Teen Depression

SUN Columbus Mental Health Topics, Uncategorized Events, News
teen depression feature

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Overcoming Teen Depression

“Believe in your dreams. Believe in today. Believe that you are loved. Believe that you make a difference. Believe we can build a better world. Believe when others might not. Believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Believe that you might be that light for someone else. Believe that the best is yet to be. Believe in each other. Believe in yourself. I believe in you.”

— Kobi Yamada

Depression is the absence of light. It is a feeling that outweighs even the most joyous things life has to offer.

But just like the night, there’s daylight ahead. The sun will rise.

Depression is all too common, especially for teens. When you’re a parent or caregiver, seeing your child struggle is heartbreaking. But neither you nor your teen has to struggle alone.

By seeking professional help, you can enable your teen to learn how to manage and overcome depression in a healthy way. Treatment can give them the tools they’ll need to live a life of joy and fulfillment.

Tomorrow is a new day. It’s a chance to take the first step toward recovery. Your teen has the strength and courage to do this. You do, too.

What Is Depression?

Depression can be different for everyone.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), “Depression is a serious medical illness. It’s more than just a feeling of being sad or ‘blue’ for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million teens and adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life.

The NLM says depression is a disorder of the brain that can be caused by genetics (inborn traits passed down from parents to their children) as well as biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or economic background.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Feeling tired
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Thoughts of harming oneself
  • Digestive issues
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Not enjoying activities they once loved
  • Sleep problems
  • A drop in school grades, attendance, and worsening behavior
  • Substance misuse
  • Poor decision making

Since depression can be serious, seeking professional help for a proper diagnosis and treatment is highly recommended.

What Causes Depression?

Depression can be caused by a variety of factors. Much like other mental health disorders, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Remember, what your teen is feeling is valid. Just because their depression is different from someone else’s doesn’t mean it’s not as important.

Growing up is hard. There are so many obstacles to overcome in just a short amount of time — obstacles that cause stress, anxiety, and depression.

In addition to things like genetics, brain chemistry and biology, hormones, and childhood events, there are other risk factors that can contribute to depression, including:

  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Family problems
  • Childhood trauma (awful experiences)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Problems with coping
  • Learning problems
  • Other mental health disorders
  • Health conditions
  • Little to no support from friends and family
  • Death of a loved one
  • Bullying
  • Peer pressure
  • Physical abuse

It should be noted that just because your teen doesn’t have any risk factors doesn’t mean they can’t be depressed. Pay close attention to their actions and how they’re behaving. And always, always make sure they understand there’s an open line of communication and they’re comfortable with talking to you. Refraining from judgment or irritability when assisting them is crucial.

Seek medical attention as soon as possible if signs of depression are not improving.

Depression Is Common Among America’s Youth

Depression has seemingly become more prominent among young people in the United States.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1.9 million children ages 3-17 years have been diagnosed with depression.

Similarly, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that in 2017, an estimated 3.2 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode, which was 13.3% of the U.S. population ages 12-17.

Furthermore, the NIH lists how depression was treated among adolescents with a major depressive episode that year:

  • 19.6% received care by a health professional alone
  • 17.9% received a combination of care from a health professional and medication treatment
  • 2.4% received medication treatment alone
  • 60.1% did not receive treatment

Just as the numbers indicate, there’s still much more work to be done, and the negative and often unfair beliefs about mental health still need to be addressed.

Diagnosing Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad.”

The NIMH also says a healthcare provider may ask you when the symptoms began, how long they’ve lasted, how and when symptoms occur, and how symptoms have affected your teen’s daily life.

It’s recommended that you make notes of anything worth mentioning to the doctor before meeting with them, such as any other health conditions or currently prescribed medications.

If the doctor suspects depression, they may refer your teen to a mental health professional.

How Is Depression Treated?

Depression is typically treated through therapy, medication, or both.

In cases of moderate to severe depression, it may be recommended that your teen receive therapy and medication, but each situation is different and should be addressed as such.

The NIMH says finding the right treatment plan might take some trial and error before the ideal combination is found.

Therapy can help your teen learn how to deal with depression in a healthy way, including changing things like thought patterns and other habits that may contribute to their depression.

Medications used to treat depression are known as antidepressants. According to the NIMH, antidepressants “take time to work — usually 4 to 8 weeks — and symptoms such as problems with sleep, appetite, or concentration often improve before mood lifts.” It’s important to remember to not give up on the medication right away. Your teen should not stop taking the medication without first consulting with their doctor. That can be dangerous.

