Depression in teens: The signs, causes and how to help

CATEGORY:  

15 min read

The ‘troubled teen’ is a familiar phrase in modern society. The teenage years represent a bridge between childhood and adolescence; most young individuals struggle with depression at this crucial stage of their life. Depression in teens alters the thoughts and emotions of young adults causing many physical and psychological problems.  This period of change marks the onset of many changes in appearance and understanding, which leads to a shift in the perception of individual identity.

Often considered the formative years in most people’s lives, teenage years present many facets of the changing world at large.  Prevalent issues such as deepening voice, the onset of facial hair, the realization of sexuality, peer pressure and academic workload can create challenging situations for teens.  Although these changes sound seemingly typical, they are often too much to handle for most young individuals. Depression is difficult to cope with at any age; however, it’s especially severe for these teenagers who very often are unsure of what they are going through all together. A staggering 1020% of adolescents worldwide suffer from mental health conditions, yet they remain largely unreported and hence, untreated.

Let’s try and understand how a teenager might be feeling at such a stage, how to proactively identify triggers and symptoms of depression in teens and also how to help a teen with depression. 

Causes of depression in teens

There are many varied causes for teenage depression. We need to be very empathetic towards the children during this time of transition. Factors that can exacerbate emotional stress during adolescence range from a shift in identity due to changes in physical autonomy; pressure to fit in with the peer groups both at school and at home, confusion related to sexual awakening and exposure to divergent media adds a lot of pressure in everyday life of a teen.

As a community, we must acknowledge and understand that a child goes through many first time experiences at this age. These firsts also include feelings of infatuation to the opposite gender, experimentation with clothes and other lifestyle items, exposure to technology and so on. Each of these encounters can incite a range of emotions in the adolescent, both positive and negative. Today’s generation has to cope up with a far more stressful environment than before and the need for social proof and acceptance of their individual identity is much higher.

In many other instances, there might be a life incidence that marks the onset of depression. This might include loss of a parent or close relative, excessive bullying in schools, development of physical disorders and or change in the living conditions. A teenager dealing with the death of a parent or dealing with his/her parents’ divorce may look to isolate himself or herself from society at large. To make matters worse, we live in an age of overt media influence and changing gender norms that can make the youngsters’ view of the world very foggy. Deteriorating quality of life at home has been found to be among the primary catalysts for mental health disorders in teens. Kids going through parental separation or facing mental and physical abuse at home tend to internalize the pain and bottle up their feelings which can result in several physical ailments.

Symptoms of Depression in teens

Depression in a teenager can be difficult to read. One might think that there are many outward signs of the illness such as bouts of rage or a sudden recoil in solace, but in reality, there are no easy ways to be sure. What we all definitely need to do is be more aware and observant of the changes in behavioral patterns of teens. 

Teens suffering from depression display a marked change in behavior.

1. They tend to oversleep
2. Exhibit extreme deviation in eating habits
3. The propensity to indulge in irresponsible behavior is higher such as breaking the law or experimenting with substance abuse and many similar outrageous acts.
4. They opt to act out and partake in rebellious outbursts; in case of extreme situations, some even taking to violence.
5. Experience periods of sadness and hopelessness
6. Express a loss of desire in socializing and interacting with friends and family.
7. A drop in grades
8. Lack of interest in extracurricular activities.

While these changes may not be immediately noticeable at first, but with time and awareness, you can understand if a teenager is experiencing depression. If not treated on apt time, a few extreme cases of depression has driven teens to attempt suicide.

Coping with Teenage Depression

Diagnosis/ identification of depression is as important as the cure.

Communication

Parents and loved ones must proactively ensure daily dialogue with the kids to identify any signs of irregularities in their behavior, dialogue, expressions and address the same without subjecting them to any stigma or guilt. Depressed teens will increasingly try to isolate themselves from all forms of social interaction and recede into a solitary space. This sense of isolation can amplify feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction. Caregivers must ensure that the teenagers don’t internalize this frustration and anger but deal with it constructively, to the root of the problem. 

Prioritizing physical health

One of the ways to cope with depression in teens can be attributed to prioritizing physical health. Teenagers can be encouraged to indulge in team sports and other group activities that not only improve the individual’s physical state of being but also, reduce social isolation and increase feelings of well-being. Having kids empathize with others in similar situations will also reduce social anxiety and encourage healthy dialogue on their own emotions. 

We have a classic data-backed study from Iceland that tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organized activities – especially sport – three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Self-help tools and mental health apps

Self-help tools and mental health apps can prove to be a good starting point for children to take up meditation, short breathing exercises and talk to a bot about their feelings if they are finding it hard to open up to the caregivers. 

Wysa has a proven library of over 150 plus free self-help tools to help you and your teenager deal and cope with depression. there are different meditations, breathing exercises, cognitive behavioral therapy, reframing thought tools, and much more.

Counseling and therapy

Counseling and therapy could also be very useful in providing teens with a safe space to express their emotions. Trusted therapists and advisors can be instrumental in helping adolescents structure their thoughts and process their feelings in a non-judgemental environment. Moreover, they are most likely in the position of providing guidance and lending context to teenage problems in a way that normalizes their feelings and makes them feel less alone. Read this article on how to talk to your parents about therapy. 

Wysa provides online chat sessions with professional therapists who are trained in helping teenagers deal with depressions and anxiety. We are trusted by over a million users and have been continuously awarded as the best mental health app.

Conclusion

The causes of rising depression in teens are alarming. Their well being has a lot to do with the mental health stigma and lack of empathy and compassion in their surroundings. Social isolation and fear of acknowledging a mental condition deter many parents and loved ones from seeking the necessary help for their wards. But this can be changed. Technology and AI-enabled tools can help children find a safe space for their thoughts and an outlet for their feelings without judgment. There are many solutions available in the health space today that can help kids deal with the finer emotional nuances of growing up and bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood. Change begins with an open mind and a compassionate heart.

My 13 year old daughter is depressed. What is a good place to seek depression help for teens?

Depression in teens is not uncommon. Many kids enter the twilight years between childhood and adolescence feeling unsure of their appearance, emotions and their general place in the world. Coping with depression and anxiety at such a young age is a daunting experience and you should try to be there for your child in every way possible. You can seek out a licensed therapist for a face to face counselling session with your daughter or find many other teenager depression help resources online in the form of AI enabled tools, behavioral blogs, online counselors and recognized depression help apps.A quick Google search for ‘counselor for depression near me’ or ‘depression counselor near me’ may help you find a reliable medical practitioner. In addition, many government authorized depression helplines, depression help books, communities trying to build a support system for depression help online and in person can prove to be helpful. It’s important to find a safe space for your daughter to open up and share her feelings whether it’s in person or on the web. Gauge her comfort level with either mediums and pick the one that seems to suit her best.

How can I overcome depression naturally?

There are no organic or natural ways of dealing with depression. If you’re suffering from episodes of crippling depression, you need to consult a therapist and receive treatment befitting your condition.
You can observe the following remedial measures which will help you maintain a healthy frame of mind while providing a few pointers for natural depression help for certain instances of situational or seasonal depression:

1. Build a strong support group. Make time for those close to you and foster new friendships.
2. Adopt a pet. Caring for an animal is therapeutic; it can help you overcome many emotional woes.
3. Participate in random acts of kindness. Add value to your community without excepting anything in return.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat well and sleep on time.
5. Break the cycle of negativity. Identify your triggers and distract yourself when depressive thoughts surface.

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