Is Depression Sucking the Life Out of your Teen?

We often talk about depression in adults.  But what about teenagers?  Can they get depressed, too?  Unfortunately, they can!

How Common is Teen Depression?

Researchers estimate that between 11-20% of teenagers experience clinical depression.  Teenagers in the Salt Lake City area aren’t exempt from depression!
Teens experience depression slightly differently than adults.  They tend to express depression with irritability and anger rather than sadness.  However, sadness and low energy can definitely be present.  They may withdraw from some people but still connect with a few friends.  They can be extremely sensitive to criticism and have low self-esteem.  They may refuse to go to school.  They may complain of unexplainable aches and pains, stomaches, or other physical symptoms. Sound familiar?

What Causes Depression in Teens?  

Teens face a lot of stressors: peer pressure, chores at home, pressure to get good grades, etc.  They are discovering who they are.  Their bodies are changing.  They’re learning about the world and how they fit into it.
Some things that can lead to teen depression:
  • Parents divorcing
  • Bullying
  • Loss of a love relationship
  • Long-term illness
  • Presence of ADD or ADHD
  • Imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain
  • The death of a close family member
  • Etc., etc!

Signs of Depression in Teens 

Teens with depression can exhibit the following symptoms:
  • Persistant irritability or anger
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Dropping grades
  • Withdrawal from social activities and activities they used to enjoy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Troubling getting along with family members or peers
  • Purposely harming themselves (often expressed in cutting their skin)
  • Thoughts of or talking about death and/or suicide (serious!)

Isn’t this just Normal Teenage behavior?  

Sometimes.  Teenagers face a lot of new life experiences during this transition time: new friends, the emergence of love relationships, and figuring out who they are.  There are ups and downs for sure.  Depression, however, can be recognized by marked differences in behavior or persistent symptoms.   You also need to be aware.  Be aware of what’s going on in your teen’s life, and especially how your teen views themselves in their world.  Again, all teens (and adults!) have ups and downs, doubt themselves, and feel sad.  However, when these things persist for most of the day, most of the time, then you can take action to intervene and get help.  

What about Teen Suicide? 

Even saying the words makes us nervous.  Yet this is a sobering reality for teens with depression.  Many people in the Salt Lake City area have known or know of a teen who died by suicide.  In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds, and the sixth leading cause of death in 5-14 year olds!
Please know that It’s ok to talk about suicide!  Some people think that talking about suicide with their teen will give them the idea, or make them more likely to do it.  THIS IS NOT TRUE!!  In fact, many people with suicidal thoughts have said that they were relieved when someone asked them about it – they now knew that they weren’t alone in their worthless thoughts.  You can ask your teen directly, “do you ever think about suicide?”  Better to ask and be wrong than not ask at all.

The Benefits of Getting Help for Your Depressed Teen  

There are so many!  Not only will your teen be happier and more excited about life, you will have a better relationship with them – and what parent doesn’t want that with their teen?!  You and your teen will be better able to connect, a plus of the whole family.
It is CRITICAL that parents talk with their teens about depression.  They might not want to talk at first, but keep trying in a loving way.  They must know they are not alone and they don’t have to feel that way.  TEENS CAN RECOVER FROM DEPRESSION!!  Modern psychotherapy has been shown to be effective for the majority of teens.  If you think your teen may be depressed, seek help from a qualified professional. Please click here to schedule a session

Here are some Helpful links about Teen Depression

Typical Teen Angst, or Something More Serious?
Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression
National Institute of Mental Health fact sheet on teen depression

Spencer Hinckley is a second year Graduate Student from the University of Utah completing his graduate school internship at England Counseling Services in Magna, Utah.  Spencer has an interest in working with and treating those in the Magna, Tooele and Salt Lake City area with couple/marriage problems, depression, anxiety and addictions.  Spencer can be reached by emailing [email protected]

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July 22nd