In my counseling practice I work with many individuals, primarily teenage boys, who battle with depression.
Some of my interest and compassion for these particular challenges comes from my personal struggle with teen depression. So I share this information from a place of lived experience as well as professional expertise.
This post will begin a series of discussions on the important aspects of depression and how to help teens that face the difficult task of overcoming depression.
Major Depressive Disorder is a serious form of depression that affects many adolescents every year. About 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Between 10 to 15 percent of teenagers have some symptoms of teen depression and about 5 percent of teens are suffering from major depression at any one time. It is serious and can be life threatening in the most severe cases.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller
It is important for us as parents to know the signs and symptoms in order to intervene early with counseling or other methods of support.
Here are the nine general symptoms of depression.
- Depressed mood that lasts most of the day for most days
- Diminished interest or pleasure in many or all daily activities
- Significant weight loss, weight gain, or an increase or decrease in appetite
- Insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (over-sleeping)
- Presence of physical agitation or slowed movement
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts with or without a specific plan
These symptoms occur with different levels of severity in individual cases. If your child or teenager has four or more of these symptoms, including depressed mood, they may be suffering from a Major Depressive Episode. These symptoms are distressing and often have a negative impact on a person’s social life, job or school performance and other important areas of life.
What does depression look like?
A person suffering from a Major Depressive Disorder may be generally described as hopeless, sad, discouraged or depressed. Depression may also manifest in increased irritability, especially in children and adolescents, or physical complaints instead of primarily feelings of sadness. Often, teenage boys will be irritable, disrespectful and isolative. They may be on the Internet all day or glued to their video games. They could also be taking unusual risks with drugs, alcohol or sexual behaviors.
From a developmental perspective, adolescence is a difficult time that can often be painful and confusing while teens are in the process of self-discovery and yearning for independence.
Is depression normal?
It should be noted that periods of sadness are inherent in the human experience. Not every sighting of a depressed mood should be immediately diagnosed as major depression. It is my personal opinion that a diagnosis of depression can be useful in understanding what is going on and finding appropriate help.
However, it is not useful as a label connected with feelings of shame, weakness or a sense of being defective. It may take some time, lots of support and possibly help from a licensed counselor, but it is more than possible for your teenager to feel better and return to enjoying life.