Helping A Depressed Teen Tip : Encourage Social Connection
Depressed teens tend to withdraw from their friends and the activities they used to enjoy. But isolation only makes depression worse, so do what you can to help your teen reconnect.
Make face time a priority. Set aside time each day to talktime when youre focused totally on your teen, without distractions or trying to multi-task. The simple act of connecting face to face can play a big role in reducing your teens depression. And remember: talking about depression or your teens feelings will not make the situation worse, but your support can make all the difference in their recovery.
Combat social isolation. Do what you can to keep your teen connected to others. Encourage them to go out with friends or invite friends over. Participate in activities that involve other families and give your child an opportunity to meet and connect with other kids.
Try to reduce their social media use. Remind your teen that social media isnt an ideal substitute for face-to-face interactions. Encourage them to turn off their phoneor at least disable notificationswhen socializing in person, focusing on work, or preparing for bed.
Get your teen involved. Suggest activitiessuch as sports, after-school clubs, or an art, dance, or music classthat take advantage of your teens interests and talents. While your teen may lack motivation and interest at first, as they reengage with the world, they should start to feel better and regain their enthusiasm.
What Are The Symptoms Of Depression In Teens To Watch Out For
For a diagnosis of depression, a particular cluster of symptoms needs to have been there for at least for two weeks. These symptoms must include at least one of either a depressed mood, or a loss of interest or pleasure in things that were once enjoyable. Many times these will just be a normal part of adolescence and nothing at all to worry about, but if depression is happening, there will be other telltale signs. Here are some to watch out for:
Happiness, anger, indifference the many faces of depression.
Depression doesnt always look like sadness or withdrawal. Some of depressions classic disguises are:
Anger or irritability.
Depression often comes with lethargy, pain and/or hopelessness. Understandably, this can make people angrier, more irritable or more impatient than usual.
Happy, but reluctant to spend time with friends or family.
Its takes a huge amount of strength to move through the day with depression hanging on. If your teen has depression they might use this strength to put on a happy face, but where there is depression, there is also likely to be increasing withdrawal. Its very normal for teens to withdraw from family activities its part of them experimenting with their growing independence. The thing to watch out for is if they withdraw more from friends and spend more time on their own than usual.
Tiredness, lethargy, exhaustion.
Depression is exhausting and can make people more tired than usual, even if they seem to spend more time sleeping.
Differences In The Brain
Research has shown that the brains of adolescents are structurally different than the brains of adults. Teens with depression can also have hormone differences and different levels of neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are key chemicals in the brain that affect how brain cells communicate with one another. They play an important role in regulating moods and behavior.
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Alcohol Tobacco And Other Drugs
Misusing alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can have both immediate and long-term health effects.
The misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. SAMHSAs 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 19.3 million people aged 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year.
If You Think Your Child Is Depressed
If you think your child may be depressed, it’s important to talk to them. Try to find out what’s troubling them and how they’re feeling.
Whatever is causing the problem, take it seriously. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it could be a major problem for your child.
If your child does not want to talk to you, let them know that you’re concerned about them and that you’re there if they need you.
Encourage them to talk to someone else they trust, such as another family member, a friend or someone at school.
It may be helpful for you to talk to other people who know your child, including their other parent.
You could also contact their school to ask if the staff have any concerns.
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How Childline Adapted To Covid
The pandemic meant big changes for us all including Childline. Children needed us more than ever so we adapted how we deliver our service so our volunteers could continue to support young people safely. As well as practicing social distancing in our service centres, we also created new volunteer roles – answering emails from children and young people – to allow volunteers to work virtually.
Volunteer for Childline
Between April 2020 and January 2021, Childline counsellors have delivered over 170,000 counselling sessions to children and young people. Mental and emotional health make up over a third of all the counselling sessions delivered, with concerns ranging from coping with stress and loneliness to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Childline is always here to listen.
