
Of course, it can be hard to see these writing and drawing signs. Teenagers aren’t always going to show you their work. However, teachers may get an initial glimpse, as some of the artwork and poems can be used for homework.
As teenagers start to get closer to carrying out suicide, their behavior will change. They can say goodbye as if it’s the last time they’re going to see you. They may give away prized possessions or choose to spend a day with someone they haven’t spent time with in a while. They can take their siblings out for a special meal, giving them something positive to remember them by.
You may also notice signs like looking for pills or weapons that they can use to kill themselves with. These weapons are usually kept hidden, so it’s important to keep a close eye out for these signs if you suspect anything.
Communicating and Getting Help
Depression is extremely damaging. It’s not something that just goes away on its own. When it comes to teenagers, you need to help them as soon as possible. Any sign that they could be depressed should be taken seriously. Here are some topics to talk with teenagers.
Giving teens the chance to talk about their feelings is one of the best ways. Don’t force them to talk, but let them know that you will always be there and ready to listen. Having an open dialogue about it will allow your teenager to come to you when they really need it. They need to know that they won’t be judged or lectured for the way they feel.
When they do decide to talk, remain non-judgmental. Teenagers fear being patronized or put on the spot. They don’t need questions. They need you to listen to the things they have to say.
It will be tempting to judge or comment on things they’ve said. You may want to correct their feelings of being alone or their lack of confidence. Avoid doing this; resist everything that tells you to do it. Your teenager doesn’t need reminding that what they feel is wrong. They just want you to listen and love them unconditionally. This is a big step they’ve made.
Despite this, you still need to be persistent. Teenagers won’t want to speak to you at first. They will resist any chance to open and talk to you about their feelings. If you have a sense that something isn’t right, be persistent but gentle. Make it clear that you are available, whatever time of day. Let them know that you won’t judge but will just listen. Some of this is the way you tell them this. Remain empathetic while letting them know you’re available to talk.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the things they feel. While you want to avoid telling them that their feelings are wrong, you want to show that you are listening. Let them know you understand the pressures they face and the reasons they feel so sad, lethargic, and troubled.
You won’t be able to do it all. Talking to you is just the first stage. After that, you need to get help from outside sources. It’s important the school knows about teenage depression, as they will be able to take steps to help within the school. You should also encourage your child to speak to a therapist. One of the best ways to help is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This isn’t just about giving anti-depressants, but getting to the reasons for the depression and finding ways to change the thought process.
Teenage depression is concerning and should be treated seriously. This is the best way to get help before it’s too late.