Depression Is Not Who You Are
Rather than promoting healthy changes in thinking, acting, decision-making, and connection, we are hindering the positive expectancy and motivation that is critical to the treatment of these problems. And we are inhibiting an important discussion about risk factors, prevention, and recovery.
When we give teens the message that this is who they are,â that their brains are imbalanced, and that depression is a disease that âjust shows up,â our attempts to help are possibly doing the exact opposite.
Depression and anxiety in teenagers are very real and very destructive when left alone, but treatment that focuses on building resources and skills is very successful.
How Not To Make The Problem Worse
Well-intentioned people can make things worse for a depressed teenager.
Lets consider a worried parent. For example, a worried mother. There may be very worried mothers and mildly worried ones. There are also the sunny, ever-smiling, never-worried ones.
Unfortunately, fear is the main ingredient of depression. Nothing worse for a depressed teenager than to have worried people around. Dont feel offended in the slightest if your depressed teen cant stand your presence if you are a super-worried parent.
Simply, your depressed teen doesnt want more fear added to theirs, already at a high level.
I know that our modern way of life makes us insecure and anxious. We are safer than ever, but this is far from making us more confident. We tend to depend on societys approval, and to be afraid of losing it. This makes us psychologically vulnerable.
Help Them Get Support
While your compassion and guidance can make a big difference for your child, professional support is typically the best way to improve symptoms.
If they resist the idea of therapy at first, talking to a school counselor, family pediatrician, or favorite teacher can help them get more comfortable with the idea. They might be more willing to consider therapy when other trusted adults encourage them to reach out.
Talking over what happens in therapy can also help demystify the process. If they seem worried about being hospitalized or forced to take medication, explain that a therapist will listen to their thoughts, offer support without judgment, and help them explore ways to start feeling better.
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More Information And Support
If you’re concerned about the physical or mental health of your child or young person it may be a good idea to speak to a GP.
You can also read more about children and young people’s mental health services .
There are also several organisations that provide emotional support and practical advice for both your teenager and yourself:
- Family Lives is a charity specialising in families. You can call their confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222 . You can also visit their forums
- Young Minds, the mental health charity, has a dedicated, confidential helpline. Call them on 0808 802 5544
- Relate offers relationship advice and counselling. You can also use Live Chat to talk to a counsellor
- FRANK, the drugs charity, has comprehensive information about drugs. You can also call their helpline on 0300 123 6600
Tip : Manage Stress And Anxiety
For many teens, stress and anxiety can go hand-in-hand with depression. Unrelenting stress, doubts, or fears can sap your emotional energy, affect your physical health, send your anxiety levels soaring, and trigger or exacerbate depression.
If youre suffering from an anxiety disorder, it can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Perhaps you endure intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, get panicky at the thought of speaking in class, experience uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts, or live in a constant state of worry. Since anxiety makes depression worse , its important to get help for both conditions.
How To Help A Depressed Teenager
Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so dont wait and hope that worrisome symptoms will go away. If you suspect that your teen is depressed, bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way. Even if youre unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions youre seeing are signs of a problem that should be addressed.
Open up a dialogue by letting your teen know what specific depression symptoms youve noticed and why they worry you. Then ask your child to share what theyre going throughand be ready and willing to truly listen. Hold back from asking a lot of questions , but make it clear that youre ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.
Tell Them You Understand
Before you tell someone “I understand,” you should be certain that you actually do. Have you ever experienced clinically significant depression? If you have, it may be helpful for your friend to hear that you have experienced what they are feeling and that it can get better.
Keep in mind, however, that there are several different types of depression, and even if you did experience clinical depression, it may have been very different than what your friend is going through.
If what you have been through was a case of the blues, on the other hand, your friend may feel like you are trivializing their experience by comparing it to yours.
In this case, it would be best to simply admit that you don’t understand exactly what they are going through, but that you care about them and want to try. Often, the best words to say are, “I don’t understand, but I really want to.”
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Helping Kids With Depression Get Treatment
Some teens will want to go to therapy when you ask them and some wont. For those who are resistant, know that they arent going to suddenly open up to the idea of therapy quickly, but you can help guide them towards treatment by opening the door and then waiting patiently for them to walk through it.