Young people also turned to the Childline website for support, advice and distraction throughout the pandemic. Over the last year:
“Most of us go on here because we need help. Were not happy, we dont feel safe telling people we know face-to-face, and we feel alone. I honestly thought that not many people must be feeling how I felt, and while it makes me sad to see how many of us arent OK, it also makes me so, so thankful that a) Im not alone, theres this huge community of people supporting others they dont even know, just for the sake of humanity and compassion, and b) that all of us on here have the guts to ask for help.”Childline website user
How To Have A Discussion With Your Teen About Mood
Teens are often reluctant to discuss difficult personal topics with their parents. When thinking about how to broach this topic with your teen, you should consider the following:
- Chose the right time. Know how to pick your opportunities. Do not try to engage them in this conversation immediately after an argument or disagreement, or when they are in the middle of a fun task.
- Stick to the facts. You cannot know what is going on inside your teens mind. Let them know specifically what behaviors you find concerning, and ask if they have noticed those behaviors as well.
- Validate. Let your teen know that you can see how hard things have been for them lately. Express that you care about them and their wellbeing.
- Self-disclose. If you have ever experienced depression or know someone who has, sharing this can be a really powerful tool in this conversation. Let them know what it was like for you, or what you know about how it was for the other person, and what helped.
- Be ready for push-back or not. Oftentimes parents are reluctant to have this conversation because they are so concerned that it will go poorly . But you might be surprised to find that you child is thankful to have someone notice and validate their experience.
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How Can I Help My Teen Cope With Depression
Depression can have a profound impact on a persons life and can only compound the difficulties associated with the teenage years.
Teen depression isnt always the easiest condition to spot. However, with proper treatment your teen can get the help they need.
If depression is affecting your teens life, you should seek help from a mental health specialist. The specialist will create a treatment plan specifically for your teen. Its also important that your teen follows that plan.
Other things your teen can do to help manage depression are:
- stay healthy and exercise
How Is Major Depression Treated In A Teen
Treatment will depend on your teens symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Major depression can often be treated. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Antidepressant medicines. These can be very helpful, especially when used with psychotherapy.
Talk therapy . This treatment helps teens with depression change their distorted views of themselves and the environment around them. It also finds stressors in the teens environment and teaches him or her how to stay away from them. A teen will also learn how to work through hard relationships.
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Does Medicine Work For Childhood Depression
Yes. A large number of research trials have shown the effectiveness of depression medications in relieving the symptoms of childhood depression. One study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, reviewed different approaches to treating adolescents with moderate to severe depression and found that 71% of the adolescents who received combination treatment with the antidepressant medication Prozac and psychotherapy had fewer symptoms. In addition, more than 60% of the kids who took Prozac alone improved.
Tip : Take Care Of Yourself
As a parent, you may find yourself focusing all your energy and attention on your depressed teen and neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members. However, its extremely important that you continue to take care of yourself during this difficult time.
Above all, this means reaching out for much needed support. You cant do everything on your own so enlist the help of family and friends. Having your own support system in place will help you stay healthy and positive as you work to help your teen.
Children and Mental Health: Is This Just a Stage? Treatment of mental disorders in children, including depression.
Depression support, suicide prevention help
Canada: Call Mood Disorders Society of Canada at 519-824-5565
India: Call the Vandrevala Foundation Helpline at 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330
Suicide prevention help
In the U.S.: Call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
UK and Ireland: Call Samaritans UK at 116 123
Australia: Call Lifeline Australia at 13 11 14
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How Is Depression In Children Treated
Because depression treatment is always individualized, strategies are very different for a 4-year-old than they are for a 14-year-old. Typically, the best approach is psychotherapy, most often in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy , which teaches the use of new, more effective strategies to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Often, parents participate in the psychotherapy.
For children whose depression doesnt respond to psychotherapy, medication can be an option. According to Laine Taylor, DO, associate medical director of the Yale New Haven Hospital Child Psychiatry Service and an expert in medication management for children, the goal with children is to use the fewest medications at the lowest effective dose. A form of antidepressant medication called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors is FDA-approved for use by adolescents and teens and often brings improvement.
