Adolescence is an unsettling time, with the many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that accompany this stage of life. Ups and downs are a regular part of life. However, sometimes “down” periods last longer than usual. This is usually a result of chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, being out of balance. Among teens, depression can be a very real problem.
Teenagers experience depression in a way very much like our own as adults, but they may experience their emotions more intensely and in a more explosive manner.
If they are feeling down about a relationship issue or an upcoming exam; it’s normal, but feeling down for months at a time for no real or tangible reason, may be a sign of undiagnosed depression.
Teen depression is a serious issue, but at Lifeline, we strongly believe that it can be helped when you know the symptoms.
Depression is fairly common in teens and younger children. Teens under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Teenage girls are at especially high risk, as are minority youth.
Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying, hopelessness
They can show their sadness in many ways, some express sadness by wearing black clothes, writing poetry with morbid themes, and may cry for no apparent reason. Teens may feel that life is not worth living or worth the effort to even maintain their appearance or hygiene. They may believe that a negative situation will never change and be pessimistic about their future.
Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
They may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports, and other activities they once enjoyed or excelled at. It seems as though they lose their zest for life and fun.
Persistent boredom/ low energy
Lack of motivation and lowered energy level can be spotted by missed classes or not going to school. A drop in grade averages can be due to their loss of concentration and slowed thinking.
Social isolation/ poor communication
There is a lack of connection with friends and family. Teens may avoid family gatherings and events. Teens who used to spend a lot of time with friends may now spend most of their time alone and without interests.
Low self esteem and guilt
They may blame themselves for negative events or circumstances. They may feel like a failure and have negative views about their competence and self-worth. They feel as if they are never “good enough.”
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Believing that they are unworthy, depressed teens become even more depressed with every supposed rejection or their perceived lack of success.
Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
Depressed teens are often irritable, and lash out on their family. They may attack others by being critical, sarcastic, or abusive. They may feel they must reject their family before their family rejects them.
Difficulty with relationships
Teens may suddenly have no interest in maintaining friendships. They’ll stop calling and visiting their friends.
Complaints of physical illnesses, such as headaches and stomachaches
Teens may complain about lightheadedness or dizziness, being nauseous, and back pain. Other common complaints include headaches, stomachaches, vomiting, and menstrual problems.
A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
Sleep disturbance may show up as all-night television watching, difficulty in getting up for school, or sleeping during the day. Loss of appetite may become anorexia or bulimia. Eating too much may result in weight gain and obesity.
Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior
Teens who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed children and teens are at increased risk for committing suicide. If a child or teen says, “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take the statement seriously. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than “putting thoughts in the child’s head,” such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Depressed teens may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way to feel better.
Teens who have difficulty talking about their feelings may show their emotional tension, physical discomfort, pain and low self-esteem with self-injurious behaviours, such as cutting.
Often teen depression is mistaken for rebellious behaviour. If you are suffering from teen depression or are aware of your teen being depressed and don’t know how to handle the situation, pick up your phone and give us a call.
Contact us on our National Councelling Line – 0861 322 322
or alternatively you can contact us on :
Phone: (+27 11) 715-2000
Fax: (+27 11) 715-2001