How to Help Your Teen Manage Depression in the Winter

If the short days and weather changes are zapping your teen’s energy and making them feel a bit blue this winter, these may be signs of a seasonal mood disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or S.A.D.) is a type of depression precipitated by the change of season, usually occurring in winter, and it doesn’t just happen in adults. So, why might your teen be experiencing S.A.D.? Experts aren’t entirely sure, but many believe that the change of season affects circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms control how our bodies function when we’re awake and asleep, and changes can make us feel extra energized at some points and super drowsy at others. Other theories contend that the seasonal changes disrupt hormones, like melatonin and serotonin, that control our sleep and mood.

Whatever the cause, according to a report by Dr. Steven Targum and Dr. Norman Rosenthal, six percent of the US population is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, and another 14 percent suffer from seasonal mood changes. As parents, it is important to note that young people, especially those living furthest from the equator, are most likely to experience S.A.D. While teens with a diagnosis or family history of depression or bipolar disorder are particularly susceptible.

As such, we’ve compiled a few treatment options to help your teen manage depression in the winter:

  1. Sit by a sunlight lamp. Sunlight lamps produce light which imitates the sun’s rays and can provide a lovely antidote to winter’s blues. Encourage your teen to sit beside their sunlight lamp for half an hour each day. The light will energize circadian rhythms and subdue the natural release of melatonin.

  2. Use alarm clocks that wake with light instead of sound. Find an alarm clock that will wake your teen up with a gradually increasing light, instead of an abrupt beep or a blast of loud music. This will simulate rising with dawn, which, with Daylight Savings and early morning school schedules, your teen might normally miss.

  3. Essential oils can have a calming effect. Aromatherapy can influence the part of your teen’s brain that controls mood as well as their internal clock that sends them alerts about sleepiness and hunger. Adding oil to their nighttime routine, a few drops in the bath or through a diffuser in their room could help them relax and encourage a restful night’s sleep. Try lavender, bergamot, or ylang-ylang.

  4. Practice a regular exercise routine. As is the case for other types of depression, exercise can help your teen manage their depression in the winter, too. Outdoor exercise is a wonderful way to alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. However, with inclement winter weather, this isn’t always possible. Encourage your teen to engage in the next best thing — exercising near a window. Running on a treadmill with a view of the outdoors is a great exercise routine to implement in the winter. Your teen could also try a yoga practice, indoor swimming, or an intramural sports team.

  5. Talk to a professional. If your teen is experiencing symptoms of depression, whether seasonal or not, it is always best to get help from a professional. Screening questions can ascertain an official diagnosis as well as determine whether your teen is experiencing S.A.D. or another form of depression.

If your teen is suffering from the symptoms of depression this winter, contact our team at Doorways for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Is your Teen’s Use of Social Media Contributing to Depression?

It seems that our lives have become entrenched in the use of social media. According to a recent article in Tech Times, citing current research, “the current generation is into social media so much, not knowing that the longer they spend time on it, the higher the possibility of getting depressed.” Does your teen fall into this category? Do you know the impact it is having and if is contributing to your teen’s depression?

Studies are finding that the more time that teens are spending on social media, the greater the risk for depression. However, researchers are still trying to determine if it’s the social media that is causing the depression or if higher numbers of teens with depression flock to social media.

Tech Times reported that over 1,787 U.S. young adults ages 19-32 in a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh visited about 30 different platforms, 30 times a week and spent an average of 61 minutes a day on those various social media sites. Of those, a high amount of depression was found in no less than 25 percent of those that participated in the study.

HealthDay News interviewed Dr. Brian Primack the director of Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. He explains that one possibility is that if your teen is already depressed, they use social media more since it takes less energy than direct social relationships. On the other hand, there are also reasons as to why an increase in the amount of social media use can lead to depression. These teens tend to compare themselves to others on social media sites and feel they are not living up to the same scale. He further goes on to suggest that it can be a “vicious cycle” as teens that are already depressed that use social media only deepen their depression.

While the researchers of this study do find a correlation between the use of social media and depression, they in no way are suggesting that everyone that uses social media is going to get depressed. Health professionals encouraged to explore the link with their patients.

Whether you are concerned that your teen is depressed or not, it is still a good idea to monitor their social media usage. Be aware of sites they are visiting and the amount of time they are spending on them. If you do have concerns that social media is causing depressive thoughts for your teen or worsening your teen’s depression, consider talking to a health care professional that specializes in teen depression.

Seasonal Changes and the Impact on Teen Mental Health

Have you noticed that your teen seems to have ups and downs? Or maybe loses concentration in school? Has become less social? More tired? Then about the time you are concerned, all these symptoms seem to go away? However, about the same time next year, you notice these same things occurring?

