The news last month of a Loudon County teenager who died of an apparent suicide has brought to the forefront the tragedy and prevalence of teenage depression.
Teenage depression isn’t just bad moods and occasional melancholy. It’s a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing, even violence or suicide. There are many ways concerned parents, teachers, or friends can help. Talking about the problem and offering support can go a long way toward getting a teenager back on track.
There are as many misconceptions about teen depression as there are about teenagers in general. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the anxiety with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self.
Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger. Whether the incidence of teen depression is actually increasing, or we’re just becoming more aware of it, the fact remains that depression strikes teenagers far more often than most people think. Two recent incidents of teen suicide in East Tennessee are examples.
Although depression is highly treatable, experts say only one in five (20 percent) depressed teens receive help. Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers usually must rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. So if you have an adolescent in your life, it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.
Today, we begin a series of articles addressing the problem and concerns facing parents and others who are close to a depressed teen.
What are signs and symptoms of teen depression? Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. The natural transition from child to adult can also bring parental conflict as teens start to assert their independence. With all this drama, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage moodiness. Making things even more complicated, teens with depression do not necessarily appear sad, nor do they always withdraw from others. For some depressed teens, symptoms of irritability, aggression, and rage are more prominent.
Signs and symptoms of depression in teens include:
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Restlessness and agitation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Sadness or hopelessness
Fatigue or lack of energy
Thoughts of death or suicide.
Next week we will examine if an adolescent is depressed, or “just being a teenager.”
These articles are not intended to dispense medical or legal advice, but to open a dialogue and offer suggestions derived from a number of sources about teenage depression an suicidal tendencies. All readers are urged to seek medical advice from a licensed practitioner.