Try saying, I know youre having a hard time, and I have some ideas of things that could help. If youd like to talk with me about them, let me know. Im here for you. Its also a good idea to ask them if they has any suggestions on how you might be able to help. You might be surprised with what they have to say.
Be aware that your teen might tell you to back off. Thats fine its their way albeit a slightly irritable one of telling you that they need space. Its normal for teenagers to want independence, and its important for you to respect that. You can respond by saying, Ill give you more space, but know that Im here for you if you ever want to talk or hear my suggestions.
If they do come to you wanting help, be prepared. Do your research. Find two or three therapists they can interview and tell them that they can choose the one that they feel most comfortable with, and think will help the most. Finding a therapist who is a good fit is extremely important, and making the choice theirs will help them feel ownership over their own treatment, which is extremely important to teens and sets the stage for effective therapy.
Causes Of Teen Depression
Biological factors, such as genes, can increase a teens risk of developing depression. However, environmental and social conditions also have a role to play. The following factors may trigger or exacerbate symptoms of depression in your teen:
Bullying.Being bullied by peers can add stress to a teens life and affect their self-esteem. This can, in turn, trigger feelings of intense helplessness and hopelessness.
Other mental and physical health conditions. Teen depression is associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders, self-injury, anxiety, ADHD, or a learning disorder. The struggles that accompany these conditions may lead a teen to feel unconfident and frustrated when it comes to academics and socializing. Similarly, physical disabilities or chronic illness can also play a role.
Past and present stressful experiences. Past trauma from violent or abusive situations can put teens at risk of depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder . Recent events, such as the loss of a loved one, can also trigger a depressed mood.
Lack of social support. Teens who feel unsupported by family or peers are at risk of depression. For example, a teen may be struggling with their sexual identity in a hostile or unaccepting environment.
Depression and social media use
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Its Ok To Not Feel Ok
Whether your friend or loved one is currently getting treatment or hasnt received a formal diagnosis, its OK if theyre not OK. Everyone has good and bad days. We all deserve some grace.
Sometimes, they might feel shame if theyre experiencing difficult feelings, so it might help to remind them that its OK to feel that way. Making it safe for them to express and sit with their real feelings in your presence can go a long way.
And just because right now is bad doesnt mean later will be.
Addressing Clinical Teen Depression
First, lets talk about how to help a teen with depression so intense it interferes with their normal daily activities. The reason this is called clinical depression is because it needs to be treated by a clinical psychologist. If your teen is depressed but still able to complete their standard routines, skip this and move down to Section 4, about how to help a teen with depression that doesnt classify at clinical.
When it come to clinical depression, the first step is to get your teen professional treatment. Then the second step is to support them properly through the treatment process . This is often not as easy as it sounds, however. Your teen may be resistant to getting treatment.
Remember, clinical teen depression can blanket your teen with feelings of despair and hopelessness. In this state, the idea of seeking treatment can seem unappealing. Lets talk about how to help a teen with depression to decide they will get treatment. What can you say?
One mistake many parents make here is they try to use logical arguments and medical facts they found on WebMD or Wikipedia to convince their teen that it would be a good idea to see a psychiatrist or therapist. Thats not how to help a teen with depression. These kinds of rational arguments are easy to deflect.
Dont try to convince your teen that getting treatment will be good for them.
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Suicide Warning Signs In Depressed Teens
Seriously depressed teens, especially those who also abuse alcohol or drugs, often think about, speak of, or make attempts at suicideand an alarming and increasing number are successful. So its vital that you take any suicidal thoughts or behaviors very seriously. Theyre a cry for help from your teen.
Powerful Phrases Proven To Help An Anxious Child Calm Down
Its time for school. The bus will arrive any minute. Maybe today will be the day!
But then you hear it: Mom, I dont want to go to school.
Your heart sinks. Here we go again. Every day its the same conversation. The same conversation that usually ends up in tears, missing the bus and late for school again.
Youll be fine, honey! you say cheerfully. Theres nothing to worry about!
But your words fall on deaf ears. Your child is fully convinced that everything will NOT be ok and that there are PLENTY of things to worry about. Sighing, you sit down on the couch, wracking your brain for something more helpful to say.