By seeking treatment at an earlier age, your teen can help prevent depression from growing worse as they get older. Developing coping mechanisms and depression management skills is important because even in adulthood, depression is common.

According to the CDC, one out of every six adults in the United States will have depression at some time in their life, equating to about 16 million American adults every year.

Other Common Mental Health and Emotional Disorders

Depression is just one mental health or emotional disorder that affects teens.

Many teens may also struggle with anxiety. Much like depression, anxiety is common. Anxiety can cause excessive and constant worry about everyday things, and this can be difficult to control. Symptoms may include trouble sleeping, being unable to control or stop worrying, inability to relax, and more.

Another common problem teens face is social phobia, which leaves them feeling very insecure in social situations. They may feel like they’re being judged or viewed negatively by others. Sometimes, they may even stop engaging in social situations altogether.

Unfortunately, many teens also struggle with eating disorders. These often co-occur with depression and/or anxiety. Signs of an eating disorder can be not eating enough, eating too much, or eating and then purging the food. If you think your teen is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to speak with a medical professional as soon as possible.

Here’s What You Can Do

You want the best for your teen. Right now, if they’re battling depression, they need you to be supportive and understanding.

It may be hard for you as a parent/caregiver to understand exactly what’s going on, especially if you’ve never experienced a bout with depression yourself. If you have experienced depression, perhaps this is the first time you’ve had to support someone else who’s going through it.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage them to remain in treatment and take it seriously
  • Be supportive, understanding, and patient
  • Offer words of encouragement
  • Remind them that things will get better
  • Take them out for healthy activities
  • Help set reminders for medications

If you notice your teen talking about hurting themselves or others, contact a medical professional immediately. In urgent situations, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.

Help Is Out There

Your teen does not have to battle depression alone. They deserve to feel happy, upbeat, and confident.

If your teen is showing any symptoms of depression, treatment can help. There is no reason for you or your teen to lose hope.

By seeking professional treatment, you can help your teen learn skills and techniques — and receive medication (if needed) — that will help them live a life without depression holding them back.

Defeating Depression

Remember, depression is common, and it’s OK to ask for help. It’s important you and your teen understand that.

SUN Behavioral Columbus offers evidence-based adolescent therapy treatments to help with mental health and mood disorders.

Adolescent therapy is defined as identifying psychological issues that impact mental health and emotional distress. Once your teen’s individual needs have been determined, a therapist will work with them to identify healthy ways of dealing with and managing depression.

The combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy may be used to help make managing symptoms of depression much easier.

SUN Behavioral Columbus’ staff of psychiatrists and trauma-informed professionals are here to make sure your teen is receiving the care they need throughout the treatment process.

Here at SUN Behavioral Columbus, we believe in empowering our patients to be the expert in their life. This includes being able to identify their needs and learning how to overcome obstacles.

To learn more about how we can help, call (614) 706-2786.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main cause of depression among youth?

Depression is different for everyone. There truly isn’t one specific cause. No matter the reason why it developed, depression is a major mental health disorder that should be taken seriously. One reason for depression should not dilute another. Your teen‘s feelings are valid.

Why do many teenagers feel depressed?

Teens can feel depressed for a variety of reasons. Teen depression may be caused by the following:

  • Eating disorders
  • Genetics (inborn traits passed down from parents to their children)
  • Biological factors
  • Psychological factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Substance use disorders
  • Family problems
  • Childhood trauma (awful experiences)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Problems with coping
  • Learning problems
  • Problems at school
  • Other mental health disorders
  • Health conditions
  • Little to no support from friends and family
  • Death of a loved one
  • Bullying
  • Peer pressure
  • Physical abuse

What age group has the highest rate of depression?

According to information provided by the National Institutes of Health, in 2017, major depressive episodes were most common among young people ages 15-17. Again, anyone can suffer from depression. No matter your teen’s age, their problems should be taken seriously.

How is depression treated?

Typically, depression is treated through therapy, medication, or both. Remember, choosing the treatment plan that works best for your teen may take some time. Therapy can help your teen learn how to deal with depression in a healthy way, including changing things like thought patterns and other habits that may contribute to their depression. Medications used to treat depression are called antidepressants. These medications may take a few weeks to work. Remember to consult with a medical professional if you or your teen has any questions or concerns.