How Can I Tell If My Child Is Depressed
The symptoms of depression in children vary. The condition is often undiagnosed and untreated because symptoms are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes. Early medical studies focused on “masked” depression, where a child’s depressed mood was evidenced by acting out or angry behavior. While this does happen, particularly in younger children, many children display sadness or low mood similar to adults who are depressed. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, and mood changes.
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
- Crankiness or anger
- Fatigue and low energy
- Physical complaints that don’t respond to treatment
- Trouble during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, during extracurricular activities, and with other hobbies or interests
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Impaired thinking or concentration
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Not all children have all of these symptoms. In fact, most will show different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Although some children may continue to do reasonably well in structured environments, most kids with significant depression will have a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school, poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. Children may also begin using drugs or alcohol, especially if they are over age 12.
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Can Children Really Have Depression
Yes. Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that children go through as they develop. Just because a child seems sad doesn’t necessarily mean they have significant depression. But if the sadness becomes persistent or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may mean they have a depressive illness. Keep in mind that while depression is a serious illness, itâs also a treatable one.
Symptoms To Look For If You Are Worried Your Child Is Depressed
Dr. Angelosante says that parents can be on the lookout for these behaviors, which may warrant a visit with a doctor:
- Physical complaints. Stomachaches, headaches, or other vague physical symptoms can be associated with depression.
- Social withdrawal. If teens begin to completely isolate from parents, start to isolate from peers, or change peer groups entirely, this might be a sign of depression.
- Academic decline. A striking drop in academic performance or motivation, in conjunction with other symptoms, may indicate depression.
- Substance use. While some level of experimentation may be normal in adolescence, depressed youth are likely to attempt to self-medicate through the use of these substances.
- Self-criticism. An increase in frequency and intensity of negative self-statements, such as Im so stupid! or I cant do anything right! may also be a sign of depression.
Most teens are likely to display one or two of these behaviors at some point in adolescence, Dr. Angelosante says. But parents should be more concerned if the changes have happened more rapidly, happen more consistently, or are occurring at once.
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Treatment For Anxiety And Depression
The first step to treatment is to talk with a healthcare provider, such as your childs primary care provider or a mental health specialist, about getting an evaluation. Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as trauma. A mental health professional can develop a therapy plan that works best for the child and family. Behavior therapy includes child therapy, family therapy, or a combination of both. For very young children, involving parents in treatment is key the school can also be included in the treatment plan. Consultation with a healthcare provider can help determine if medication should be part of the treatment.
If you need help finding treatment, visit MentalHealth.govexternal icon.
What About Antidepressants
If depression appears to be secondary, the primary problem must be addressed. Therapy is usually helpful. If depression continues to affect your childs daily routine, even with this help, its probably best for your child to take an antidepressant.
Most cases of depression involve a deficiency of the neurotransmitter serotonin. For this reason, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , which raise serotonin levels, are typically the first approach. If an SSRI proves ineffective, a psychiatrist may prescribe a drug that boosts levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. If the second medication doesnt work either, the psychiatrist might try one that boosts both serotonin and norepinephrine. Theres no easy way to tell which neurotransmitter is low, so finding the right drug inevitably involves trial and error.
Once on an antidepressant, a youngster will probably have to take it for about six months. If the depression lifts, the medication will be phased out slowly. If the depression stays away, the medication will no longer be necessary. If the depression returns, medication will be tried for another six months.
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Why Am I Depressed
Despite what you may have been told, depression is not simply caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be cured with medication. Rather, depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Since the teenage years can be a time of great turmoil and uncertainty, youre likely facing a host of pressures that could contribute to your depression symptoms. These can range from hormonal changes to problems at home or school or questions about who you are and where you fit in.
As a teen, youre more likely to suffer from depression if you have a family history of depression or have experienced early childhood trauma, such as the loss of a parent or physical or emotional abuse.