5 Causes Of Depression In Teens, Its Symptoms And Treatment

A teen in depression may need your help; recognize the signs before it's too late.

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Depression is a mental health condition that can affect behavior, mood, and overall health. It is characterized by extreme sadness, hopelessness, and interest in favorite things or activities. Depression can last longer and can also affect physical health (1).

Depression can begin at any age, most commonly in late adolescence or early adulthood. One out of five teens experiences depression at some point (2). Often, a teen’s refusal to interact with people and participate in activities or family gatherings is regarded as rebellious or moody. These can be warning signs of depression that should not be neglected. Instead, parents should observe their child’s unusual behavior and offer the needed support to help them deal with depression.

This post will discuss teen depression, the symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What Are The Causes Of Depression In Teens?

Teenagers going through depression may experience a variety of struggles in life. The causes and risk factors behind adolescent depression include (2) (3) :

1. Heredity: A family history of depression could be one of the reasons behind a teen experiencing symptoms of depression. However, not every teen with a family history of depression goes through the same.

2. Life events: Tragic or traumatic events play a major role in teen depression. Stressful and sad experiences, such as parents’ broken marriage, failing to do well in school, breakups, the demise of a loved one, and childhood abuse, can affect a child’s mental health. One can feel helpless and hopeless in such situations.

3. Hormones: Hormonal changes or fluctuations can also contribute to adolescent depression. It might cause one to move through various moods and possibly lose interest in things.

4. Medical conditions: Chronic health conditions or any medical condition can cause a hindrance in the teen’s life and prevent them from enjoying the teenage years.

5. External influence: Drug and alcohol abuse may lead to instability in mind and body, affecting a child’s mood. School bullying and peer pressure are also contributing factors to teen depression.

What Are The Signs Of Teen Depression?

The signs of a depressed teen that require awareness and attention include (4) (5):

  • Continuous sadness or extreme sensitivity for long durations such as a week to two weeks.
  • Loss of interest in otherwise favorite activities or things.
  • Loss of appetite and staying in the room for the whole day or sleeping for long hours. This may ultimately take a toll on physical health.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Dropping of grades in school and lack of interest and concentration in studies.
  • Constant tiredness and lack of motivation.
  • Reduced interactions with friends and family.
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts about self-harm.

Seek the support of a mental health specialist if your teen is exhibiting any of the aforementioned characteristics.

What Are The Complications Of Teen Depression?

Teenage depression is one of the mental health conditions that, if neglected, can lead to serious complications. These include (6):

  • Broken relationships with parents, friends, or loved ones.
  • Consistent low performance in school.
  • Recurrent episodes of depression.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Suicide, which is the third major cause of adolescent death.

When To See A Doctor?

Depression symptoms are less likely to go away by themselves. If it starts to take a toll on the teen’s life by interfering with the daily activities or school performance and continues for more than two weeks, it is important to seek the support of a mental health specialist. Depression is known to be a contributing factor to the increasing suicide rate. If a teen starts to have suicidal thoughts or shows any warning signs of suicide, you should seek immediate care from a mental health professional.

How is Depression In Teens Treated?

The different treatments available for depression according to the teen’s age include (7) (8):

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): It is a form of psychotherapy where the therapist helps the depressed teen overcome the negative thoughts and behavior by talking about and focusing on the stressful topics.
  • Family therapy: This solely focuses on family support. The family can help the depressed teenager through positive words and encouragement to boost their confidence and make them feel loved and cherished. Teens are most likely to open up to a trusted source; hence, family support is greatly important in dealing with depression.
  • Interpersonal therapy: This therapy focuses on mending broken relationships with family and friends.
  • Medication: It can ease some symptoms of depression and is often recommended with psychotherapy. Psychiatric medications may also be prescribed depending on the symptoms.
  • School input: Therapy sessions with the school counselor or school psychologist can help focus and overcome the negative and troubling thoughts and feelings.

How To Help Teens Deal With Depression?

There are several ways to help a depressed teen as follows (9):

  • Provide care and support: The first help should be from the family and friends. A scientific study reveals that parents’ support and an empathetic and understanding approach from parents and peers can help reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Induce strong social and emotional skills: If parents exhibit a calm and composed attitude towards their teen’s misbehavior or mistakes, their teen may feel less anxious and emotionally stronger in difficult times. Getting them engaged in extracurricular activities can also help alleviate their sadness and keep their moods uplifted.
  • Build strong relationships: Regular healthy, and fun conversations can help maintain a strong relationship. A study reveals that when people with depression are surrounded by strong and supportive relationships with family, friends, or loved ones, they feel less anxious and less vulnerable.
  • Encourage to have a purpose: Most depressed teens lose motivation or a purpose in life. Parents need to have thoughtful conversations with their children and encourage them to open up their thoughts and interests in life. They need to be motivated and helped to achieve their goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

1 .What does depression do to the teenage brain?

According to a study, it was found that adolescents with depression had more gray matter in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain. This possibly results in their different responses to stress and emotions than others and a decrease in brain maturation (10).

2. Why are teens so stressed?

Teenage stress may arise from factors such as (11):

  • Physical changes in their body
  • School pressure and demands
  • Lack of self-love
  • Mood swings
  • Involvement in too many activities

3. Can puberty cause depression?

The hormonal changes that occur during puberty may play a role in triggering the symptoms of depression. Moreover, the timing of puberty also may influence depression since early maturation and hormonal changes brought about by puberty are believed to increase the risk for mental health disorders (12) (13).

Depression in teenagers may come and go. However, if your teen had experienced a bout of depression once, there is a good chance it may strike again. So, do not take it lightly, as timely diagnosis and intervention are important for best results. Treatment of depression is effective. Depression in teenagers is a serious condition and can have serious or even fatal results if left unaddressed. Hence, if your teenage child shows any of the symptoms of depression, do not feel embarrassed or hesitate or seek help. With the help of a professional, you can save your child from the web of depression.

Key Pointers

  • Hormonal shifts, tragic life events, substance abuse, and family history are the major risk factors for teenage depression.
  • A teen with depression could have constant feelings of sadness, fatigue, sleepiness, and suicidal tendencies.
  • Medication and cognitive behavior therapy are effective treatment options for this condition.
  • Support your teen emotionally and engage them to develop better relationships and social skills.

References

  1. Depression.
    https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/depression/
  2. Recognizing teen depression.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000648.htm
  3. Teen depression.
    https://medlineplus.gov/teendepression.html
  4. What to do if you think your teenager is depressed.
    https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-your-depressed-teenager/
  5. Teen depression.
    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/sites/default/files/documents/health/publications/teen-depression/om-21-4319-teendepressionmorethanmoodiness.pdf
  6. Vivek Bansal et al. (2009). Study of prevalence of depression in adolescent students of a public school.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016699/
  7. Depression in teens.
    https://mhanational.org/depression-teens-0
  8. Major depression in teens.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P01614
  9. Five Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Teen Depression.
    https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_parents_can_help_prevent_teen_depression
  10. Joana Straub et al. (2019); Adolescent depression and brain development: evidence from voxel-based morphometry.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6606428/#:~:text=Findings%20of%20greater%20volumes%20inbrain%20maturation%20or%20increased%20neuroplasticity.
  11. Stress Management and Teens;
    https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Helping-Teenagers-With-Stress-066.aspx
  12. M. Reena (2015); Psychological Changes During Puberty – Adolescent School Girls.
    https://www.hrpub.org/download/20150410/UJP1-19203247.pdf
  13. Richburg A.G. et al. (2021) Depression Anxiety and Pubertal Timing: Current Research and Future Directions University of Michigan Undergraduate Research Journal 15.
    https://journals.publishing.umich.edu/umurj/article/id/1383/
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