Doorways Arizona Blog: Seasonal Changes and the Impact on Teen Mental Health

According to Kids Health, as the days get shorter during the winter months, some teens find that they experience heightened fatigue as well as depression. Then as the days start to get longer and spring arrives they find those symptoms dissolve and they once again feel back to their usual selves. This form of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Why does this happen?

Causes

When there is a decrease in daylight, the brain responds with chemical changes which, in some people, can trigger depression. According the experts, there is no certainty as to why this happens, but the current focus of research is that sunlight plays a role in the bodies release of certain chemicals like melatonin and serotonin. These are the chemicals that regulate the body’s energy, sleeping and waking cycles as well as mood. When the days are shorter, the body tends to release higher levels of melatonin which causes sleep. Then when the days are longer, the body releases more serotonin. The link is that when a person has low levels of serotonin, they can become depressed. How likely is it that your teen is suffering from SAD?

Who does SAD affect?

Kids Health, states that about 6% of people get SAD. Some regions are more likely to experience than others depending on the climate. Additionally, girls are four times more likely than boys to experience SAD. The symptoms of SAD are similar to depression.

Symptoms

Mental Health America, explains that the symptoms of SAD are the same as with typical depression. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Overeating
  • Changes in mood
  • Problems socially

Some of the problems that teens with SAD might experience are spending less time with friends and not doing as well in school. Which in turn causes a loss of self-esteem and feeling of loneliness. This can be worse if the teen is yet to be diagnosed with SAD.

Diagnoses and Treatment

A diagnosis of SAD is made after doctors and professionals in mental health have done evaluations and other possible health problems are ruled out. A medical health check up can help rule out conditions like mononucleosis or issues with the thyroid. Once these have been ruled out then a metal health professional can make the diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, a treatment program can begin. Some common treatments for SAD are:

  • Increased exposure to light by spending more time outside during daylight hours.
  • Therapy with bright lights known as phototherapy. This helps to decrease amount of melatonin the body produces. This typically has an 85% effective rate. With this treatment, patients can expect to spend up to 4 hour a day in this lighting which is ten times more intense than normal lighting.
  • Talk therapy can also be used to help the patient learn about SAD and what they can do to help minimize it or prevent it in the future.
  • If light therapy is not successful, then an antidepressant drug may be prescribed which would help regulate serotonin in the brain.

Prevention

If your teen has been diagnosed with SAD, there are some preventive measures that you can take in the future. These would include starting light therapy earlier in the season, try and get outside more, exercise, managing stress, and visiting places with more sun.

If you find that your teen is suffering from the symptoms of SAD visit a health professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment program.

 

 

8 Truths About Teen Depression That Often Go Unsaid

8 Truths About Teen Depression That Often Go UnsaidDepression is a very complex and individualized mental health issue that many people, including teens, experience during their lifetime. In fact, teen depression impacts 2.8 million American adolescents, which is over 11 percent of the total population of teens age 12 to 17, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are a parent of a teen who is struggling with major depression, then it can be difficult to know how to best reach, support, and help heal your teen. You may not know what to say, or how to act in a helpful, supportive manner that will resound with your teen and help them overcome their depression. Many parents or loved ones of depressed teens experience these same reservations, and it may be due to the fact that so many truths about teen depression often go unsaid and unrecognized.

Here are 8 truths about teen depression that you can absorb, learn, and speak about when it comes to your teen’s mental health:

  1. No one chooses teen depression.

Depression is not a choice, but rather is a serious medical illness that negatively impacts and alters how your teen views themselves, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Depression impacts teens physically, mentally, and emotionally and has the power to be completely debilitating. When you speak to your teen about depression, always remember that they aren’t making a conscious choice to be sad. They are suffering from an illness that will require care, support, and healing to recover.

  1. Well-meaning encouragements can be perceived as insulting and unhelpful by depressed teens.

Sharing vague encouragements with your depressed teen may have the opposite effect of your good intentions, and may be taken as insults. Rather than saying something like, “It’s okay, you will be fine,” give your support and love first, and solutions second. For example, a teen suffering from depression may react and connect better to your intents and helpful parental desires if you say, “I love you and believe in you. You are strong, and I am here for you to listen and help.”

  1. For depressed teens, distance often precedes closeness.

Teen depression can cause feelings of unworthiness and heavy burdens. Your teen might become withdrawn, or even refuse to speak with you about their condition and feelings. In this instance, it is valuable for another trusted family member or a teen counselor to step in and offer support, encouragement, and help. It may be very difficult to give your teen space, but they may need it to heal and draw close to you once again.

  1. Your feelings of frustration, as a parent or loved one of a depressed teen, are valid.

You are allowed to feel frustrated about what your teen is going through. You should take great care in properly venting your frustrations though, and find support and encouragement in family, friends, or support groups. Never vent to your teen, as it can deepen their depression if they feel like they are becoming a burden to you due to their mental health issue.