If your child struggles with anxiety, you know the challenge of finding the right things to say when he or she is worried. Its not easy to connect without making the fears worse, while at the same time offering support and encouragement.
Are you curious how you can help calm an anxious child?
Today, my good friend and parent coach, Nicole from Imperfect Families, is here to give some amazing tips on how to respond to your anxious child.
Rather than telling your child Youll be fine, or Dont worry about it, try one of these phrases the next time your child is feeling worried:
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What To Say To Help An Anxious Child Calm Down
- I am here you are safe. Anxiety has a way of making things look worse and feel scarier than when we are not feeling worried. These words can offer comfort and safety when your child is feeling out of control, especially if they are at the height of their worry. If youre not sure what to say, this is an excellent go-to phrase!
- Tell me about it. Give your child room to talk about their fears without interrupting. Some children need to have time to process through their thoughts. Do not offer solutions or try to fix it. Children sometimes do better with a set amount of time: Lets talk about your worries for 10 minutes.
- How big is your worry? Help your child verbalize the size of their worry and give you an accurate picture of how it feels to them. They can represent their worry by using arm length or by drawing three circles on a paper and choosing the one that applies.
- What do you want to tell your worry? Explain to your child that worry is like an annoying worry bug that hangs around telling them to be worried. Create a few phrases, then give them permission to talk back to this worry bug. They can even be bossy: Go away! or I dont have to listen to you! Use silly voices, and try it loud and quiet.
- Can you draw it? Many kids cannot express their emotions with words. Encourage them to draw, paint or create their worries on paper. When they are finished, make observations, and give them a chance to explain the significance: Thats a lot of blue!
What Evaluation Might Look Like
Your child’s doctor can evaluate your child’s health, make a diagnosis, recommend treatments, and refer you to another professional if necessary.
- A medical doctor can order blood tests, review family history, evaluate current medications, sleep patterns, and diet in an effort to determine if there is a physical cause for the depression.
- A psychological evaluation or psychological testing, completed by a psychologist over several sessions can provide extensive information about the severity and nature of the symptoms, contributing factors, and the possible presence of suicidal ideation. This option is best suited for cases where the diagnosis is unclear.
- An individual therapist specializing in treating teens can evaluate the symptoms based on talking to the teen and family members. This information helps point the way to make specific recommendations for next steps that are likely to be beneficial to your teen.
Information revealed about your teen’s symptoms in the evaluation plus the recommendations of the professional who administers it will make it easier to determine the next steps to take.
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Assure Them They’re Not Weak Or Defective
Those who are coping with depression tend to feel weak or that there is something wrong with them. While depression is an illness, those who live with it may feel that it’s a character flaw.
Reassure your friend that depression really is an illness caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, and it does not mean that they are weak. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to fight back, so they are probably much stronger than they think they are.
What You Can Do To Help A Teen With Depression
You may have a child who struggles with depression, or maybe you have know a teen who struggles with depression and anxiety.
It is often hard to know exactly what to say or do to help them.
When you have a teen with depression , usually there are two things that will help them the most more than anything you can do.
The first thing to do is actually something you need to say to them which is this,
I am here for you,
I need you.
Even if you are pushed away and ignored by them initially, if you are persistent and sincere enough the teenager will most likely be able to internalize what you are saying.
They need to hear you tell them that your love for them is not dependent on how they are acting or what they are feeling inside.
The second most important thing I feel you need to do is LISTEN.
Yep thats it just sit there and listen.
Let them talk out all of their feelings. Even the dark ones you might not understand. They may tell you things that are totally irrational and that are completely skewed by the state that their mind is in.
But that is ok, just listen anyway.
Thats it, no getting upset, or trying to council them. Just let them try to sort it out themselves as they talk it out.
After they have talked, if they ask your advice or want your input
The teenage brain isnt fully developed at this stage in their life, in fact, research shows that generally speaking the human brain isnt fully developed until the age of 25. .
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My Teen Refuses To Talk To Me
If you feel a conversation with your daughter is difficult, you are not alone. Raising a teenager is a challenging task, especially in the realm of communication. Engaging in a conversation with a teenage girl can be frustrating! You are not a horrible parent if you struggle in communicating with your daughter. The following are a few helpful tips: