Depression is one of the most widely misinterpreted terms in today’s society. It can describe a human emotion as well as refer to a disorder of the mind. The changing lifestyles, the images and ideas projected by the media, peer pressure, and the struggle to be accepted into peer group are all taking their toll on adolescents. The standard of acceptance is set higher everyday and as teenagers and young adults struggle to live up to these standards, they are put through an emotional strain that teenagers who grew up two decades ago never even noticed. Media influences the lifestyle of teenagers, telling them what they should wear, how they should talk, and what is considered “in-vogue”. They attach more importance to these than to setting goals in life and how to go about achieving them. Teenagers feel the pressure to conform to these standards set by their peers and if they feel left out or inadequate or deprived in any way, it could lead to depression and other complications in behavior. Depression is hard to spot in teenagers because the occasional tantrums, irritability, anti-social behavior are all part of getting through the teenage years.
Signs And Symptoms Of Teenage Depression
- Frequent sadness and anger spells: If the teenager is sad most of the time and prefers to confine themselves to their rooms, have crying spells for no apparent reason, is irritable, grumpy and gets angry a lot, chances are they could be depressed.
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism: Teens look for acceptance and praise from peer groups or parents for their accomplishments. Depressed teens are particularly vulnerable to negative criticism and failure or rejection by peer groups.
- Withdrawal from certain people: Teenagers generally tend to withdraw from certain people that make them feel uncomfortable but keep other relationships steady.
- Low self-esteem: Depressed teens generally tend to have a negative opinion of themselves. They feel they are not up to the mark and can’t get there.
- Social isolation: Depressed teens may avoid all sorts of social contact especially family gatherings and events. They tend to have lesser or no friends and prefer to be aloof and stay confined to their rooms.
- Major changes in eating/sleeping patterns: Depressed teens might suddenly lose their appetite and start to lose weight or in some cases, start overeating, gain weight. They may also start sleeping for more hours than usual.
- Suicidal tendencies: Teenagers who start making statements like “I wish I was dead” or “I want to kill myself” may be depressed and might even be contemplating suicide.
- Drug and alcohol abuse: Teenagers may abuse drugs or alcohol to “have a better grip” on the situation or to feel better.
- Self-mutilation: Teenagers who have trouble expressing their emotion may take out all the frustration and anger by cutting or burning themselves.
How To Deal With Teen Depression
Depression in teenagers if left untreated can end up with bad consequences. It is always better to sit down and talk to a teenager in a non-judgmental way, to let them know you are concerned about them and that you are around for support if they need any. Every year hundreds of teenagers go through depression and attempt suicide and quite a lot of them succeed at it. Depression is a serious disorder and can be treated and if you suspect your teenager to be suffering from it, do not hesitate to ask them about what bothers them, just remember it is love, affection, and acceptance that they need, not someone judging them.
The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your teenager child about it. In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your child. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.