  1. But, it’s also not about you.

As a parent or loved one of a teen struggling with depression, it can be very difficult for you to witness your son or daughter in such pain. Remember that depression is a complex condition, and it is not about you. Try not to take anything your teen says too personally, and stay steadfast in your love and support.

  1. Teen depression is a tough situation, but those who are depressed should not be admonished with harsh words or demands.

Approaching a depressed teen with toughness or harsh words can plunge them deeper into their depressive state of being by making them feel attacked, guilty, or ashamed. When you interact with your teen, always extend love, support, and understanding. Encourage them to speak openly and listen without judgement.

  1. Each teen struggling with depression is going through something unique and specific to them.

Depression is an illness that is highly individualized to the person experiencing it. For this reason, it is important that you don’t generalize your teen’s experience with others you have heard about or witnessed. Instead, encourage your teen to share how depression makes them feel, how it impacts them, and help them combat it on a personalized level.

  1. Teen depression does not equate weakness.

One of the largest and most dangerous lies about depression in circulation is that depression is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is believed that the exact opposite is true. Dr. Tim Cantopher authored a book called Depressive Illness: Curse of the Strong, which explores the pervasive nature of depression and how it can impact even the strongest individuals. He seeks to help empower those battling depression by drawing from their own strength to heal and grow even stronger. This can be a very valuable truth and viewpoint for you to consider daily as your teen battles depression.

If your teen is suffering from depression, then speaking with a trained teen counselor can be very beneficial for your teen’s healing and bringing your family together in a positive, united endeavor to help them.

4 Things Every Parent Should Know About Teen Depression

Teenagers will inevitably experience mood swings, emotional outbursts, and poor behavior as their minds and bodies grow and develop. However, many teens struggle with serious depression that is long lasting, and can impact their health and happiness if it is not recognized, diagnosed, and treated early in their formative teenage years.

4 Things Every Parent Should Know About Teen Depression

As the parent of a teen, here are four things you should know about teen depression, so you can more confidently recognize the signs, and help your teen if they are suffering:

  1. What is teen depression?

Teen depression is not just occasional bad moods, sadness, or emotional struggles. Every teen is likely to experience such changes as their hormone levels change or as they experience more academic or peer pressures as a part of their natural maturing process.

According to the Mayo Clinic, teen depression is a very serious issue that affects mental health by causing consistent and constant feelings of sadness in teens. Depression can have a negative impact on mental health, physical well-being, and quickly overshadow all areas of a teen’s life.

  1. What are the symptoms or indicators of teen depression?

Teen depression can often go unnoticed due to the somewhat erratic, yet normal behaviors that teens exhibit. However, if you notice any of these symptoms in your teen, on a regular basis, then then it is likely they could be suffering from depression.

According to Mental Health America, any combination of the following symptoms lasting more than two weeks, can signal you that your teen is struggling with depression:

  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Performing poorly in school
  • Expressing extreme sadness or hopelessness
  • Lacking energy and motivation
  • Exhibiting anger and rage
  • Overreacting to criticism
  • Showing poor self-esteem or feelings of guilt
  • Acting restless or agitated
  • Changing their eating or sleeping habits
  • Engaging in alcohol or drug abuse
  • Expressing suicidal thoughts
  1. Is teen depression different than adult depression?

Yes, very much so. Depression in teens is not evident in the same ways you can recognize depression in adults, so it is important to understand how teens will show their struggles with depression differently.

Help Guide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health and well-being, outlines the following behaviors that are specific to teen depression:

Irritability or Anger

Teens are more likely than adults to express their depression through irritable moods and angry outbursts, rather than sadness. Sustained grumpiness or frequent rage are some of the most common behaviors of depressed teens.

Unexplainable aches and body pains

Depressed teens will often complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If these pains occur often, for no medical reason, they could be side effects of depression.

Extreme sensitivity to criticism

Teens who suffer from depression are usually struggling with feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, so any criticism or failure will cause an extreme reaction.

Selectively withdrawing from some people, but not others

While depressed adults will typically withdraw from everyone in their life, teens tend to be more selective. Depressed teens may keep a few friendships kindled, withdraw from parents, or change friends often.

  1. How can I help my teenager if I suspect they are depressed?

If your teenager is demonstrating ongoing signs and symptoms of depression, then it is important for you to intervene. Teens experiencing depression won’t usually come forward with their problem, so you will most likely need to bring up the topic. Remember to listen attentively and validate all of their feelings while being open, gentle, and persistent in your discussions.

If you still see signs of depression in your teen after you’ve tried to talk to them and help them, then it is a good idea to seek out professional help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in teen depression. A specialist in this field can help you and your teen resolve issues and identify stressors causing your teen to be depressed, and help you both find your way back to a happy, healthy life.