Talking About the Teen Depression Epidemic

by | Dec 9, 2015 | Depression, Parenting Tips, Resources, Treatment

teen depression

If you are a parent of a teenager who is currently suffering from depression, it can be very difficult to know what to do or where to turn. Even though you may offer your teenager unconditional love and support, overcoming depression may require resources that are simply unable to provide on your own. However, though addressing depression in teenagers can be incredibly difficult, there are plenty of solutions well within reach.

The first step to effectively addressing the presence of depression in teenager is addressing that an issue actually exists. Many parents make the mistake of assuming that their teenagers will bring the topic up on their own. Though this would certainly make things much easier, most depressed teenagers will deny that there is anything wrong for an extensive period of time. Addressing teenage depression will usually require a much more nuanced approach.

Depending on the nature of the relationship you have with your teenager, there are numerous different techniques you can use to bring up the topic of depression. Some teens will prefer to talk with their parents one-on-one and others would do much better in a therapeutic or group setting. Regardless, the most important things you can do as a parent are monitor for the signs of teenage depression and create an environment of unconditional love and care. Despite the fact that the road to a full recovery may take months or even more, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. For the sake of both you and your teenager, you should never lose hope that things can get better.

What are the most common signs of teenage depression?

According to some studies, as many as 20 percent of all people will experience depression to some degree before they reach adulthood. When compared to most other mental health conditions, depression is statistically quite common. However, the degrees to which one individual experiences or suffers from depression can be substantially different than someone else who is diagnosed with the exact same mental health condition.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. A major depressive episode is defined as:

A period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.

Generally, the most commonly accepted definition of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)—which is the condition that the colloquial term “depression” generally refers to—is:

A period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.

Depression is something that can present itself in teenagers in a variety of different ways. While some teenagers will begin to indulge themselves in periods of self-loathing, others will do all that they can in order to conceal what they are experiencing from those around them. But, generally speaking, there are still a number of common signs of depression that parents can be actively monitoring for.

  • Sudden loss of interest in things that your teen once found interesting
  • Patterns of self-harm, suicide ideation, and other destructive behaviors
  • Difficulties with school, maintaining a job, and creating friendships
  • Consistently low mood, low self-esteem, and low motivation
  • Negative changes in behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes once held prior to puberty

If, after reading this list, you believe that your teenager may be suffering from depression, it is very important that you seek professional help. Even if a psychologist ultimately determines that they are not clinically depressed, they may be experiencing something else in their life that needs to be addressed. 

What are the most common causes of teenage depression?

There are many different causes of teenage depression. Because the teenage years are characterized by such intense social, biological, emotional, and even sexual changes, it can often by quite difficult to point to a single cause of an individual’s depression. However, in order to try to effectively address these symptoms of depression, trying to generally understand the root cause of a given individual’s negative state of being can still be quite beneficial.

These are just a few of the common causes of teenage depression as described by the medical community:

  • Biological changes such as neurotransmitter abnormalities, impaired nerve functions, and other related issues
  • Hormonal issues and other causes of chemical imbalances (making it biologically more difficult to feel happy or motivated)
  • Childhood trauma such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, or other traumatic experiences
  • Issues associated with low self-esteem including bullying, difficulties with school, negative relationships, obesity, and body dysmorphia
  • Being a gender or sexual minority in an unaccepting or harmful environment
  • Numerous other possible causes

If you believe your teenager has been exposed to one or more of the contributing factors mentioned above, then being mindful of the possibility of depression is even more important. Many parents internalize the presence of depression and blame the presence of their teen’s condition entirely on themselves. However, as can be seen by the numerous examples listed above, the causes of depression are usually much more complex.

What other conditions are commonly associated with teenage depression?

Depression is a condition that may stand alone, but—statistically speaking—there are many other mental health conditions that are strongly correlated with depression. Whether these conditions cause depression or are caused by depression can often be quite unclear. Teenagers who are suffering from multiple mental health issues at once may need specialized treatment options in order to make a full recovery.

These are a few of the mental health conditions that are most commonly associated with depression:

  • Anxiety and bipolar disorder.
  • Alcohol, drug, and other substance abuse disorders.
  • Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, body dysmorphia, and other eating disorders.
  • The presence of debilitating physical, learning, or general mental disabilities.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Other common mental health issues

Because the underlying causes of depression is often complex, psychologists have been placing an increased emphasis on the approach to treatment known as dual diagnosis. With dual diagnosis, teen psychologists make a deliberate effort to comprehensively address multiple mental health conditions simultaneously rather than focusing on them one at a time. Organizations such as Polaris have found that utilizing a holistic approach to mental health treatment can often produce the best results.

What are some of the best teen depression treatment options available?

Because depression is so statistically common among teenagers (affecting roughly 1 in 5 at some point in their life), treating depression has been a central focus of teen psychology for decades. Your teenager is entirely unique. In order to make sure they get the best treatment outcomes available, it is important to make sure that you work with a treatment center capable of providing customized solutions.

If your teenager is severely depressed, then spending some time at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) may be what is needed for them to fully recover. RTCs such as Polaris have trained staff on hand that understands the many nuances involved in treating depression. Additionally, your teen can be removed from some of the underlying causes of their current condition and become able to make recovery their foremost priority.

Even if your depressed teenager does not need to be admitted overnight to an RTC, there are still many other treatment modalities available. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach to treatment that focuses on identifying the causes of negative patterns of thinking and creating new structures of thought that are much more positive. CBT is an approach to mental healthcare that has been developed for decades and is currently employed by teen psychologists all around the world.

Other productive treatment methods include individual therapy, group therapy, experiential treatment (art, music, nature, poetry, etc.), and numerous others. These treatment modalities will frequently be combined and adjusted in accordance with the specific needs of your teenager. 

A Source of Perpetual Hope

If you are the parent of a teenager who is suffering from depression, it can often be quite tempting to give up hope. However, no matter how difficult things may seem in the status quo, there are many different resources available to help your teen overcome their current condition

Polaris is a twelve-bed residential treatment center for teens in Los Angeles with a staff that is trained to address a variety of mental health conditions. We offer families customized care plans to address their specific needs. If your teen is struggling with depression give us a call. Contact Polaris Teen Center today at (844) 836-0222 to learn more.

Polaris Teen Center | Website | + posts

Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).