How Can You Spot Depression In A Teen
The symptoms of depression can often be difficult for parents to spot. Depression is sometimes confused with the typical feelings of puberty and teenage adjustment.
- withdrawal from friends or after-school activities
- worsening school performance
Some of these symptoms may not always be indicators of depression. Appetite changes are often normal, namely in times of growth spurts and particularly if your teen plays sports.
Still, looking out for changing behaviors in your teen can allow you to help them when theyre in need.
The Most Common Signs Of Depression
The first step in treating depression in teens and young adults is to learn to recognize it. Depression is often accompanied by a host of behavioral and physical symptoms. These can include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emotional numbness
- Frequent or extreme experiences of self-doubt, self-hatred, worthlessness, or guilt
- Increased irritability or frustration, even in the face of seemingly minor annoyances
- A lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities or socialization with friends and family
- Cognitive effects like slowed thinking, brain fog, or difficulty in concentrating on tasks or making decisions
- Weight gain from overeating or a lack of activity, or weight loss from stress
- Thoughts or attempts at self-harm or suicidal ideation
- A general inability to experience pleasure, known as anhedonia
- Uncharacteristic or abrupt changes in behavior
Why Early Intervention Is Critical
When a teenager is depressed, his suffering isnt the only reason its important to get help. In addition to the disorder itself, there are add-on effects that may cause lifelong issues. With depression symptoms comes include low energy and poor concentration, two factors that are likely to have a significant impact on social and academic functioning.
Its easy to see the effects of poor academic functioning: falling behind in school undermines a childs confidence and self-image, and can impact his future if its prolonged. But social learning is just as critical as academic learning in adolescence. Deficits in social skills not only put depressed teens behind their peers, but in themselves can compound their depression.
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Causes And Risk Factors
While some illnesses have a specific medical cause, making treatment straightforward, depression is far more complicated. Certain medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, opioid painkillers, and specific blood pressure medicine can trigger symptoms in some peopleas can hypothyroidism . But most commonly, depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors that can vary wildly from one person to another.
Despite what you may have seen in TV ads, read in newspaper articles, or maybe even heard from a doctor, depression is not just the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, having too much or too little of any brain chemical that can be simply cured with medication. Biological factors can certainly play a role in depression, including inflammation, hormonal changes, immune system suppression, abnormal activity in certain parts of the brain, nutritional deficiencies, and shrinking brain cells. But psychological and social factorssuch as past trauma, substance abuse, loneliness, low self-esteem, and lifestyle choicescan also play an enormous part.
What Is Depression In Teens
Teen depression is a serious medical illness. It’s more than just a feeling of being sad or “blue” for a few days. It is an intense feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and anger or frustration that lasts much longer. These feelings make it hard for you to function normally and do your usual activities. You may also have trouble focusing and have no motivation or energy. Depression can make you feel like it is hard to enjoy life or even get through the day.
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How Many Teenagers Have Depression
What percentage of teens have depression? The latest teen depression statistics from Mental Health America show that 15 percent of US teens have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. In addition, 10 percent of adolescents have had severe depression in the past 12 months. Around the world, the percentage of teens with depression is even higher. A full 25 percent of teensone out of every foursuffers from depression, according to research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Looking back at longer-term trends, the CDC found a 40 percent increase over the last decade in the number of high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Furthermore, suicide rates among teens and young adults have gone up by 57 percent since 2007.
Its also important to note that LGBTQ adolescents are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population, according to teenage depression statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness . Research shows that family conflict, cyberbullying, and unmet medical needs contribute to the higher rates of depression and suicide among this group.
Signs Of Depression In Children
Symptoms of depression in children often include:
- sadness, or a low mood that does not go away
- being irritable or grumpy all the time
- not being interested in things they used to enjoy
- feeling tired and exhausted a lot of the time
Your child may also:
- have trouble sleeping or sleep more than usual
- not be able to concentrate
- interact less with friends and family
- be indecisive
- eat less than usual or overeat
- have big changes in weight
- seem unable to relax or be more lethargic than usual
- talk about feeling guilty or worthless
- feel empty or unable to feel emotions
- have thoughts about suicide or self-harming
- actually self-harm, for example, cutting their skin or taking an overdose
Some children have problems with anxiety as well as depression. Some also have physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches.
Problems at school can be a sign of depression in children and young people and so can problem behaviour.
Older children who are depressed may misuse drugs or alcohol.
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Beyond Treatment: Things You Can Do
Once you begin treatment, you should gradually start to feel better. Here are other tips that may help you or a loved one during treatment for depression:
- Try to get some physical activity. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can boost mood.
- Try to maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
- Eat regular, healthy meals.
- Do what you can as you can. Decide what must get done and what can wait.
- Try to connect with other people, and talk with people you trust about how you are feeling.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced, or changing jobs until you feel better.
- Avoid using alcohol, nicotine, or drugs, including medications not prescribed for you.
Getting Help For Teenagers With Depression
Depression is unlikely to go away on its own, but teenagers with depression usually get better with treatment. This means that seeking early help for your child is the best thing you can do.
Seeking help also shows your child that you care. Talking to your child and seeing a health professional together sends the message that your child isnt alone. And most young people wont seek help themselves, so your child probably needs your help to get professional support.
If youve tried to talk to your child, but your child has refused help or said there was nothing wrong, you might need to seek help by yourself to start with.
There are many professionals and services you can go to for help with teenage depression:
- your local community health centre
- local mental health services.
If youre unsure, your GP will be able to guide you to the most appropriate services for your family.
Depression is no-ones fault, even if it seems to run in your family. Many factors influencing depression will be outside your control. But theres a lot you can do every day to foster your childs mental health and reduce your childs risk.
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Clinical Presentation Of Depression
Depression varies widely in its clinical presentation. This is especially true in adolescence and young adulthood, when atypical symptoms are more common and the more classic melancholic presentations are relatively rare . Younger adults with depression also tend to report more irritability and anxiety and, as detailed above, there should be a high index of suspicion for the possibility of an emerging bipolar disorder.
Study Population And Data
The data analyzed in this study were extracted from the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging database . The KLoSA is a longitudinal panel survey of national representative samples of community-dwelling adults aged above 45 years and has been conducted every two years since 2006. The baseline data were gathered in 2006, where 10,254 Korean adults were interviewed by trained interviewers. The survey collected information on family background, demographics, family, health, employment status, income, and assets and included questionnaires on subjective expectations and subjective quality of life. In 2018, the seventh wave was conducted, and the effective sample number was 6,136 from the original panels and 804 from the newly included panels. In this study, we used biannual survey data from 2006 to 2018, resulting in seven rounds of data. After removing data with missing values for the study variables, 6,793 participants were included in this study. The baseline characteristics of the included and excluded individuals are shown in Table . For statistical analysis, each change in handgrip strength from 2006 to 2018, rather than each participant, was treated as an individual case.
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Suicidal Thoughts And Behaviors
Strong signs of suicidality include talking about wanting to die, making plans, or attempting to take ones own life. Warning signs of suicidal intention include:
- Acquiring the means to commit suicide
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior
- Extreme agitation or anxiety
- Getting one’s affairs in order
- Increased use of substances such as drugs and alcohol
- Intense changes in mood/mood swings
- Saying goodbye to friends and family as though for the last time
- Feeling trapped or hopeless in ones situation
- Talking a lot about death, dying, and violence
- Talking about suicide or wishing that one hadn’t been born
- Withdrawal from friends or family
The Overlap With Personality Disorder
There is a great deal of debate about whether the primary diagnosis in a substantial proportion of cases of borderline personality disorder is more usefully one of a primary mood disorder. In young adults, there is considerable overlap between the symptoms of mood disorder and cluster B personality disorder, particularly with regard to mood lability, impulsivity and self-harm. An 11-year follow-up of early-onset depression demonstrated that those who went on to develop bipolar disorder had many of the features of borderline personality disorder when first assessed . Given the damaging long-term implications of a diagnosis of personality disorder early in life, it seems good practice to exclude a primary mood disorder in young adults presenting with behaviours that might initially be suggestive of personality pathology. This kind of approach is supported by a recent international consensus that when patients satisfy the diagnostic criteria for both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, a bipolar diagnosis is preferred .
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Medication Comes With Risks
Antidepressants were designed and tested on adults, so their impact on young, developing brains is not yet fully understood. Some researchers are concerned that exposure to drugs such as Prozac may interfere with normal brain developmentparticularly the way the brain manages stress and regulates emotion.
Antidepressants also come with risks and side effects of their own, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. They are also known to increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in some teenagers and young adults. Teens with bipolar disorder, a family history of bipolar disorder, or a history of previous suicide attempts are particularly vulnerable.
The risk of suicide is highest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment. Teenagers on antidepressants should be closely monitored for any sign that the depression is getting worse.
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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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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. Theyre preferred because they tend to have fewer side effects.
SSRIs work on the neurotransmitter serotonin. SSRIs prevent the body from absorbing serotonin so it can be more effectively used in the brain.
Current SSRIs approved by the Food and Drug Administration include:
Most SSRIs have only been approved for use in adults. However, fluoxetine has received FDA approval for youth with MDD who are 8 years old and up. Escitalopram has received FDA approval for youth with MDD who are at least 12 years old.
The most common side effects reported with SSRIs include:
- sexual problems
All youth who are taking antidepressants should be monitored for potential side effects. Talk to a doctor if the side effects are interfering with your teens quality of life.
Bipolar Disorders In Young Adults Presenting With Depression
Given that bipolar disorders tend to present initially in a depressive phase, that the majority of people with bipolar illness experience their first episode in adolescence and that rates of progression from adolescent depression to bipolar disorder are about 20% , there is a strong case for careful consideration of bipolar illness in young adults presenting with recurrent or chronic depressive episodes.
Case 2 Bipolar-spectrum disorder
Case 2 is an example of depression in a young woman who has a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder. She had been difficult to treat and antidepressants led to fluctuations in her mood with recurrent, brief periods of hypomania occurring against a background of residual depressive symptoms. This kind of treatment-emergent hypomania and a history of a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder have both been included in the proposed diagnostic criteria for bipolar-spectrum disorder . It is likely that a significant proportion of young adults presenting with recurrent depression will satisfy these diagnostic criteria.
Case 3 Bipolar depression
Manic symptoms induced by electroconvulsive therapy or antidepressants
Hyperthymic personality traits at baseline
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Risk Factors For Suicide
Not all people with risk factors will be suicidal. In addition to depression or other mental illness, risk factors for suicide include:
- Current or past history of substance abuse
- Past history of suicide attempt
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
- Firearms in the home
- Feelings of hopelessness
Tip : Make Physical Health A Priority
Physical and mental health are inextricably connected. Depression is exacerbated by inactivity, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition. Unfortunately, teens are known for their unhealthy habits: staying up late, eating junk food, and spending hours on their phones and devices. But as a parent, you can combat these behaviors by establishing a healthy, supportive home environment.
Get your teen moving!Exercise is absolutely essential to mental health, so get your teen activewhatever it takes. Ideally, teens should be getting at least an hour of physical activity a day, but it neednt be boring or miserable. Think outside the box: walking the dog, dancing, shooting hoops, going for a hike, riding bikes, skateboardingas long as theyre moving, its beneficial.
Set limits on screen time. Teens often go online to escape their problems, but when screen time goes up, physical activity and face time with friends goes down. Both are a recipe for worsening symptoms. Gently encourage your teen to take an occasional vacation from their devices or engage in family activities that dont involve screen time. You can also set an example by reducing your own time spent online.
Encourage plenty of sleep.Teens need more sleep than adults to function optimallyup to 9-10 hours per night. Make sure your teen isnt staying up until all hours at the expense of much-needed, mood-supporting rest.
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What You Can Do To Feel Better
When youre depressed, it can feel like theres no light at the end of the tunnel. But there are many things you can do to lift and stabilize your mood. The key is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there, trying to do a little more each day. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there by making positive choices for yourself.
Reach out to other people. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to friends and loved ones, even if you feel like being alone or dont want to be a burden to others. The simple act of talking to someone face-to-face about how you feel can be an enormous help. The person you talk to doesnt have to be able to fix you. They just need to be a good listenersomeone wholl listen attentively without being distracted or judging you.
Get moving. When youre depressed, just getting out of bed can seem daunting, let alone exercising. But regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in countering the symptoms of depression. Take a short walk or put some music on and dance around. Start with small activities and build up from there.
Eat a mood boosting diet. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, sugar and refined carbs. And increase mood-enhancing nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids.